Finally we can say we've done it.
The World Health Organization plans to say on Monday that India has gone exactly three years since recording its last polio case, one of the biggest public-health achievements of recent times, and one that could set the stage for stamping out the ancient scourge globally.
Public-health officials now hope to officially certify India as polio free in coming weeks.
Many long doubted that India could pull it off, given the country's size, poor sanitation and the enormous challenge of vaccinating millions of children, often in far-flung places and in the face of societal and religious resistance.
"India was by far the hardest place in the world to get rid of polio," said Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp.
How? - by bloody-mindedness, a lot of money and hard work.
The Indian government's campaign to eliminate polio began in 1995, and has cost it nearly $1.6 billion so far; private sources have contributed millions more. It was a mammoth operation, involving health workers, local officials, religious leaders and some two million vaccinators who often went door to door. Over the past three years alone, 480 million vaccinations were given each year to about 174 million children under the age of 5.
Religious leaders were persuaded to join the effort. "The calls that went out to the Muslim faithful every Friday contained reminders to take children to the immunization booths," said Mr. Kapur of Rotary International. "These were the people initially most skeptical of the vaccines but, once convinced, they became our biggest agents of change."
Will this amazing example of co-operation between the public, public health services, do-gooders, international busybodies, motley philanthropists out to burnish their reputations managing to get one of God's creations out of lives confer legitimacy on the power of secular human cooperation, and the power of humanity in general? Will we finally be able to believe in the power of a collective humanity? Will we heck. Not a mention in any media headlines. Instead, this.
The priest told him that when he would return home from Srivilliputhur, he would get an important message from his head office which would open a window of opportunities for him, besides bringing about a change in his place of work. The priest also said that the coin, which was from a yagna or fire ritual conducted at the Meenakshi Temple the previous day, should be kept in the puja or prayer altar at home and worshipped daily. The priest identified himself as the chief priest of the Meenakshi Temple.
I had no clue of what happened during my husband's bus ride to Srivilliputhur. When he returned home that evening, he was stunned to find a telegram waiting for him; he was instructed to report to the company head office immediately. My husband was being promoted as manager and was also being transferred to a new station. He narrated to me what happened during his bus journey that day. As the priest had said, the telegram was the beginning of his successful career and which changed our life forever.
Till date, I have the coin in our sacred altar. I am convinced that Goddess Meenakshi had personally blessed him and sent this message.
Embarrassingly, I find we have exported our crank beliefs in miracles to advanced and educated societies, in spite of the existence of valid, logical demonstrable secular miracles - the eradication of smallpox and polio within my lifetime.
And that is "completely consistent with what Christians believe and exactly said by the ancient Hebrews thousands of years ago without doing a single experiment but solely on the basis of 'God told us.'"
"And the astounding fact is that 2,000 years later, modern science after climbing round and round the mountain has arrived at the top only to find a bunch of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries," said D'Souza.
But D'Souza countered, "No. Miracles simply say that the laws of physics are incomplete. The laws of physics are generalizations that reflect the limits of human knowledge. These aren't nature's laws; they're Newton's laws and it took an Einstein to modify them."