Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has outlined the broad contours of India's new thrust against tuberculosis (TB), stressing that he is determined to eliminate the disease by 2020.
"I am a man in a hurry. While I am all for having a long-term perspective, I am not interested in something that may or may not be achieved in 2035 or 2050," Harsh Vardhan said, while delivering the keynote address at the World Health Organisation's Global TB Symposium here.
Harsh Vardhan further announced that under the evolving 'TB-Mission 2020', he had instructed officials to work hard to achieve considerable success over the next five years. In his view, he added, a distant target date would not demand of his team the kind of accountability that would be naturally ensured if the objective is brought forward.
The government has put TB control measures in top gear, with the country going into 'intensive mission mode', which is playing out at the micro levels of the nation, involving local self-government bodies and voluntary sector activists.
Harsh Vardhan also said that India is also in the process of ensuring free diagnosis and treatment to all TB patients irrespective of it being a government or private hospital. Steps are underway to ensure that patients are provided with nutrition support and relevant financial enablers.
"TB is the by-product of poverty. I strongly believe that TB control should be taken up by all as a development issue.
The responsibility of TB control needs to move from doctors to medical administrators and politicians. That I wear all these hats is pure coincidence and, indeed, an opportunity to lessen the suffering of mankind," said the minister.
Later, Dr Harsh Vardhan was joined by the Health Minister of South Africa, Aaron Motsoaledi. Both the leaders had a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of the conference and decided that TB control would dominate the agenda of the upcoming meeting of BRICS Health Ministers in December this year.