Whatever be the domains where Malayalis bewail lagging behind, there is one that should make him hold his head high with pride and a smile: the Kerala model in palliative treatment and care. Kerala is the state that for the first time in India formulated a palliative care policy. It is an honour and strength of Keralites to have palliative collectives all over the state that remind each other citizen that disease is not a crime and care of a patient is not the responsibility of his or her family alone.
Initiated in a few regions and originally confined to a few hospitals, the concept of palliative care has now grown into a movement right across the state. People afflicted with dementia, suffering from old-age, the cancer-affected, the bedridden following bone damage in accidents and falls, those suffering from chronic diabetes – the innumerable suffering people are given succour and strength by these palliative initiatives. The act of applying this ointment of love on wounds which even close relatives would fain to handle, of becoming legs and wings for the fallen, the kindness of social and economic support to such people and their families, can only be called the greatest social and human rights endeavour of our times. Much before the government and local bodies started lending a hand to such ventures, the movement has been making strides with the active involvement of a wide spectrum of volunteers right from doctors to auto labour, with the philanthropic mind of the society, and Kerala's expatriates who have always been in the vanguard of all reformative initiatives.
Today, not only hospitals and local self-government bodies, but many religious, social and cultural bodies are active in the palliative sector with near-competitive spirit. Barring certain rare shocking and shameful instances, as in a violent hartal at the beginning of the year, of crushing ambulances belonging to palliative bodies, Kerala's collective psyche is wholly with this noble movement.
In several corners of the state, a set of people who were consoling themselves with the thought that their world was made up of a bed and a room, have been led to the path of reading and writing and even entrpreneurship. There are campuses where palliative groups are active. When Kerala was hit by the floods, bedridden patients were safely delivered to secure places by Kerala's own 'army' made up of these volunteers. What is needed next is a broader palliative process that gives the relief-seeking human beings greater hope and brings them to the forefront in social life. The most important part of this would be to make the needed equipment available at affordable prices.
Large number of house-bound people who have been later able to break all barriers are now manufacturing several products. But the difficulty in finding a market for their products forces them to be confined indoors again. Their products include items like pen, umbrella, handicraft, paintings, sculptures and jewellry. This problem of marketing can be easily solved by Kerala government and socially responsible corporate bodies if they decide to purchase these items for their own use from these palliative societies. Let all the pens, bags and writing pads distributed at literary and film festivals, college workshops and organization conferences be the ones made by such palliative units. Thereby, let new life be infused into the thought etched on the old graffiti that cultural and political advancement consists in taking along those whose march stopped mid-way.