Dr. Harsh Vardhan is all set to be the BJP’s Chief Minister Candidate for 2013 Delhi Assembly Polls. Reports suggest that his name has been almost finalized for the post. Here we present a short Biography of his.
He is a renowned ENT surgeon who has 3 times served as BJP’s State President from Delhi, Leader of Opposition as well as Health Minister during 1993-98. He was first elected from Krishna Nagar constituency in east Delhi and since then has retained the seat. He is fondly called Doctor Saab Party Workers and Friends.
He was born in December 1954 to Late Om Prakash Goel and Snehlata Devi. He did his schooling in the Anglo-Sanskrit Victoria Jubilee Senior Secondary School in Daryaganj. He decided to be a doctor and attended GSVM Medical College in Kanpur from where he obtained his MBBS and MS with specialisation in ENT. He returned to Delhi to set up a private practice as an ENT surgeon.
Harsh Vardhan is remarkably known for pioneering the Pulse Polio program in India. He launched it first in Delhi, which was then home to 10 per cent of polio cases in India. In 1994, on a single day (October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi), he organised the mass immunisation of 1.2 million children. No immunisation programme in India before that had involved the marshalling of such awesome logistics. Interestingly, the entire programme was supported by school children who acted as “Polio Senas”, apart from activists from over 400 NGOs, the RSS and thousands of people from all walks of life. Dr Harsh Vardhan went around the country persuading the health ministers of all the states to cooperate in making Pulse Polio a success.
He moved next to control tobacco consumption. As an ENT specialist, he was regularly confronting cases of laryngeal, oral and lung cancers – all attributable to tobacco use. So he conceived the first ever anti-tobacco legislation in India, despite facing stiff opposition from the tobacco lobby whose clout and arrogance at the time knew no bounds. He was instrumental in passing the Delhi Prohibition of Smoking and Non-Smokers Health Protection Act in 1997. Later the Supreme Court passed an Order asking all states and the Centre to follow suit. Soon, other states followed Delhi’s example, culminating in a Central legislation banning smoking in public places in 2002.
The World Health Organisation has recognised his contribution to society and awarded him the Director-General’sPolio Eradication Champion Award Commendation Medal at a prestigious function held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, in May 1998. It was an honour previously bestowed on the likes of US President Bill Clinton and football superstar Pele.
In January 2001, Prime Minister Vajpayee honoured him with Rotary International’s “Polio Eradication Champion Award”. He is the first Indian to receive this prestigious award, which earlier went to former British Prime Minister John Major, Bill Clinton, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a galaxy of other famous international personalities. At the function held in New Delhi attended by a large number of international luminaries to hand him the award, Prime Minister Vajpayee described Dr Harsh Vardhan as “Swasthya Vardhan”.
Within the BJP, he worked hard to organise the “Doctors’ Cell” and established vibrant units in different states.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan was conferred the Paul Harris Fellowship by Rotary International twice. The International Institute of Polypathy based in Milan, Italy, nominated him as a Fellow in 1996. In 1995, the then President of Lions International, Mr C. Pino Grimaldi, awarded him the Lions International Service Award. In 1994, he received the “IMA President’s Special Award of Appreciation” and was given the “IMA Special Award to Eminent Medical Men for Distinguished Achievement of Highest Order” for two successive years – 1995 and 1996. On “Doctor’s Day”, July 1, 2002, he was named “Doctor of the last Decade” (Swastha Ratna) by the New Delhi branch of the Indian Medical Association for being the “noblest medical campaigner of the last decade”.
A major pioneering initiative of Dr Harsh Vardhan was his act of implementing WHO’s Essential Drug Programme, which revolutionised governments’ attitudes on public health care. Under the concept, maximum budgetary outlay was apportioned to those drugs most needed by the people. It was henceforth known as the “Delhi Model” and taken up by several foreign countries and at least a dozen state governments in India. The Delhi Society for Promotion of Rational use of Drugs, which is a powerful movement now, was thus born and Dr Harsh Vardhan continues to be associated with its progress.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan is a member of several prestigious organisations in not only the medical field, but also culture, diplomacy and related areas. He is a life member of the International Medical Parliamentarians Organisation, the Antar Rashtriya Sahyog Parishad, the Council for International Affairs and Human Rights, the Panchnad Research Institute, the IMA Academy of Medical Specialties, the Association of Otolaryngologists of India, the All India Rhinology Society, the Gems Association and the Delhi Society for Promotion of Rational Use of Drugs. He is also one of the founders of Green Forum, the country’s first multi-party platform of leaders interested in environment protection.
He is married to Nutan and has two sons, Mayank Bharat and Sachin and a daughter named Inakshi. He lives in the house built by his father in Krishna Nagar and is a non-smoker and teetotaler.
In December 2004, he wrote a Book titled A Tale of Two Drops which mentions his own account of how he conceived and implemented the Pulse Polio programme.