The Cancer Detention Camp

March 28, 2021: Posted by One Surgery Admin

The following is the third and final extract in an exclusive three part series from the book, “My Kinwat Days”, written by Dr Arun Gadre, a gynecologist that has spent twenty years of his career serving the draught-prone rural population in Maharashtra, India. Dr Gadre is also an award winning author in the Marathi language with 14 published books. In 1986, early in his career, he ventured to Kinwat, a village in India to set up a surgical service for the poor along with his wife, Jyoti, a practicing anaesthetist. In 1987, he left the project, feeling he had failed. “My Kinwat Days” are his memoirs, recalling his experiences there, and offers valuable lessons for the modern day global surgery movement.

Foreword (by Saqib Noor): It has been an honour and pleasure to read Dr Gadre’s book, and help translate just a few of his words from Marathi to English. His story resonates closely with me, as even to this day, we witness the struggle and strife of advocating for, and providing surgical care to those in the world who do not have access to it. His experiences from the mid 1980’s still occur on a daily basis in the world today. This final extract discusses the nuisances and socio-political elements of global health policy, and the associated challenges around which diseases gain attention, whilst less newsworthy conditions remain continuously neglected. Once again, I have tried my best to edit the direct grammatical translation, whilst maintaining the fluidity and evocative style of Dr Gadre’s writings. And finally, a heartfelt thank you to Dr Gadre for being kind enough to share these wonderful writings and stories with us on the One.Surgery blog.

The Cancer Detention Camp

In Kinwat, there are no social clubs, like the Lions or Rotary club. Nobody is free to do social service and there is only a one point social program – the survival of the fittest. However, politicians are different, for they have an eagerness and hurry to bring us all to the 21st century. And of course, the doctors in the city want to serve society on their Sunday holidays.

So, enthusiastically, the first ever cancer detection camp was organised in Kinwat. As always, with such events, a prologue of various lectures is a must to start the event and indeed, in the morning, these lectures takes place in earnest. The importance of prevention of cancer is emphasized to the crowd. Everybody listens and then, the inevitable camp follows.

Well! The doctors from the city are too happy to serve. And of course, there is a photo session, the mandatory photo being the political leader along with the poor patients and the medical team. It is a guarantee for the front-page news in tomorrow’s newspaper.

The queue of the patients is a long one.

“Quite surprising!” comes a comment from the city medical team, pleasing the political leader. Reluctantly I have joined the team, I could not avoid it so I too, am in search of cancer patients today.

The queue soon starts shrinking once it is known that there is no treatment offered, whatsoever and for whatever.

One person pleads to me.

“You are the one from Bombay?”


“My mother is having tuberculosis, you diagnosed it and sent us to the government dispensary for medicines. We can not afford private medicines. You assured us that we would get free drugs in the government dispensary.”

“So?” I inquire.

“There are no medicines over there! We were driven off.”

“Oh!” I reacted.

“We got examined in this camp. I requested for medicines.”, he pleaded. “Please, please give us medicines for tuberculosis!”

I laugh nervously and I try to explain him regarding the issue of cancer.

“If you have cancer, it is another thing.” I tell him. “For just tuberculosis, this camp and these people have no interest. Tuberculosis is an old disease. How can it attract the attention of these very busy city doctors? And of our political leader? Forget it.”

“So — there will be no treatment on tuberculosis here?”


He spits.

“Come on!”, he orders the old woman with him. “This is like a village drama. The pretty women will dance and dance and we should just clap from far away! No other way!”

He goes away and soon the cancer detection camp is over.

It’s time for lunch. Many local businessmen have arranged a royal lunch for this devoted medical team at the order of local political leader. And of course, the medical team acclaims the hosts. The doctors in Kinwat gather along with the city medical team.

“Two cases detected”, triumphant statement! Everybody appreciates this, along with the political leader.

“Send them to the city. We will give fifty percent concession to the patients from the camp.”

Everybody appreciates this again. And soon the ambulance starts, carrying away this devoted medical team. The political leader also retires and the volunteers follow.

All roads from Kinwat are now filled to the brim with people and the mob returns to their respective villages. The barefoot persons go back with diseases like tuberculosis, cough, fever dysentery and diarrhea! Untreated, just like how they came.

However, those two persons are lucky. At least at the time of their death, they know the cause, the celebrated cause of the 21st century! Cancer!

The deserted night at Kinwat rules this day as usual, without any difference, with the same hunger and diseases, whilst many still surrender to their chronic old-fashioned diseases. This night has no clue whatsoever that on this specific day, Kinwat entered the 21st century, thanks to that politician, the philanthropic busy city doctors, and that great cancer detection camp!

One Surgery Admin About One Surgery Admin – United Kingdom
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