Over thirty years ago the picture in Junagadh district was very different to today. Cataracts blighted the rural population causing blindness, affecting every aspect of their daily lives particularly their farming lifestyle.

Pujya Bapu recognised the devastating effect that this had after witnessing farmers unable to plough in a straight line, struggling to grow enough crops to make ends meet. He enlisted the help of surgeons from nearby towns, who generously offered their time free of charge to carry out these life changing surgeries at week-long treatment camps. He bore all the other expenses; surgical equipment, mobile operating theatres and post-operative care – the villagers received entirely free treatment.

With Bapu’s revered reputation, many villagers mistook these camps for a spiritual intervention, however Bapu and his supporters worked tirelessly, meeting those in need and explaining the cure for their ailments required medical attention. Their efforts demonstrated the positive impact that health awareness could have on a population with regular camps taking place over a 28-year period, leading to 50,000 successful operations. The beneficial impact of this initiative has been immense for the people of Junagadh district. It has allowed them to maintain their independence and quality of life, something which would otherwise have been lost.

Another issue that the rural population faced was access to emergency medical care, with rural hospitals virtually non-existent. Villagers often had to travel long distances to the nearest towns, many lacking their own transport. To address this problem and drastically improve access to existing hospitals, Bapu initiated a free of charge transport service in the year 2000, which was only possible with the vitally important donation of the first ambulance.

In its first year the service transported over 300 emergency patients to hospitals. Now there is a fleet of 3 ambulances transporting over 2000 patients to the Jay Ambe Hospital each year and sending serious referral cases to Rajkot and Ahmedabad. There remains a great demand for this service and plans are afoot to grow the fleet to serve more people in need.

However, with India’s hospitals notorious for high out of pocket charges, cost escalation, long waiting times and unnecessary treatment and tests being given, Bapu was not satisfied at settling for the status quo. This inspired the Jay Ambe Hospital which provides all medical care and attention free of charge. Situated in the village of Chaparda, the Hospital now serves over 200,000 patients a year. People travel over 100km from the farthest parts of Junagadh district to receive care with 172 beds fit to treat all, regardless of age, caste, religion, gender or creed.