India, with a population of over 1.2 billion, has no national scheme to provide health care for its citizens. An estimated 65 percent of the population lacks meaningful access to regular health care. In 2011, the state government of Rajasthan implemented Mukhyamantri Nishulk Dava Yojana (MNDY), the Chief Minister’s Free Medicine Scheme for its population of more than 70 million people. Providing free medicines through designated distribution centers, such as government and teaching hospitals, the plan was considered a success.
The state of Rajasthan spans 342,239 km2 of terrain, encompasses 33 districts, and its geographical and climate features vary drastically. While the northeast is swathed in large expanses of arid and sandy plains, the southeast is more fertile and covered in forested lands. Each district also has its own unique set of communal processes and interactions within the medical state-service.
Can a scheme work equitably across this vast expanse? Can it help raise the living standard for millions whose basic necessity costs compete with their health care costs? Can it stay focused on the people it is meant to help and not become politicized or succumb to lobbyists?
These stories offer glimpses into the reality of patients and medical providers from five districts of Rajasthan: Banswara, Bikaner, Chittorgarh, Jaipur, and Udaipur.
Through non-fiction, narrative storytelling and by working closely with the individuals affected by and invested in Rajasthan’s policies on access to free medicines and free treatment, the Program for Narrative and Documentary Practice of the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University brought six of its students together with six young, aspiring journalists of all storytelling backgrounds in India to tell the story of the Free Medicine Scheme in August 2016.