Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS) was founded in the year 1996 by a group of like-minded health professionals during their post-graduate studies at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Dehli. We shared a common desire to do something to change the health situation in rural India, characterized by extreme poverty and lack of access to even the most basic care. Together we decided to develop an effective, low-cost, high quality community-based health care system that would be readily accessible to the rural poor and a model for the delivery of care in low-resource settings.
Finding a Home
From the beginning, we were committed to serving the poorest and most vulnerable patients— those who would otherwise lack access to affordable and quality care. In this spirit, we employed two main criteria while selecting an area in which to base our organisation. The first was that we would serve in an area that was classified as ‘backward’ by the government. The second was that we establish ourselves in an area with some history of a people’s movement, or with active groups with a similar analysis and perspective. With our strong belief that health is directly tied to one’s political and economic situation, we vowed that they would work not only to treat the biological needs of our patients, but also to ensure the social rights of the people we cared for.
Building a Community
In May 1999 a lease agreement was signed with the Government of Madhya Pradesh for use of the land and the buildings of the irrigation colony in Ganiyari village. The complex, named the Arpa Irrigation Colony, consisted of some fifteen built structures. However, the buildings had been lying vacant and abandoned for the past eighteen years and were unfit for use due to neglect and vandalism.
Since our arrival, we have transformed the irrigation colony into a working hospital campus. Outpatient services started in Ganiyari on February 3, 2000, and mobile clinics were started the next month in Shivtarai. An operation theatre complex was opened in June 2001. The JSS team was warmly welcomed by local leaders at Ganiyari village, who strongly supported the presence of an organization that would fulfill a great need of the people of the area.