It is drilled into our heads from fairly early on in life that youth is the time to be carefree. After all, the cares of adulthood will come later, say our elders, with a twinge of regret visible in their eyes.
And why not be carefree? We are only young once. Life must be enjoyed while one has the capacity to enjoy it.
But is that all there is to life? Is youth all about night-outs and fast cars, drinking and enjoyment? It certainly ought to be, you might say, and it would be hard to disagree. But step back a little and look at the realities of life in India.
In 2013, the last year for which data is available, 137,000 people died in India in road accidents. Many more were seriously injured, in the 1200+ road crashes that occur on a daily basis in this country of ours.
Add to this the incidences of tuberculosis and early-onset heart conditions, and we have a picture of a population that should be rather worried about its physical condition. Throw in a rise in drug usage, unprotected sex and spread of STD’s and we have a bleak picture.
But how far are Indians aware of the need to provide for medical emergencies? The answer is, not much – less than 20% of the population is covered by some form of health insurance, and a lot of those are people who happen to be covered only by virtue of their employment.
What explains this apparent recklessness? Why is something so basic to our existence – the looming prospect of a health disaster – treated such little attention?
Some of the reasons that can be attributed to this are as follows:
Lack of knowledge
The availability of medical insurance is a mystery to many people, even educated ones. Even those who know about it, only think of it as a tax-saving device rather than a dire need.
Perceptions about medical insurance
For better or worse, Medical insurance companies do not have the best reputations. Instances of non-payment of claims, inflated bills from hospitals, use of legal loopholes to avoid paying claims etc. are very widespread. This makes people hesitant to invest in a good policy.
Of course, it is not just about medical insurance. It is also our lifestyles. And here, the reluctance of Indian youth to pay attention to a healthy diet and regular exercise works against them. In any case, we see a tendency to favour the ‘now’ over what is to happen ‘next’, and in a society where present enjoyment is valued more than future security, such an attitude is a sad reality.
Whatever the reasons, it is important to recognise the seriousness of this phenomenon. As more and more young people engage in behaviour such as drunk driving, use of drugs as stimulants, unsafe sex and violence, India could find itself sitting on a healthcare-cost time bomb. Already a horrific drunk-driving accident seems to happen once a week, and the man or woman behind the wheel is a young, educated – and drunk – driver. For all the efforts of the censors, Udta Punjab depicts the grim reality of drug addiction in parts of our country. And as sanskari as our movies might end up becoming, unsafe sex is another reality that is hard to get away from, the product of a lack of sex education.
So it is time for the youth of India to take some effort to educate themselves and face the realities of life.
Stay safe, drive sober and get insured.
You will only thank yourself later.