Tuberculosis in India is one of the most frightening challenges to public health today. Recent WHO figures state that in 2013, India had 2.6 million cases of tuberculosis, of which 80 per cent were new, and the disease claimed nearly 300,000 lives. This means that almost a fifth of the world’s tuberculosis related deaths occurs in India.
Languished Hopes: Tuberculosis, the State and International Assistance in Twentieth-century India narrates and analyses the history of tuberculosis in India in the twentieth century: how the disease was ‘discovered’, how it has been understood, and how national and international agencies have struggled to bring it under control.
The author begins in the early decades of the century, when colonial authorities realised that tuberculosis might be a severe health threat, and traces debates and initiatives from late colonialism through independence into post-colonial India. His focus is on the first two decades after independence, when tuberculosis control received unprecedented attention and underwent fundamental transformations.
In this period the world’s largest vaccination campaign was rolled out in India, and new antibiotic drugs were distributed to infected Indians through the ambitious National Tuberculosis Programme. The analysis ends with the early 1990s, when Indian authorities realised that 80 years of control efforts had achieved little, and prepared to revamp the official control programme. The final section presents more promising results from the past twenty years.
Through his analysis of tuberculosis control measures in India, the author proffers a simple message: where there is massive poverty, there will be severe tuberculosis. Vaccines and drugs cannot do the job alone.
The book will be of interest to students and scholars of history, medical sociology, and to health practitioners.
Niels Brimnes is Associate Professor in History and South Asian Studies, Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark.
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