Dr. Shelly Batra and Sandeep Ahuja founded Operation ASHA in 2006 with a compelling vision: to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. The first step in this fight is to eradicate TB and then add other products and services to the delivery pipeline of Operation ASHA. 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.
Sandeep organized a group of friends, relatives and colleagues who supported Batra’s work regularly. Shelly could perform as many as 70 surgeries a year, without having to worry about funds and focusing on work only, unlike earlier.
In 2006, Batra and Ahuja founded Operation ASHA. They decided to focus their fledgling organization to develop a pipeline to pump in services and products to the most disadvantaged. They decided to focus on a single issue till the pipeline became fully reliable. This issue is eradication of tuberculosis (TB). India tops the world’s high-burden TB list. TB is India’s most urgent public health concern. 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.
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 nine 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.