Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care

: 2019  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 10  |  Page : 3456-

Lord Mountbatten's last supper to public health's last rites – The trajectory of medicine

Jayanta Bhattacharya 
 General Practitioner, Raiganj, North Dinajpur, West Bengal, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya
General Practitioner, Raiganj, North Dinajpur, West Bengal - 733 134

How to cite this article:
Bhattacharya J. Lord Mountbatten's last supper to public health's last rites – The trajectory of medicine.J Family Med Prim Care 2019;8:3456-3456

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Bhattacharya J. Lord Mountbatten's last supper to public health's last rites – The trajectory of medicine. J Family Med Prim Care [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Aug 5 ];8:3456-3456
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In his unusual, touching and intriguing editorial Raman Kumar has drawn our due attention to the “permanent scar and hatred that would not heal even after a century” and has stressed that “[i] t is time to act, develop synergistic partnerships and move forward toward everlasting peace, happiness, and welfare for the people of this region.”[1] I believe he has rightly said that human cost and depravation of dignity is more tragic than the Holocaust, but never taught in world history. My contention is not partition or human tragedy perse. I want to focus on medicine and health sustaining the impact of partition.

Before partition public health system in India was aghast and subsequent disruption by partition further contributed to the near breakdown of health services. The Bhore Committee presented a “Beveridge-style blueprint that no colonial government of India would ever have put into practice.”[2] As a result, Western medicine was never so powerful in India when it shed its colonial identity. The Bhore Committee had a very good panel of international experts including Weldon Darlymple--Champneys, Henry Sigerist (the doyen of history of medicine), John Ryle, Janet Vaughan, John Cumpston, and others. Cumpston suggested a 1-year premedical, 2-year paraclinical, and two-and-a-half-years of clinical training, which lasted for more than 50 years.[3] In a report published in Lancet on August 23, 1947, after partition the three countries (England, India, and Pakistan) would enjoy friendship and “[t] o this friendship, which is needed on both sides, medicine could contribute much.”[4] Thus, the role of medicine was carefully written on the blood lines of partition, carnage, and extreme hatred. In that report it was also rightly regretted that the Bhore Committee's recommendations “are likely to fall into the background.” What were the actual recommendations of the Committee we are referring to? Briefly, its recommendations were – 1. Integration of preventive and curative services of all administrative levels. 2. Development of Primary Health Centers in two stages (a short-term measure and a long-term program (also called the 3 million plan) of setting up primary health units with 75 – bedded hospitals for each 10,000 to 20,000 population and secondary units.)

In public speeches, Darlymple--Champneys spoke of National Health Service (NHS)-like healthcare as providing a sense of “national” purpose and pointed out that the provisioning of adequate healthcare, accessible to all citizens, may well be the ingredient that will “leaven the bread” (make India rise).[5] On reviewing Indian medical education in 1946, Sigerist warned us, “health education was wasted unless it is somehow combined with education in citizenship, which is impossible without history.”

We are at crossroads.

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Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest.


1Kumar R. Lord Mountbatten's the last supper: How British empire botched up the future of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. J Family Med Prim Care 2019;8:2555-7.
2Arnold D. The rise of western medicine in India. Lancet 1996;348:1075-8.
3Murthy P, Sarin A, Jain S. International advisers to the Bhore Committee: Perceptions and visions for healthcare. Econ Polit Wkly 2013;10:71-7.
4Anonymous. Opportunity in India. Lancet 1947;6459:286.
5Jain S, Sarin A, editors. The Psychological Impact of Partition of India. Sage, New Delhi; 2018. p. 37.