Speech at the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the College of Nursing, Indore dated 19-10-1985.

We are gathered here to rejoice with the Dean, the Principal, members of the Faculty and the students of the College of Nursing on their silver jubilee. 25 years may be a long time in the life of a human being, it is not so in the life of an institution.

Nursing is one of the noblest of professions : A profession which still retains its pristine purity in which it was intitiated by, the Angel of compassion, Florence Nightingale. It is universal and secular in its outlook. Though we preach ideals, there are institutions which retain their universality or secularity. It is a great achievement for nursing in India that in the course of its development since independence, it has retained these noble characteristics. After all, the nurse is like a mother; the patient comes to her when he is at his weakest, and she has to be a mother to him. She has to tend him, alleviate his pain; be a friend and confidant, and give him courage when he is in despair. You have to uphold the right to human life and dignity, which is why I call it the noblest profession- a job asks for the best in human nature.

I would compare a nurse to a candle that burns away in order to give light. It is, in fact, a self effacing process. Even as the candle gradually melts away, it floods the entire surrounding with light. What is more, you can light any number of candles from a single candle and these can carry light to different places.

I quite appreciate the difficulties a nurse has to face and that is a matter which should concern society. Society has to take care of those who take care of it. I would consider the services of a nurse more important than that of a doctor, without any disparagement for the latter, because, in healing, it is the courage and the confidence that the nurse gives to a patient that helps him most.

I am happy that Madhya Pradesh has got at least one college which can train 25 students a year although I do not think it will satisfy the needs of a big State like ours. I tried to get some information about the status of nursing in this State and I have some impressive statistics about the status of health care in this State.

I am told, there are 22,000 beds in the State. There are only a few hundred in 1947. I am told that there are 3500 nurses tending patients in these 22,000 beds, making a 7:1 ratio between beds and patients, while the ideals is 5:1. I am told that the ideal ratio is one bed for 1000 population. Where do we stand?

We have a population, according to 1981 census, of 52 million. This would require 52,000 beds, and 10,400 nurses. We are, thus, short of 30,000 beds and 7,000 nurses.

What are the training facilities we have? I am informed that we have 14 institutions training nurses – 6 medical colleges and 8 district headquarters hospitals turning out 300 nurses annually. Unless we are able to train 1000 nurses a year against this 300 today, we will not be able to meet the requirement of 52,000 beds and 10,500 nurses by the

year 2000, even if we assume the population to be static at the 1981 level of 52 million. This is the magnitude of the problem that lies before us.

Freedom will have no meaning if we are not able to successfully battle against hunger, disease and ignorance. We have won a few battles, but the war is yet to be won and we have many more battles ahead. We require more post-graduate nurses, and many more graduate nurses if we have to achieve the norm for a normal health care by the year 2001. This would mean we will have to raise our training facilities manifold. Conscious planning and deliberate efforts will have to be made to achieve this.

I am trying to project this so that informed public opinion may help us in this task. We have to join hands to fight this battle because only then can we win. There are many obstacles before us and these have to be overcome. Some of these like casteism, obscurantism, superstition, etc., are obstacles one finds all over India.

As I said at the outset, nursing profession is the noblest of professions, but I find in many parts of India, especially in the north, people are even today depending upon girls from Kerala who make good nurses, because in that State these inhibitions have been considerably overcome. People from all sections of society join the profession+caste does not stand in the way. After coming here, a nursing sister from my State who had married a caste Hindu, wanted to change her profession and become a teacher with lesser pay. I asked her why did she want to change professions? She said, “My husband accepts me, but my in-laws are still not able to accept me. They prefer a teacher to a nurse”. That is how caste prejudice

and superstition stand in our way. It is because of this that Gandhiji wanted every one who joined the freedom struggle to fight these prejudices.

Today, I am happy that there is good local response to the nursing profession. This response has to improve further. The prejudices have to be overcome with rationality; human values should gain over prejudices. Only then can we become a modern society. fonot madi

I can tell you that in future Kerala will not be able to supply you with nurses. Kerala has already overcome the hurdle of excessive growth of population. Do you know that there are now about 10,000 teachers surplus in the schools there, because there are fewer students today than we had yesterday. Family planning is having its impact in Kerala and, in another decade or SO, Kerala will have population enough for Kerala’s job market, and no surplus personnel to supply to the rest of India. Madhya Pradesh should find its own personnel from within the State from all walks of life, particularly from the upper strata, who have overcome inhibitions, serving the people must be considered the height of nobility and not something infra dig.

For this we will have to create the necessary infrastructure so that the State may have proper health care by the time we reach the 21st century. It is not an ambitious ideal: I am only asking for the minimum. Let us work for it. Let me wish this institution a very bright future: I do hope it should expand in all directions and contribute its mite in building a satisfactory health care infrastructure for the State.