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Beacon of humanity in a polarised state: Karnataka's 'five-rupee doc'

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By M.K. Ashoka
Bengaluru, June 5 (Ajit Weekly News) Mandya district in Karnataka may be in the news for all the wrong reasons in connection with the Jamia Masjid row, but a large number of people from the same district are more concerned about the health of the people’s doctor, Dr Shankare Gowda.

He had suffered a heart attack recently. People rejoiced at the news of his discharge from hospital, he had to use social media to announce that he is hale and hearty. His ill health made headlines and news of his discharge was flashed by state media and celebrated by the people.

Dr Shankare Gowda, a native of Shivalli and a resident of Bandi Gowda Layout in Mandya, is known as the ‘Five Rupees Doctor’.

He has been treating people for this meagre amount for 4 decades. Family members told Ajit Weekly News that he will be operated on again in another 10 to 15 days and he is responding well to the treatment.

If he attends a marriage, funeral, or other programmes, people would queue up wherever he went. People are required to go to him with a blank paper and pen. Gowda treats them irrespective of where he is.

A MBBS graduate from Kasturba Medical College of Manipal, he has also done his Diploma in Venereology and Dermatology (DVD). He started his service at the age of 30 years. He remembers 1,500 medicines and keeps updating. He would choose the cheapest medicine for skin treatment and he won’t allow medical representatives who try to market costlier drugs.

He attends to thousands of patients at his village and clinic in Mandya every day and charges Rs 5 for check-up, consultation, prescription and also for an injection. He also gives free medicines to those who cannot afford them.

Most of his patients are farmers who are exposed to sunlight more than anyone and are thus more prone to skin diseases.

R. Gurumurthy Harohalli, who has closely seen Shankare Gowda’s service for decades told Ajit Weekly News the reason for his charging only Rs 5 from patients. “The doctor started his service in 1982. He took Rs 5 as fee for consultation which was considered costly at that time.

“He has not hiked the amount till date. He explained that the income of farmers has not increased since then. Their income has not increased by 0.1 per cent. A petty shop owner, small vegetable vendor, and small hotelier will secure his life and make assets in 10 years. But farmers are not able to,” Harohalli says.

In this age, when a consultation with a doctor costs a minimum of Rs 200 to Rs 500, Gowda has vowed to give free treatment to people. “Recently he had shifted his clinic to his house. The family has started a medical store there and he has stopped taking Rs 5 also from patients these days,” he said.

“The doctors association has tried its best convincing him to hike the fee. Gowda told them upfront that they have not made him study medicine and they don’t have any right to question him.”

Talking to Ajit Weekly News, Lankesh M.C., a family friend and social worker, said they had organized thousands of free health camps under his leadership. “The news of his ill health is not just sinking in. He is the symbol of honesty and service,” he adds.

Tagganahalli Venkatesh, a relative and former ZP President, said that Shankare Gowda is the son-in-law of his village. “He could have chosen to make money at any point of time. He chose service. People are really concerned about his health. They believe that God would bless him with good health,” he said.

Gowda had also contested elections as an independent candidate for the Member of Parliament seat from Mandya. He won the Zilla Panchayat elections. Till date, Gowda has treated lakhs of people irrespective of caste, creed or religion.

–Ajit Weekly News

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