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Padma Awards: ORS pioneer Dilip Mahalanabis finally gets recognition, though posthumously

Kolkata, Jan 25 (IANS) Iconic paediatrician late Dilip Mahalanabis, who pioneered the use of Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) for the treatment of diarrhoeal diseases, finally got national recognition on Wednesday, though posthumously.

Mahalanabis, who passed away at the age 88 in October last year, was on Wednesday named in the list six Padma Vibhushan awardees. Of the six names featuring in the list, three will be receiving it posthumously — Mahalanabis, Mulayam Singh Yadav and renowned architect Balkrishna Doshi.

Mahalanabis passed away at a Kolkata hospital on October 16 last year following a number of age-related ailments, including lungs problems.

He had been widely admired by the medical fraternity as the pioneer of ORS, an alternative to intravenous rehydration therapy for prevention and treatment of dehydration from diarrhoea in an emergency situation when intravenous therapy is not available.

As per the estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), oral rehydration theory is estimated to have saved over 60 million lives.

City doctors, however, feel that this is recognition by the Union government should have come much before.

“His invention came during the Bangladesh Liberation War, which saved thousands of lives. Finally, the Indian government has recognised his contribution towards medical science. Better late than never,” said city-based medical practitioner, Udipta Ray.

Noted maxillofacial surgeon, Srijon Mukherjee, is happy that finally Mahalanabis has got his long overdue recognition.

“We, the doctors of Bengal, have become habituated with our pioneers getting recognised posthumously,” he added.

Bangladesh came under the grip of cholera during the liberation war in 1971. Mahalanabis was then serving as a doctor at a refugee camp on the Indo-Bangladesh border in Bangaon. To protect the people at the camp from cholera and diarrhoea, he prepared an oral solution mixing salt and sugar with water. This solution worked as a miracle in preventing these two fatal diseases. The solution later became famous as ORS.

Mahalanabis was awarded the Pollin Prize in 2002 and the Prince Mahidol Award in 2006. He was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1994. However, there was hardly any recognition from the Union government for his contributions in the field of medicine that saved millions of lives.

–IANS

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