Ideal village

Sadguru Madhusudan Sai address during the 7th Ideal Village Conference

A conversation on “healthcare and nutrition” began the second day at Swatantrata Bhawan. The session was started by Stanford University professor Kanwaljeet J. S. Anand, with spiritual leader Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai, the creator of the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence in Karnataka, participating online.

In his discussion of the value of villages in a country, Sadguru stated that “healthcare and nutrition are very important to his heart, as well as for social development. India is a rural country. Approximately 65–70% of India is in rural areas. They are in greatest need of assistance. They support 15–16% of the Indian economy. Their extremely low incomes are the first issue. They are unable to spend much on things like healthy eating, a good education, and quality healthcare. The government and its social assistance programmes take care of them to a significant extent. In rural areas, it is quite difficult to meet everyone’s needs.


Healthcare infrastructure caters to about 27% of the population in urban areas. In rural areas, the people have access to only 25% of the healthcare infrastructure. WHO recommends 1:1000 for doctor-patient ratio, and 1:300 for nurse-patient ratio. The doctor-patient ratio in rural areas is very low, with 1:11,082. In Chakbalapur, it is 1:13,556. The nurse-patient ratio is also very low, at 1:670. These are the people who need all the help. Women continue to work in fields in the eight or even ninth month of their pregnancy. Almost 60% of these women have never had any checkup, or consultation, or any advice from a medical expert. 75% of doctors are missing in rural healthcare centers. Healthy motherhood means a healthy child. 

With notable state differences, India’s maternal and child mortality rates are much higher than the national and SDG targets by more than 1.5 times. Over the past 20 years, 1.3 million women have died from pregnancy-related causes. Less than 60% of expecting mothers attend all four ANC appointments. Severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, anaemia, botched abortions, and other factors are major causes of mortality. If we can look after the mothers, we can look after the kids.


The first four hospitals have opened, Palwal in Haryana, Raipur in Chattisgarh, Muddenahalli in Karnataka, and Mumbai and Yavatmal in Maharashtra are the locations of these. In Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Jamshedpur, Orissa, Telengana, and other states, new hospitals are being built. Additionally, we have hospitals in Nigeria, Sri Lanka, etc. We are taking these actions because the residents of those locations lack access to high-quality healthcare. They are unable to pay for private hospitals’ and clinics’ high standards of healthcare. In India, healthcare costs roughly Rs. 5, or 1% to 2% of GDP.


In India, 0.8 million of children under 5 die annually due to health causes. 8 in 1000 infants are born annually with congenital heart defects. We are working on congenital heart defects. In the last decade, we have done over 22,000 surgeries and over 200,000 consultations.

The idea of setting up these hospitals is the fact there is very little facility in rural areas. In India, more than 250,000 children are born with congenital heart defects. They have nowhere to go. Our hospitals are completely free to the rural population. We have 550 dedicated maternal and child health care beds, 9 pediatric cardiac operation theaters, 3 pediatric cardiac cath labs, etc. All the services rendered are totally free of cost. Today, not even one private hospital has come forward to pick up the loans from the banks.

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We need to create rural healthcare professionals. We should think of preventive healthcare via point-of-care diagnostics, etc. We have instituted a training program. My call to all of you is to create the rural heathcare technologies so that preventive healthcare is there. Once they go out of hand, the burden gets too much to handle. We are looking at creating even more healthcare professionals. We also need free medical education. 

Today, healthcare expenditure is out of pocket. There is 76% shortfall of specialist doctors, and 49.6% of private medical colleges. Cost of studying MBBS is between Rs. 20 lakh to Rs. 1 crore per annum. The government has taken some steps, but those are not enough for a country like India. This is where the gap exists. We need more professionals. We must use technologies to reach out to rural geographies. We must bridge the gap between healthcare need and healthcare delivery. It has to be affordable, accessible, and agreeable. It needs to match the rural lifestyle. We should make healthcare inclusive by using inclusive knowledge systems. 

We are going to provide India’s first free medical college in Karnataka. We will impart medical education to impact rural healthcare. Our demography dividend needs to be completely secure first. The effort is on to train more children. We need to have healthcare professionals so that they can cater to the needs of rural people and have a better understanding of the culture, language, and acceptance of people in the rural areas. 

We are now planning to get into diagnostic services across the country. We are already present in 25 states through our Annapoorna morning nutrition program. Nutrition and healthcare are all connected. Food works like medicine. We have to give the right kind of nutrition, especially to the pregnant mothers, toddlers, etc. We need to give children a well-balanced breakfast. We serve 1 million rural children every morning. It is customized to the needs of children and the geography. Ragi has very good nutritional profile, encompassing all essential micronutrients, such as carbohydrates, fibers, fats and proteins, etc., along with vitamins and minerals. Ragi also strengthens the bones in growing children.

We are also looking at giving wheat-based and malt-based food preparations. We need to ensure that micronutrients can reach the rural children. We are present across over 11,000 government schools, with over 650 volunteers, over 6600 support staff, and over 250 million meals have been served till date. Families are also provided with Covid-19 support. Our hope is to cover at least 2 million children by 2025.

In India, almost 37 million children are malnourished. Almost 0.8 million children die every year. A country where 68% of people are in agriculture also faces the crisis of malnutrition. We are able to see great impact in child development. Healthy children are building blocks to a healthy future of India. We are seeking to meet the nutrition gap in children of India and disadvantaged sections of the society. One solution of nutrition is solving many problems. We have a better education budget, and we are making the healthcare budget work better by solving nutrition needs. In India, we do not have a program that covers the morning nutrition needs of children, especially in government schools. 

Nutrition among girls is even worse. They are going through a growth phase. They are also losing lot of blood. These girls will become mothers in the future. We have a renovation for adults and girls. They need to have right kind of nutrition for the future. We are going to set up one diagnostic center in every taluka of the country. We plan to tie up with the Jan Aushadi movement by the government. We are looking to train at least 5,000 professionals. Many girls will also be trained. 

We need a lot of help. We have a model of samaja, sarkara, and samastha. We are working for the development of rural India. When the mind of person is happy, it leads to good results. We have so much under utilized potential of rural youth. We need to also engage child in body, mind, and spirit. We need to have mental nutrition and healthcare. In Covid-19, mental health has become an elephant in the room. We also have education for the rural youth, so they can get use of all hi-tech materials, etc. Children can have an integrated approach to education. They can also contribute to the society’s welfare. 

We have 25 schools across 20 districts. We have three university campuses. Education is free. Children can complete their education. Not even 1% of rural girls enter higher education, which is a waste of potential. We have 50% girls in our university who are doing very well. They are the first in their entire clan to complete education. We also provide girls with stipends in higher education, so they can be motivated.

We want to improve rural India. Hard aspect is the infrastructure. You need to have road, electricity, sanitation, hospitals, etc. Soft aspect is the culture. India is known for unique culture. Most of urban population lives in social media, while the rural population lives in the society. We are having urbanization. Youngsters leave rural areas to get a job in urban areas. Eg., in Mandya, many sugar-producing units are shut down as the old cannot work. Many farms are not being cultivated anymore. Coffee production in Chikmagalur has been falling. Prices are always fluctuating. I am a big advocate of ruralization of India. The soul of rural India should also be preserved. We need to fill the gaps, work together collaboratively. We must not also loose our culture. We are slowly becoming insensitive to our culture. We must also ensure that others are sheltered. We need to have a happy country. “

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