To be doing good deeds is man’s most glorious task. –Sophocles
One does not need to do something larger-than-life to do something good, something in the interest of humanity. One could make a small effort and that effort would slowly turnout affecting a great deal. The glaring example of this is an old man named Omkar Nath Sharma. Popularly known as the ‘Medicine Baba,’ Omkar Nath voluntarily collects unused medicines from people and distributes them to the needy for free of charge. In a country where perhaps some 65% of the population suffers due to lack of medicines, the inception of a free drug bank is revolutionary.
Sharma was born in pre-Independence India. When he was 12, an accident had left him slightly limped. Sharma used to work as a blood bank technician. In 2008, he once witnessed the acute shortage of medicines, when the people injured in a bridge collapse were sent home with just first aid due to lack of medication. The people were left on the verge of life threatening decision due to lack of substantial resources. This unpleasant episode shocked Sharma to a great extent, and he got involved in collecting unused medicines to help the needy ones.
Though in his feeble years, Sharma is much passionate about his mission. He walks about 5-6 kilometers a day in his quest for medicines. Omkar Sharma makes his journey through the upscale part of the capital city and persuades the folks to donate their unused medicines to him. He is not well-off enough to afford the fare of comfortable metro rail, so he usually travels by bus. If there is no bus service available in some remote area, he pedals.
Careful about managing all the medicine he collects and distributes, Sharma cautiously documents the process. He complies a list of all the medicines, syrups and drugs he receives and always asks for receipts, so there are written tracks to prove their authenticity.
Also, Sharma doesn’t take the safety issues lightly. He receives the medicines after inspecting the expiry dates. Even, he has set up a small dispensary in his home at the Manglapuri Basti, where he lives with his aged wife and mentally challenged son.
While Omkar’s medicine distribution system seems unconventional, it is also filling a real need in Delhi. Treatment is free at government hospitals and clinics, but they are often understaffed, overcrowded and their dispensaries sometimes out of necessary medicines. According to the WHO’s World Medicine Report in 2004, 649 million Indians did not have access to essential drugs.
Thousands of unfortunate people die as they can’t afford expensive medicines, while at the same time unused drugs worth millions get wasted. Even some people can’t afford painkiller tablets. With the plight of unprivileged sections, Sharma has started this initiative. However, it is not easy to convince people to donate their extra medicines. Sometimes, people take Sharma for a racketeer. But nothing has checked the spirit of this man and, with time, things have improved. Now people know him very well and are eager to do their bit to support his greater venture.
Omkar Sharma distributes medicine to many NGOs, and a considerable stock of drugs goes to the Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, a government-aided charitable hospital. The ‘Medicine Baba’ is doing an invaluable service, and his contributions have become a formal part of charitable clinics’ operations.
A dedicated man, Sharma does not make any profit from the collection and distribution of the medicines. He lives in a small rented home. His work is sustained, thanks to monetary aid from a few patrons, including doctors he works with.
Nowadays, medicine is almost a critical factor affecting the lives of people. With the rise in diseases, medicines are now next to the air and the water. The medications can give a new life to a man, while their lack can put a life in a danger. Like most of the core needs of life, medical drugs are also out of the league for the deprived section of the society. Several deaths occur in the country due to lack of medications at the right time. The drug bank can be an answer to the above lacunae. And, in this respect, the state authorities should take inspiration from the work of Omkar Nath Sharma. They can follow his model for starting of such free medicine bank where people can give their unexploited pills, tablets, syrups and many other medical supports. Similar free drug banks should be set up everywhere in the country that would provide for crores of poor folks.