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4.12 Memorabilia

Mr. S S Nair
former Senior Statistical Officer

I was the Statistical Officer for the Mass BCG Campaign and so I knew Dr PV Benjamin from that time. He was the TB Adviser. He was a great visionary. He would adapt himself to new situations and take action to bring about the desired change. Dr Benjamin persuaded the Ministry of Health and ICMR, got the funds and initiated the NSS. This data revealed that TB is prevalent both in urban and rural areas contrary to the belief held that TB is urban oriented. At that time TB work was concentrated mostly in urban areas where the approach was clinical. What about the rural areas? It cannot be left neglected. So, Dr Benjamin persuaded the government to establish the NTI to solve this particular problem.

I was the Sr Statistical Officer at the NTI between 1962 – 1977. The work done at NTI was good because the staff was dedicated. There was a multi-disciplinary approach. So many ideas would be floated and the tangible ones were taken seriously. Much thinking and hard work went into each paper which is why NTI got international recognition. Such a good institution should have grown positively. But this did not occur due to the bureaucratic approach from Delhi. While the DGHS ran the administration and told the NTI what to do, they would not accept any feedback from the NTI. They only gave instructions.

The administrative set up was detrimental to the growth of the NTI. NTI Director, Dr Nagpaul, was an administrator, a researcher and a trainer and could understand the complex needs of the NTI. We were way ahead of our times in thinking and in our research. For e.g., NTP was integrated to GHS - a new thought for that time (1962). We already knew that GHS system is not very good. We wanted to conduct research on GHS in the early seventies to improve its services. Dr Nagpaul wrote to Delhi. But we were told to restrict our activities to TB. This idea of Health Services Research was finally adopted in 1985.

I will tell you another example of NTI looking far ahead of time. You do sputum examination for all chest symptomatics. If you examine ten, you have one positive for whom you plan to take action. What about the nine others for whom you don’t have any plans? They are suffering. They have come to you. So, in early seventies we wanted to change the name of NTI to National Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases Institute so that we could deal with all the health problems which the chest symptomatics face. The DGHS did not agree to this idea at all.

When I came to NTI in 1962, the atmosphere was so good and we were able to do substantial work. In 1969 I was offered promotion and transfer to Calcutta. But, I didn’t go because it was so interesting to work at NTI. But in 1976, I was offered the same promotion and went to Delhi willingly because the atmosphere had deteriorated. Most of our failures are systems failures. Our system is rigid. There is no encouragement for new thinking and innovative ideas.

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