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The US for us

By Shobhika Puri | Last Updated: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 18:04
Shobhika Puri
En Passant

Whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, whether we hate it or love it, one thing remains - we, Indians, love to keep a close eye on the developments in the US of A. The extensive media coverage that the current India visit of US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, is being given is a testimony to our affinity for anything related to the US.

A record number of Indians watched the swearing in ceremony of President Barack Obama in January 2009. The TV channels recorded very impressive TRPs. What made it so special for us? It was a historic event in the history of US politics but, so was the swearing in ceremony of our very own first woman President of India, Smt Pratibha Patil. How many of us watched it?

We also tend to get very inspired from the Americans. The term, 26/11, owes its origins to 9/11. Bollywood, Tollywood etc come from Hollywood. Indian Idol comes from American Idol. This list is definitely not exhaustive. But, the point is that if we follow somebody so closely then we should learn something from them as well.

Two recent developments in the US merit mention here. First, the recent confession of Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley for his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks. We are very happy that we have found somebody to blame. Headley is responsible. Now, it is the responsibility of the US to punish him. We are demanding extradition. We depend on the US. So far so good. Flashback to 9/11. The US did not sit back and wait for somebody else to act for them. They took charge of the situation firmly and sent out a very strong message to the world at large that if you mess with us, we won’t spare you. The results are for all to see.

The other development is the passage of the Healthcare Bill. Here is a bill that promises to provide health coverage to about 32 million uninsured Americans. Also, it proposes to fix anomalies in the insurance practices in the country like barring insurance companies from dropping people from coverage when they get sick and barring exclusion of children with pre-existing conditions. It also aims to make available tax credit for small companies to provide insurance to its workers, bonus payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons, free annual wellness visits, personalized prevention plan services and so on… The icing on the cake is that there are a section of people <i>opposing</i> this?

In our country, people stand in long queues just to get one free lunch. They are even ready to risk their lives for this. The recent death of hundreds of women and their children in a stampede outside a temple in Uttar Pradesh is a befitting example. According to a recent study, over 5,000 children die in our country daily and that too due to preventable causes like diarrhoea, pneumonia and neo-natal problems. Health insurance penetration in India is under two percent, which is an absolute contrast to the US that is fighting over providing coverage to at least 94 percent of its people.

There is nothing wrong to copy, excuse me, get inspired from the US but, it is things like the two mentioned above that should inspire us. We can learn lessons from them. Rather than waiting for the US to protect us, we should protect ourselves first. Rather than fighting over Women’s Reservation Bill or, reservation for Muslims within that Bill, we should look at the bigger issues first. There are still many people who cannot afford two meals a day, leave alone education. It is okay to rejoice over our recent Oscar wins but, the real Oscar shall be when we are able to debate over Healthcare Bill like that of the US. It is only then that our fascination with the US be worth the TRPs.

First Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 18:04

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