Dr Dharamvira Gandhi (62) got his famous surname during his student days at Government Medical College, Amritsar, in 1975. It was his anti-Emergency protest that made his college mates regard him as a rational revolutionary. His ‘khadi’ kurta-pyjama completed the Gandhian picture.
Hailing from Parchanda village in Rupnagar district, this noted cardiologist is now the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Patiala Lok Sabha constituency.
Dr Gandhi is known for his social activism as well as philanthropy. In his heart clinic, patients are divided into slabs according to their socio-economic status — from poor to upper middle class — and medical services are being provided at subsidised rates.
Much before entering mainstream politics, he has been fighting for the cause of migrant labourers, Dalits and poor peasants for the past four decades.
Year ning for change in society since his college days, his career’s turning point came with Anna Hazare’s protest against corruption. It gave him a strong platform to launch protests against corrupt practices of bureaucrats and politicians.
Dr Gandhi was involved in student activism at the medical college, where he stayed from 1971 to 1976. He was detained for one month over his anti-Emergency protests. After passing out as a medical graduate, he organised several protests during his stint as general secretary of the junior doctors’ association of Punjab from 1977-78. He also formed the Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab.
The doctor took long leave from his job as a medical officer at Bilaspur village in Moga district during 1982-84 to work in the slums of Ludhiana for the rehabilitation of migrant labourers.
During his stint in Bilaspur, he organised several protests in which villagers of Sangrur, Bathinda and Moga participated against police atrocities during the days of terrorism in Punjab. Residents of 20 villages even gheraoed the health department’s office after the later issued orders for Dr Gandhi’s transfer from Bilaspur in 1988.
“My days in Bilaspur made me more responsible towards people and society,” he said.
He was also conferred with the state award after his rural medical centre at Bilaspur was adjudged the best rural health centre in the country. In 2000, he took premature retirement as assistant professor in the cardiology department at Government Rajindra Hospital and started a low-cost clinic.
Terming standard health care beyond the reach of the poor and the common man, Dr Gandhi believes that medical science is a social product and common heritage of all people. It belongs to the slums and fields as well as to those living in luxurious houses, he says.
“The common man has been ignored when it comes to health care. With the advent of economic policies, liberalisation and globalisation, the apathy of successive governments towards the common man has gone from bad to worse,” he laments.
Dr Gandhi says he owes his entry into mainstream politics to the policies of AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal and the dream of better governance.
“It’s a fight of political ideologies rather than of political parties and leaders. Corrupt practices of politicians have reduced people to vote banks. I would never seek votes on the basis of caste or religion as my democratic and secularism credentials are most important for me and my supporters,” he adds.