Quacks siphoning off poor’s life savings: Amartya Sen

Agence France Presse

New Delhi, January 9:

Modern quacks are stealing the life savings of India’s poor for treatment of malaria and tuberculosis while making the illnesses linger, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said in an interview today. Citing a survey he carried out for the Pratichi Trust in West Bengal state, the Cambridge economics professor told the Hindu newspaper that poor patients who go to public health centres are regularly referred to private “quacks” who fleece them of money and give them spurious treatments. “I think the combination of quackery and crookery, which takes place in the form of private medicine in some of the poorest areas of India and which mainly has the effect of making the poor part with whatever little money they have, is something which has to stop,” Sen said in the interview.

He said government-run health clinics aren’t equipped to test public health problems such as malaria or tuberculosis and public officials collude with private clinics to refer the poor patients for expensive tests that aren’t always accurate.

“We found an incredible proportion of quacks in Jharkhand (a state in eastern India) particularly, but a significant proportion even in West Bengal who provide almost no serious medical attention and instead give saline injections for malaria, which is not really known anywhere in the world as a cure,” Sen said of the survey results.

India has more TB cases than any other country with 24,000 people infected daily, accounting for 30 percent of the world’s TB patients. “The neglect here is massive, particularly because this has led both to substandard delivery of public health and the development of an immensely exploitative private enterprise in healthcare that survives on the deficiencies of public health attention,” Sen said.