From a very young age being a surgeon was dear to my heart, my life itself. Having seen a lot of suffering, I have decided to forego a profession very dear to my heart. And follow my calling of literacy for living and education for all.
- Sometimes it happens that we question our life and ways. Answers to these lead us to assess our role and relevance to the people around us. Beyond family and neighborhoods lies a whole populace that could do with some dedication, focus and empathy. These are the ones who perhaps need individuals not to merely sympathize but come with an agenda and road map on how to make their lives better. Needless to say that one individual cannot change the situation overnight. Certainly one can begin somewhere and have a focus. That journey has begun.
There’s a doctor in me who speaks a different language. Not just of curing and caring but one who understands patients as humans who want solace. Warmth with expertise.
“I have in my surgical career, stood by a lot of patients, morally and monetarily”
Pain, tension, stress and disease. This is what the patient comes to the hospital with. It is the doctor’s duty to understand the patient’s problem, diagnose it and give the right medication to alleviate his problem. I strongly feel the same that in public life too, a society-facing, change-driven worker needs to understand the needy people, find solutions and work towards doing that little bit to catalyze the change. Call it my politics. In my surgical career, I have stood by a lot of patients, morally and monetarily, waiving off fees for those patients who would find it difficult to pay the hospital bills. My fee would only increase their burden, so I thought. That was and continues to be a good ethic to subscribe to. But was that enough? Is there more one could do? Use one’s wherewithal to stand by needy people in large numbers? The answer could be through a role that brings in larger reach and leads one to the path of public service.
- I speak from the heart. I have seen that this touches the people. Sensitivity is not something one is born with. The upbringing, social exposure, the understanding of the context, a clarity of the prevailing politics of the underprivileged and the needy is what helps. For a professional like me who has interacted with people from different walks of life, it is a bit easier to recognize, identify with and constantly converse with the milieu .This has been the advantage of not just my profession as a practicing doctor but a doctor with an intense urge to help the socially and economically weak. If mere aspiration is not enough somewhere there is no lack of strong perseverance to achieve this. If the politics of service is warranted maybe then one has chosen to be in politics that would forever remind me that in talking to people and touching their hearts with solutions, plans and public agendas is the way forward. If this means giving up something to gain something more relevant to the world at large then I have sacrificed a very successful practice as a devoted, talented and understanding surgeon. Even if hitherto, my life ambition was to be a very successful, life saving surgeon. This has to give way for the greater good .One that will build my character and the mettle of the under privileged and illiterate.
- I had promised to myself that I would never ever use reservations for my children. Whenever I would go to interior districts for surgical lectures, I would make it a point to visit the nearby villages and try to explain to them the value of educating their children as well as the importance of education. Unfortunately, the replies they would gave would be quite disheartening. They would say that by the time their children would reach an age of 8 to 10 years, their financial problems would compel them to approach the landlords for work. The landlords needed hands, while the parents needed the monies. In the process, the children invariably grew into school dropouts. Economically challenged on one hand and lack of knowledge on the other. Where could they even think of reservations and the advantages thereof? So here is when I realized that the question of utilizing reservations was a function of literacy, awareness and it needed a catalyst and someone who has experienced the benefits of education. It is these people who actually needed reservations not people like me, sitting in cities. And usurping what was actually theirs? It was then, that I had promised to myself that I would never ever use reservations for my children, and help create awareness in a focused manner on the subject of literacy for living and education for all.
- If planning is the first step, being aware of the ground realities is a necessity. Somehow this has been my understanding that if literacy for living and education for all has to be achieved, then government involvement is an essential. To buttress the efforts of several NGOs who are involved in this work government on one hand and some Vigyan Sevaks on the other are perhaps the call of the hour. To do this, which I believe is my calling then a public role, and politics has to be a catalyst. Access to the establishment, empathy with the needy will the work in tandem. Education and a professional qualification will then support the case for having one and all get educated and take home the benefits to their families and society. With this journey will come up issues:
- How to create basic awareness about the need to be literate? • What does education mean today and in the years to come?
- The benefits of education for their children in the context of better jobs, better lives and a perceptible upping in the standard of living
- More than an equal opportunity for the underprivileged
- A method to approach the education process
- Creating short and long-term frameworks and infrastructures which will enable people to go on the education path
- A sea change in the politics of education
- Exercise at changing the perception of the affected and other publics – media, opinion makers, policy creators and the officers who are in charge of the education pathways
- Building relationships and connects with organizations and bodies who see education as a vital input in both engaging with and changing the face of a young India.
My well considered thought: Undergraduate and Post Graduate students should have rural literacy compulsorily in their curriculum. Their degrees should be awarded only after they obtain certificates from village heads that they have been involved in literacy programs.
- The work has begun but more has to be done. Have been working at ground level to bring weaker sections together on to a single platform. Illiteracy and backwardness, which is marked amongst Muslims, has also been my priority area. Have been attending / co-ordinating a lot of meetings concerning Muslims and their problems. Especially, in the context of the findings and recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission. Diligently working at organising / attending a large number of Backward Class meetings, through the length and breadth of Telangana, explaining to them the importance of education, how they should get educated and utilise reservations, which are actually for their benefit. To date my journey has taken me to more than a hundred Backward Class meetings from village level to main towns.
Family matters they say… my father Shri P Shiv Shanker, a practicing advocate in Andhra Pradesh High Court 50s, 60s. High court judge in 73-74, from which he resigned in 74 and re-started practise in Supreme Court as well as Andhra Pradesh High Court. Represented Mrs Gandhi in cases against her post emergency and won most of them. Was first elected to Lok Sabha from Indira Congress in 1978 and then in 1980 when Indira Gandhi returned to government as Prime Minister in which he was made the Law Minister. The transfer of Chief Justices as well as judges of High Courts which was enacted during his tenure as law minister, is a landmark act, which ended feudalism in the appointment of Judges of High Court and provided equal opportunity to people from weaker sections in being appointed as Judges in High Court. Headed the Petroleum, Chemicals and Fertilizers / Energy / Commerce / External affairs / Planning / Human Resourse Ministries for a decade both under Mrs Indira Gandhi as well as Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s stewardship from 1980 to 1990. Leader of house, Rajya Sabha from 1988 to 90, Governor of Sikkim and Kerala during the years 1994 – 1995. Deputy leader of Lok Sabha from 1996 – 97 when Mrs Sonia Gandhi was the leader of Lok Sabha.
Younger Brother P Sudhir Kumar was President Andhra Pradesh Youth Congress from 1986 – 89 and was one of the persons instrumental in Congress retaining power in 1989, from the ruling Telugu Desam Party. MLA during 1989 – 94. Was General Secretary / Vice President, Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee between 1989 to 2002.