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Crusader for public health 

ISP Mumbai Bureau 

Dr. Ravindra Kohli is a renowned name in India and a benchmark in altruistic work. He is an angel doctor to lakhs of people in the tribal belt of Maharashtra. Ravindra and his wife Dr. Smita Kolhe are life savers to the people of this part of the country. 

Kolhe couple was awarded Padma Shri last year by a grateful nation for 35 years of this family’s service in improving the lives of people living in the tribal areas of Melghat, Maharashtra. Ravindra Kolhe is famous across the country as a ‘Rs. 1’ doctor as he charges Rs. 1 fee for his medical assistance. Ravindra Kolhe’s efforts and activism for the people of Maharashtra has resulted in better health indicators in the region in the last one decade.

Dr. Ravindra Kolhe was born in 1962 in Shegaon, Maharashtra and was the first member of his family to receive his MBBS degree in 1985 from Nagpur Medical College. His father Deorao Kolhe was a railway employee, a guiding light for Dr Ravindra’s commitment to society. There is not much information about his mother and siblings.

Young Kolhe was a prolific reader and he was inspired by the life and work of  Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. After clearing his medicine studies, young Ravindra wanted to use his knowledge of medicines for a greater cause and welfare of the people. He decided to work in Bairagarh, a small village in Melghat, Maharashtra because the village had no medical facilities and a person had to walk 40 kilometres to reach the village to see a proper road.

Before leaving for Melaghat, he spent six months in Mumbai to learn some things that would come in handy while working in remote areas. He learned how to deliver a baby without proper facilities like a sonography and blood transfusion, how to diagnose pneumonia without an X-ray, and how to cure diarrhoea. His MD thesis was  on the problem of malnutrition in Melghat and his thesis grabbed the attention of people from all over the world. BBC Radio came forward to cover the story on Melghat, which helped in bringing the village to everyone’s notice. 

Dr. Kolhe’s work with the tribal people helped him in reducing the infant mortality rate in the region from 200 per 1000 to 40 per 1000. People started coming forward with problems related to their cattle and fields so Dr. Ravindra Kolhe spent a year learning the basic anatomy of animals from a veterinary doctor as well. He also studied agriculture and farming from Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, Akola to help villagers with their agricultural problems. He developed a fungus-resistant variety of seeds and started farming using those seeds.

Dr. Ravindra Kolhe found and married his wife and mission partner Dr. Smita in the year 1989. She was practising in Nagpur those days and moved to the village in Melghat after marriage to partake in the journey of Dr. Kolhe. They have two sons Rohit Kolhe, who is a farmer and Ram Kolhe who is a doctor like his parents.

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