Shri L.K. Advaniji’s latest blog “Dr. Harsh Vardhan’s Pioneering Role in Making India Polio-Free”

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For my wife Kamla as well as for me, this month has a special significance; the birthdays of

both of us fall in November. Kamla’s is on 27th

Pratibha suggested that the family celebrate the two birthdays on Sunday November 24th

and invite friends for a Musical programme, followed by lunch. Most of those who attended

personally told me that Pratibha’s planning of the entire programme, the décor, food etc was

really superb.

Going through the books some friends presented to me

this day, I have been greatly impressed by a book about

India, published and edited by a renowned global

management concern, McKinsey & Company. The title

of this book is: Reimagining India: Unlocking the

potential of Asia’s next Super power.

The front flap of the cover introduces the book as one

that “brings together leading thinkers from around the

world to explore the challenges and opportunities faced

by one of the most important and least understood

nations on earth”.

This book, the introduction continues, “features an all

star cast of contributors including CNN’s Fareed

Zakaria, Mukesh Ambani, CEO of India’s largest private

conglomerate; Microsoft founder Bill Gates; Google

Chairman Eric Schmidt; award winning authors: Suketu Mehta, Edward Luce, and Patrick

French; Nandan Nilekani, Infosys Cofounder, and chairman of the Unique Identification

Authority of India” and a host of other experts in variegated fields.

Of the contributors mentioned in this brief introduction, I immediately glanced at the

contents to see what had Bill Gates written in the context of India. I was pleasantly

surprised to see that the article listed against his name was “What I learned in the war (on


, and mine is on 8th

Only last night I have received from Dr. Harsh Vardhan, BJP’s Chief Ministerial nominee

for the Delhi Assembly elections a book written by him about a decade back.

On the opening page of this book, Dr. Harsh Vardhan has graciously inscribed “Thanks

Respected Advaniji, you made it possible for me in 1994. Today, we are a polio-free nation

for last three years.”



The article by Bill Gates which is the core theme of my blog today says that “India’s

accomplishment in eradicating polio is the most impressive global health success I’ve ever


When in 2004, Dr. Vardhan wrote this book titled A Tale of

Two Drops he had asked me to write a Foreword for the book.

The first two paragraphs of the three-page foreword I wrote for

him would highlight why I strongly commended to the party

that he be named the BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate. In my

Foreword, I said :

Ten years back, in 1994, I came in close contact with

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the author of this book and, in a

way, a principal pioneer of the national campaign for a

polio-free India. He had just been appointed Health

Minister of the Union Territory of Delhi, and

simultaneously elected president of the Delhi Medical

Association. In my very early meetings with Dr. Harsh

Vardhan, he enlightened me about the World Health

Organisation’s efforts to eradicate polio globally and how they had succeeded in

countries like Brazil and Philippines. He told me that he had studied the entire WHO

literature about the ‘Pulse Polio Campaign’, and that he was confident that the

country’s capital, which was among the worst afflicted areas in India, could be rid of

this scourge.

“I would like to compliment Dr. Harsh Vardhan heartily for his remarkable

achievement. He started the campaign in Delhi and soon it emerged as a nationwide

mission. Indeed, the pulse polio drive became the largest mass campaign, with

exemplary public-private partnership, for the cause of making India a healthy

society. I am happy that he has penned his experiences in the form of this book.”

In his article, Bill Gates says that while flying into Bangalore, as we “made our final

approach, I looked out of the window and saw an area of densely packed, tiny, dilapidated

homes stretching out for miles”. An Indian accompanying him proudly said “We have no

slums in Bangalore”.

Bill Gates perceptively comments: “Whether out of denial,

embarrassment, or innocence, my colleague didn’t see the other

India. I don’t mean to single him out. It can be easy to turn our eyes

away from the poor. But if we do, we miss seeing a society’s full


The article adds very rightly :

“I knew at the time that I was very fortunate to be collaborating

with the most privileged people of India – highly educated

citizens of great intelligence, diligence, and imagination. But

when Melinda and I started our foundation’s work in India, we began to meet people

from the areas we’d been flying over. They had little education and poor health, and

lived in slums or poor rural areas – the kind of people many experts had told us were

holding India back. Yet our experience in India suggests the opposite: that what some

call a weakness can instead be a source of great strength.”

Yet another compliment paid by Bill Gates to our country is his observation: That

India fully funded its own anti-polio plan is a ringing statement of commitment and


Summing up his evaluation of the campaign, Bill Gates concludes his article thus;

“The campaign showed India at its best―the relentless spirit, the scientific power,

the business acumen, the manufacturing skill, the political imagination, and the

vast human resources that can deploy more than two million people and spark the

imagination of a billion. Yes, India faces challenges in many areas that are well

documented in the media. But in its fight against polio, India has shown the world that

when its people set an ambitious goal, mobilize the country, and measure the impact,

India’s promise is endless.”

I feel happy and proud to find that in making India polio free, the BJP, and Dr. Vardhan

personally, have played a vital and distinctive role.

Little wonder that Dr. Harsh Vardhan has been awarded numerous International and

national Awards for his remarkable contribution in this field. He has been recipient

of International Award by the Director General of World Health Organisation, Polio

Eradication Champion Award by Rotary Foundation, International Service Award by Lions

Club, Paul Harris Fellowship of Rotary International, Indian Medical Association Special

Appreciation Award (Twice).

At a Rotary function held in 2001 to felicitate Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Shri A.B. Vajpayee

described him as DR. SWASTHYA VARDHAN! Yet another Prime Minister who warmly

complimented Dr. Harsh Vardhan for his performance was Shri I.K. Gujral. He described

him as the best Health Minister Delhi has had.

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