It was on the auspicious Gudi Padwa festival in 2007 that Pune gynaecologist Dr Ganesh Rakh had started his small Medicare Hospital in a modest, three-storied building in Hadapsar locality.
His mission was clear - 'Save the Girl Child' - which he started doing in a big and unique way from 2012 onwards, and the hospital's journey completed 16 years on Wednesday (March 22, 2023).
Free deliveries of any female infant in hospital
"All deliveries of any female infant in my Medicare Hospital are absolutely free of cost for the parents, whether they are paupers or prosperous. Even all the post-delivery care, follow-up treatment, emergency surgeries in case of complications etc are also complimentary for the girl child and her mom," Dr Rakh told IANS.
3 landladies of Dr Rakh
The three-winged Medicare Hospital straddling three buildings has an interesting story of its origins and how their owners - the landladies - directly and indirectly helped Dr Rakh's unparalleled mission.
The first building is owned by a Muslim lady - Shagufta Mushtak Khan, 40 and her husband is employed as a tanker-driver.
The second building belongs to a Hindu lady - Anuradha Sadashiv Gopale, 70, whose husband is a retired schoolteacher.
The third building is owned by a Christian lady - Jennifer Eric Menezes, 56, and her husband is a para-gliding pilot.
"I rented the first building, from Shagufta Madam in 2007, where 'Medicare Hospital' was born in a small way. The second building came up in 2009 and Anuradha Madam made me her first tenant as the hospital had started flourishing slowly. In 2014, Jennifer Madam rented her building to me, when the 'Save Girl Child' mission was taking its first baby-steps," said a beaming Dr Rakh.
While the landlady Khan charges Rs 32K rent per month, Gopale takes Rs 44K and Menezes rakes in Rs 40K each month.
Dr Rakh acknowledges warmly, that "without these three genteel-ladies, hailing from different religious-social-economic-cultural backgrounds, the Medicare Hospital dream would have been stillborn".
To ensure hassle-free operations, the three buildings are now 'inter-connected' and function as a single-entity, with the trio of landladies, their husbands and families going all out to support the 'Save Girl Child' initiative.
"They have witnessed the 'birth', 'childhood' and 'teen' of Medicare Hospital"
"They have witnessed the 'birth', 'childhood' and 'teen' of Medicare Hospital, my tribulations after I announced totally free deliveries for the girl-child born here and they stood behind me like three mountains during any crises," Dr Rakh said with pride, as he along with family and the entire staff stood outside to celebrate the hospital's 16th anniversary-cum-Gudi Padwa this afternoon.
He recalled instances when he was down to the last penny, with no money to pay staff salaries, electricity bills, domestic grocery bills and of course, the rentals of the three landladies.
"However, the three women never ever reminded me or pressured me or gave me an ultimatum." They are also lenient about hiking the rents, they spare me an annual increase and instead hike it every 3-4 years, but only after discussing with me and my family," said a grateful Dr Rakh.
Nevertheless, at times, Sadashiv Gopale played truant, but his wife sternly stood behind Dr Rakh to ward off any crises.
"Sadashiv Sir was my high school teacher for English... He retains the old strictness... Occasionally, when the rentals were delayed, he would hound me... Fortunately, his wife Anuradha would rescue me from his onslaught," Dr Rakh chuckled.
2,470 free deliveries till now
From January 3, 2012 till March 21, 2023, Medicare Hospital has performed 2,470 deliveries of girls without charging a single paise from the parents.
With a strength of 16-beds, the hospital has all other facilities like an OPD, consultations, a path-lab, labour room, operation theatres, delivery rooms, two deluxe rooms, two general wards, a creche, pharmacy, plus separate residential quarters for staff, nurses, medicos and even interns.
Initially ridiculed as the 'Mad Doctor', today Dr Rakh has a huge following of over a million people with many hospitals, doctors, nurses, participating or contributing in their own ways to the 'Beti Bachao' Mission.
His fame spread abroad and he was invited to Africa and other countries for similar initiatives, and will soon travel to Europe, the US, Gulf and Far East to conduct 'Save Girl Child' programmes.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)