Narendra Modi marks second year of his government by urging doctors to devote one day a month to treating women in rural areas.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on doctors Thursday to give up 12 days a year to treating poor, pregnant women free of charge, in a speech to mark the anniversary of his government’s second year in power.
With India facing a shortage of doctors and public hospitals, the premier urged private practitioners to dedicate one day a month to helping pregnant women in rural areas, who often die in childbirth due to poor access to healthcare. “Can my doctor friends do one thing? On the 9th of every month, if poor, expectant mothers come to you, can you please treat them, care for them and provide medicines to them for free?” Modi told a cheering crowd at a mass rally in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
Stark poverty and poor sanitary conditions are common in many villages in India, which recorded 45,000 maternal deaths in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. About 174 women die of pregnancy-related causes in India for every 100,000 live births, compared with just 14 in the United States.
Modi also boasted of his rightwing government’s graft-free record to date, in a jab at the previous Congress-led government that was embroiled in a string of corruption scandals during its decade in power.
Separately, he also defended his record of reforming India’s stuttering economy in his two years in office, but conceded that his government faced “an enormous task ahead.”
In a rare interview with the Wall Street Journal published Thursday, Modi said he had set a path for faster growth, including opening up the economy to foreign investment and curbing corruption. But Modi also said he needed India’s 29 states to take up the challenge of reforming land purchasing and rigid labor laws, which businesses have long complained hamper manufacturing and development.
“I have actually undertaken the maximum reforms,” Modi said. But, he added, “I have an enormous task ahead for myself.”