Jhola chhaap doctors or quacks, to be more specific, are itinerant physicians or part-time medical practitioners in the rural areas of the subcontinent –India and Pakistan– where people either don’t have access to latest medical facilities or too poor to afford the fees of a genuine doctor. These quacks acquire some knowledge in medicine by working as an assistant at a medical store, a private hospital or with some another of their kind. They also succeed in obtaining some sort of certificate authorising them to practise medicine. In some cases, they use the degree of a genuine doctor to avoid any problem with the state health authorities. Armed with insufficient and inadequate knowledge, they go forth to find a village where there are no proper medical facilities. Our subcontinent is full of villages and full of illiterate people too. So, these quacks quickly find a suitable place to start their business by posing themselves as the direct descendants of Hippocrates. They are clever enough to befriend some influential persons of that particular village and gain their confidence and support through their sugary tongue. The quacks mainly treat common diseases like fever, cough and cold , loose motions, small injuries, common allergies, vomiting and other ailments that do not require much medical expertise. Summers and Rains are bonanza for quacks as during these days incidence of malaraia, cholera, diarrhoea , viral fever , common cold etc is high.
Then they move on to treat some chronic diseases like arthritis, gall bladder stone, kidney stone, skin diseases, migraine, ashtma etc. They claim to possess rare prescriptions of Hakeem Luqman for treating such ailments. Now the next step is to trap such people as have sexual problems. Normally people feel shy to discuss such ailments within the family. These quacks crack such people and offer definite cures for their problems. Aphrodisiac drugs are the mainstay of such quacks for eking out a fat (daily income).
In the villages, jhola chhaaps identify such people as are having love affairs or extra marital affairs. Such people are sitting ducks for quacks. They extort huge sums of money from them by selling contraceptives . Another strategy is to keep every kind of medicine..homeopathic, ayurvedic, Unani, and desi. For preparing doses of desi medicine for the treatment of chronic diseases, they demand hefty amounts. Women are easily trapped by these quacks as they profess to possess potions for their private and personal problems. Yet another trickery of the quacks is that they also exploit the gullible people superstitious nature. So, they employ the jhad phoonk therapy which is very effective in the sight of villagers. The patient is given some talisman as a protection against a particular disease. Commonly villagers are possessed by evil spirits very often.
So these quacks also assume the form of an exorcist and recite various mantras in an alien language to drive away the spirits. Sometimes they recite mantras on a bowl of water and administer it to the patients for which they have to loosen their purse strings. Quacks also treat snake-bite or scorpion- bite cases by just chanting some mantras. Quacks do not spare even the animals . They treat milch cattle, pet animals and even poultry. Sometimes animals take better of them. Once a villager told me an amusing incident. A quack of his village was in the habit of chasing the stray dogs on his bike while coming into and going out of the village. He would produce eerie sounds from his mouth to chase away the canine family. On one occasion a stray dog took a sudden leap and thrust its teeth into the thigh of the quack. Now he could not hide the incident as in any case he had to visit a doctor for anti rabies injection.
To hide his shame for having been bitten by a street dog, he floated a rumour that he was attacked by a German Shepherd kept by a retired Colonel. Actually everybody believed his version of the story until a resident of the village where the incident occurred spilled the beans. The friends of the quack pestered him so much that finally he admitted the truth. It seemed very strange to me that the quack glorified the incident attributing it to a German Shepherd and he considered it a shame being bitten by a stray dog. What a mean thinking ! For the fear of being raided by the officials of the Health Department, quacks working in villages camouflage their clinics with general items like toffees, stationery items and undergarments and langerie. In spite of all the risks posed by these quacks, there is one positive side also. They provide immediate and emergency medical assistance to the villagers. And no doubt, they might have saved many precious lives.
So the Govt. , instead of taking any action against them, should give them a chance to register themselves with the Department of Health and submit their credentials. Then a certificate may be issued to the eligible persons to carry out medical practice in villages. Those who do not fall in line, should be dealt according to the law of the land. This way, these neem hakeems may prove beneficial for the society and ease the burden of the government by providing basic medical care in the rural areas.