Mohammad Gulzar Saifi

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Mohammad Gulzar Saifi (born 16 February 1983) is an Indian educator, community organizer and polio survivor in the north Indian city of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. He was the featured protagonist in the 2009 Academy Award-nominated documentary film, The Final Inch. [1] The short film profiles one of those stricken by polio; and in this way, the documentary establishes a context for global efforts to eradicate the paralysing illness.[2]

Gulzar is a graduate in English from Meerut's Chowdhary Charan Singh University. In part, because of the celebrity status which attended the film, this teacher with a disability has come to earn a living by giving English lessons to about 60 children daily.[3] Gulzar has learned the hard way that "polio is not a disease, it’s a disaster for many ... I was lucky, I had a good family who looked after me but what about those who don’t, those who are abandoned? I appeal to everyone to get their child vaccinated against polio."[4] The title The Final Inch refers to the fact that health officials say polio, which can paralyse a child for life within hours, is on the brink of being controlled.


The promotional poster for the Academy Award-nominated film, The Final Inch, which features Mohammad Gulzar Saifi

The title of the documentary film The Final Inch refers to the fact that polio, which can paralyse a child for life within hours, is on the brink of being eliminated—thanks to mass immunisation, the world is mere "inches" from achieving that ultimate achievable goal.[5] Eradication of worldwide polio has attracted attention, but "getting rid of the last 1 percent has been like trying to squeeze Jell-O to death."[6]

There was comparatively little media coverage about The Final Inch in India, even as its people seemed obsessed with Oscar-front-runner Slumdog Millionaire.[7] However, articles in The Times of India, Daily India and word-of-mouth in Meerut's Dibai Nagar area confirm that Saifi is the star of the documentary.[8] Saifi's prominent role in the film has caused a dramatic change in his life; and when the film was included in the Oscar race, people were congratulating him with flowers and garlands.[9]

Assessing on the film's potential impact, Meerut District's chief medical officer observed, "The sensitivity with which the film has been made is a sign of the earnestness of those involved in the polio eradication program. Gulzar's story is bound to be a lesson for many families ignoring polio vaccination. We really hope it works towards motivating that section of the society."[3]

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  1. ^ Pandey, Geeta. "Final Inch towards the Oscars," BBC News. 19 February 2009.
  2. ^ "India polio survivor stars in Oscar-nominated film," France24. 4 February 2009.
  3. ^ a b Kumar, Lalit. "Crippled, he's walked an extra mile to Oscars," The Times of India. 1 February 2009; "Adversity turns into success – a film about a polio victim," Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan). 5 February 2009.
  4. ^ "Adversity," Dawn.
  5. ^ "India polio survivor stars in Oscar-nominated film," Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar). 6 February 2009.
  6. ^ McNeil, Donald. In Battle Against Polio, a Call for a Final Salvo." New York Times. February 1, 2011; excerpt, "... getting rid of the last 1 percent has been like trying to squeeze Jell-O to death. As the vaccination fist closes in one country, the virus bursts out in another .... The [eradication] effort has now cost $9 billion, and each year consumes another $1 billion."
  7. ^ Tharakan, Tony. "Two documentaries set in India eye Oscar glory," Reuters. 2 February 2009.
  8. ^ Kumar, "Crippled," The Times of India; Singh, Vijay Pratap. "Polio-crippled Indian joins the race for Oscars," Daily India. 3 February 2009.
  9. ^ Singh, "Polio-crippled," Daily India.


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