Dr. Shelly Batra and Sandeep Ahuja founded Operation ASHA in 2005 with a compelling vision: a Tuberculosis-free India. Their clear-sighted goals and unwavering dedication prompted policy-makers, health practitioners and investors to join from both sides of the Atlantic.
A doctor and a former government official, Dr. Shelly Batra and Sandeep Ahuja, were unlikely partners, but in 1998 they teamed up to finance Dr. Batra’s free treatment and surgeries for patients who came to her, unable to afford life-saving procedures. An obs and gyne surgeon, Batra worked out of her house or Delhi’s Batra Hospital and performed countless life-saving operations and infant deliveries for free to disadvantaged patients. The only obstacle was funding the incidentals like antiseptics, fluids and anesthetics necessary to carry out these operations. She called her friends and family to ask for donations, but her most regular contributor after 1998 was Sandeep Ahuja.
In 2005, Batra and Ahuja founded Operation ASHA. They decided to focus their fledgling organization with a compelling vision: a tuberculosis-free India. India tops the world’s high-burden TB list, so the two decided that they would answer one of India’s most urgent public health concerns. Their vision attracted people to join from around the world, and an advising and fundraising group grew in the US to form Operation ASHA, USA.
The UN declared tuberculosis a global emergency in 2003 and numbers of infected TB patients have reached epidemic proportions in India in the last decade. In OpASHA’s first year, 2.2 million new TB cases and 400,000 TB deaths were recorded in India. By 2007, OpASHA became the largest non-profit in Delhi treating TB with 24 treatment centers serving 475 patients.
Operation ASHA began with one TB treatment center in September 2006 and enrolled 26 new patients within 3 months. Today, OpASHA provides tuberculosis treatment and education services in 2,053 slums and villages in six Indian states and two provinces in Cambodia. It is the exclusive provider of TB treatment to nearly five million Indian citizens. With a successful model in place, Operation ASHA continues to grow and expand beyond India’s borders to Southeast Asia and Africa, where millions more suffer from tuberculosis.