Swine Flu panic in India!

Last week, I returned from a week long vacation with my family to Mumbai, away from work pressure. Instead of cherishing the memories of a week long break I was quarreling within with “Emotional Flu”. Yes, I was down with fever and did have a travel history but were those symptoms enough to prove I had contacted Swine Flu. For my family they were more than enough to arrive at a conclusion that I had to visit the government hospital for screening.

My mother went a step ahead to buy the masks for family. And yes masks were distributed according to the need as enough N95 were not available for our joint family. My cousin who is four and I get N95’s, the only two masks which she managed to buy in black from the chemist. My pregnant Bhabhi and grand mom get a three layered mask which she managed to buy from other chemist and the rest of the members manage with masks bought at the traffic signal when my mom waited there for lights to turn green. But is my family to be blamed for there over precautious behavior? I believe they reacted in a very normal way considering the hype of “The Swine Flu” that was created by all forms of media. Any parent or in that matter any human would react this way if they see a new “Breaking News” every ten minutes on the news channels.

I wonder why the media doesn’t make 572 deaths a day due to normal flu, and large number of deaths due to Tuberculosis, Malaria, Dengue and other diseases an equally important “Breaking News”. Why doesn’t our Health minister call an urgent meeting to discuss diseases like malaria which takes a huge toll of human lives too? May be malaria patients can wait for some time longer as most of them are neither NRI’s nor they belong to elite group who can afford a vacation abroad. With Swine Flu thoughts occupying my house and slowly spreading to my neighborhood I called up my very good friend and a doctor by profession asking him how would I discriminate whether its “The Swine Flu” or normal flu. He explained to me that the Swine Flu symptoms could be towards pneumonia side and with just fever and normal cold like symptoms I should not conclude that I have contacted it. He told me to wait till two days and take normal medicines prescribed to treat normal flu as going to the hospital at the shot to screen myself would be more dangerous. There were chances I would catch the virus if I wouldn’t have till then. Luckily my phone was on loudspeaker then so my parents got some gyaan too. Two days from the whole panicky episode I have normal body temperature and am all energetically penning my experiences of the false panic we underwent. But this whole episode, taught us to stay composed as fright created was spreading faster than the Flu itself. We did not give in to false media panicky and heard the doctor treating Swine Flu, which I feel proved a boon to us.

I urge the media to give neutral reactions to the issue and not to blow the matter out of proportion as not everybody would be as lucky as I to get a doctor friend nor would every parent wait for two days as my parents did on the doctor’s advice. And for the rest of you Swine flu is not that a dreaded disease and has a death rate of seven in thousands much less compared to Normal flu, Malaria and Tuberculosis. Also the Swine flu deaths recorded so far have not been only because of the H1N1 virus but due to some other complications intermingling too. So just take normal precautions like washing your hands, drinking plenty of water, exercising and you should be away from the virus.

And my dear elected government, there was no point keeping the theatres, schools and colleges shut as this was more of emotional response from your side than on medical grounds. Your decision of shutting of schools did no good to millions of children as they enjoyed days off from school playing in the societies, as my cousin did and the college going crowd enjoyed shopping and hanging out as they had all the time in the world. Did it actually act as the isolation you had thought of? We just need better medical facilities to treat the pandemic and more awareness regarding it. Try spreading the correct word in your families, societies and we shall be better able to fight the H1N1 virus.
Prevention is better but panic is not!

Sex education for Children, education for Politicians.

I still feel dazzled by the recent drive of politicians across all spectrums, stuck in an age when the change of thoughts could be near impossible, to ban sex education in schools. Even the likes of Baba Ramdev speak boastfully about the need to have yoga than sex education in schools. But Mr. Baba is almost 50 years old, went to school till 8th and then to ‘Gurukul’. He doesn’t even have the slightest of idea of the s**t going on in schools today and speaks like a top-level marketing man on a role to promote his product/service. Sure yoga is great for an individual. But letting it be a substitute for sex education is like trying hitting a six with a plastic bat.

Just the thought of not having sex education in schools in this age, filled with negativity in the digital air and one click access to mind corrupting pleasure moments on the Internet, sends me in the state of excessive jadedness and paramount tension. India, with people high on the thought of sex and eve-teasing (not all), cannot be safe or even think of reducing the rise in no of cases of molestation, rapes (indignity towards women) or in young (below 16) people indulging in sexual encounters (a view supported by the SC).

Over the past 5 years, with the high intensity in the sales of video and camera enabled devices, there has been a huge surge in the exposure of privately held sexual proceedings, watched by millions worldwide quite to the embarrassment of the victims and their families. Curbing these exposures has been almost impossible for mostly it’s the victims themselves taping the exotic times, sure to be leaked. But the waves of curiousness generated to watch this brain triggering moments has seemingly surpassed the encouragement to be morally educated and professionally thoughtful. Sex, as a thought if imbibed in a child at a young age, could hamper his growth in being socially matured and his stance in differentiating when placed with options.

The stand that these politicians take to ban sex education is first that it will teach and encourage students to have sex when they are in schools. Gosh! I had sex education in my school when I was in the 10th grade. All we boys in that grade were simply bored by the biological terms that the educators were using. The reason! We all knew what sex was. It just shows the degree to which these politicians are ill-informed and are going ahead and ill-informing the society. The only good thing that apparently happened, is that we actually happened to see a condom and know the importance of it. Imagine. You are high in those last 3-4 years of your school with the thought of girls & sex and you do not know what a condom is. During my time (I graduated from school in 2002), sex was known to most of the boys right from the 6th grade. When I say sex was known, I do not mean all the technicalities and all the right-wrong stuff, but sex in its basic sense is. It was a knowledge shared even amongst the girls. And today in this high bit-rate internet generation, we are talking about introducing it in 8th grade. More than 90% (could be an understatement) of the students in that age would know what sex is. The only thing remains is to tell them whether their full knowledge about it is factual or not.

World Health Organization(WHO), way back in 1993, had carried a survey in which it found that the people who have been imparted with sex education in the school are more likely to delay the indulgence in sex compared to those not given sex education in schools.It also found that it reduces sexual activity among  young people and encourages the one who have already indulged in sex to have safer sex.Researchers found “no support for the contention that sex education encourages sexual experimentation or increased activity. If any effect is observed, almost without exception, it is in the direction of postponed initiation of sexual intercourse and/or effective use of contraception.” Failure to provide appropriate and timely information “misses the opportunity of reducing the unwanted outcomes of unintended pregnancy and transmission of STDs, and is, therefore, in the disservice of our youth,” the report called Effects of Sex Education on Young People’s Sexual Behavior says. This report was commissioned by the Youth and General Public Unit, Office of Intervention and Development and Support, Global Program on AIDS, and the WHO.

So the basic argument about sex education through this political mindset tends to be so misguided.

The other argument they make is that our cultural values and heritage cannot allow sex education to be part of the curriculum. Let me get this straight. So according to these politicians, killing people on the basis of religion, hating people on the basis of caste and differentiating them on the basis of region and language fits our culture, but educating the kids of this nation with proper knowledge so as not to allow them to be victims of HIV and STD’s is disgraceful to this culture,especially in this land of ‘Kamasutra’, whose drawings and sculptures one would find around the caves and temples in India. The height of narrow-mindedness of these politicians is evident and as much as I hate saying this, I do not think I would even respect such a ‘Indian culture’, described by these politicians, let alone follow it, which puts the life of its own kids on the edge, especially being in a society where sex is given such a negative posture and sex talk is avoided as much as one would avoid standing on the edge of a 1000 ft cliff. Even the rape victims here are blamed for being raped, rather than the person who raped her and socially isolated(in a way tortured), not able to find a husband (those bloody man’s always want a virgin,no matter how much they f**k other women before marriage) and physologically disturbed(they have to accept  rape as an unfortunate event instead of a crime). I still do not know what ‘Indian Society’ these politicians keep babbling about.

“Message should appropriately be given to school children that there should be no sex before marriage which is immoral, unethical and unhealthy,” said the parliamentary committee report. So having sex before marriage is immoral and unethical? Who are these politicians to decide what’s immoral and unethical. These are the same group of corrupted, extremist, vote-bank gamers who have made the culture of Divide and Rule thrive. Morality is an individual’s virtue and not a guideline to be labourously followed. And talking about health, I have never heard the issue of hygiene being raised and pushed by these politicos in this land where diseases flow as easily as a fly by the wind of a storm. This should not be a country where everything has to be decided by ethics, morality and traditional thoughts. The moral police that guard’s the behaviour of people are the same that takes bribe in huge amount. Rather truth needs to have a dictatorial stand. Truth needs to be embraced and put into effect. Only than can we expect desired positive results.

Whether sex education is important or not is not a debate which should involve the politicians or their survey,but the youngsters and their experiences (there are issues the youth can address better and clearly). Its the youth which has to address this issue,while the media being responsible and approaching and addressing their concerns.I am a youth and I know the importance of sex education,something which i have tried to express in this article. I can just hope that reality makes its present felt, and our kids would have a better and healthy life in the coming times.

H1N1 Flu

As we are all aware the WHO has confirmed that H1N1 (swine)  flu has moved to stage 5, out of a possible 6 stages, on its international alert status indicating human-to-human transmission in at least two countries in the same region. However there are no cases of H1N1 flu are reported in India citizens are recommended to take following precautionary steps ensure your health safety.

Protect yourself and prevent illness

  • Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and have fever and cough.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often.
  • Practice good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active.
  • Avoid travelling the infected countries, If necessary take the following precautions while travelling
    Cover your nose and mouth during travel in the affected countries.
  • Avoid crowded places. Stay more than one arm’s length distance from persons sick with flu.
  • If you are sick, PLEASE
  • Stay home and limit contact with others as much as possible
  • Drink plenty of liquid  and eat nutritious food
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze

If you feel unwell, have high fever, cough or sore throat:

  • Stay at home and keep away from work or crowds.
  • Rest and take plenty of fluids.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when coughing and sneezing, and dispose of the used tissues properly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often and thoroughly, especially after coughing or sneezing.

Take a extra care about safer food

  • Keep clean
  • Separate raw and cooked food
  • Cook thoroughly
  • Keep food at safe temperatures
  • Ensure your non vegetarian food is cooked at a minimum temperature of 1600F/ 700C (Especially pork related products).
  • Use safe water and raw materials

General information about H1N1 Flu

Signs and symptoms of infection
Early signs of influenza A(H1N1) are flu-like, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea

Is an effective vaccine already available against the new influenza A(H1N1) virus?
No, but work is already under way to develop such a vaccine. Influenza vaccines generally contain a dead or weakened form of a circulating virus. The vaccine prepares the body’s immune system to defend against a true infection. For the vaccine to protect as well as possible, the virus in it should match the circulating “wild-type” virus relatively closely. Since this H1N1 virus is new, there is no vaccine currently available made with this particular virus. Making a completely new influenza vaccine can take five to six months

To which antiviral drugs does this influenza virus respond?
There are two classes of antiviral drugs for influenza: inhibitors of neuraminidase such as oseltamivir and zanamivir; and adamantanes, such as amantadine and rimantadine. Tests on viruses obtained from patients in Mexico and the United States have indicated that current new H1N1 viruses are sensitive to neuraminidase inhibitors, but that the viruses are resistant to the other class, the adamantanes

Source: Intranet of Mastek

The IIT incident: A result of persistent blind eyes

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur which is a premier institute of India is again in news but for wrong reasons this time. The death of the institute’s third-year electrical engineering student, Rohit Kumar, last Sunday, has rattled the students of the institute. According to first-hand account of students, Rohit had been visiting the hospital since Friday, March 20, complaining of headaches. On Sunday, the headaches became increasingly painful and he was on his way back from the doctor when he fainted and fell from the rickshaw, resulting in major injuries.

Following this, he was taken to BC Roy Hospital by two students of Lala Lajpat Rai Hostel. The doctor on duty (who was present at the time when Rohit was taken to the hospital), Dr NK Som, recommended that he be taken to the Apollo Hospital, Kolkata and shown to a neuro-surgeon. He said that BC Roy Hospital did not have facilities to handle such cases and that it was best to take him to Kolkata as soon as possible. However, problems such as filling of petrol and the extensive paperwork involved in arranging an ambulance caused a delay of two hours during the course of which nothing much could be done. He was finally sent to Kolkata with two students for company and an untrained attendant. En route it was found that though the oxygen mask had been placed over his mouth, the tank had not been turned on. Soon after this, Rohit started coughing blood.

The students who accompanied him had the attendant call up Dr Som and the students followed his instructions; pumping out blood without any help from the attendant. At that time, it was decided to take Rohit to the Spandan Hospital in Midnapore since his condition was deteriorating rapidly. In spite of asking the BC Roy Hospital officials to inform Spandan authorities of the impending arrival, there was no one there to receive them. By the time a doctor was available, Rohit had passed away and the hospital declared him dead on arrival.
The above account is on the basis of the report filed in the online newspaper written by IITKGP students.(http://scholarsavenue.blogspot.com)

The news of Rohit’s death spread like wildfire and students gathered outside the director’s (Damodar Acharya’s) residence demanding some response from him. A callous answer of “looking into the matter” and his attitude made matters worse. As tempers ran high and numbers swelled, students resorted to destruction of property, in a bid to demonstrate their anger. They ransacked the director’s bungalow, smashing his car and forcing him to resign on Sunday.

In a democratic set up, one is free to protest. There have been numerous cases in the recent past where people have been forced to be violent and aggressive. It is very disheartening but true to a great extent that authorities just turn a blind eye to peaceful protests. Barring the stir by students against reservation in 2006, all the subsequent protests have been violent in nature. Be it Gujjar protest, Gorkhaland, Amarnath Yatra land row, Khairlanji incident, Nandigram etc. But only such protests were able to move the authorities.

In this case too, the students are justified in their protest. The reason being many such cases of medical negligence have been reported on the campus in the past few months. Given below are a few of them:

Gaurav Tomar, a fifth-year student was suffering from very high fever before Holi. He was admitted to the BC Roy Technology Hospital and treated for jaundice and typhoid. Later, in Delhi’s Apollo Hospital, Gaurav was diagnosed with malignant malaria, the actual reason behind high fever. The wrong treatment allegedly damaged his kidneys.

In December, a second-year student suffered cardiac arrest while attending an NSS camp outside the IIT campus.

He was rushed to the institute’s hospital, but doctors could not even administer oxygen, as there was reportedly no mask at hand. The student died shortly.

A few days ago, a fourth-year student had fractured his arms while playing football. It took five hours for the hospital to organise an ambulance to transport him to Kolkata.

Considering the series of the negligence cases and repeated requests from the students falling to deaf ears the students took such an action. If the authorities had taken the issue being raised seriously, a life could have been saved. Moreover, such violence would not have occurred in the campus of an IIT. But as Bhagat Singh said: “To make deaf hear, a blast is required.” Perhaps, this is the tragedy of this democratic nation. Bhagat Singh used these words for British Government which was neglecting the concerns of people. The concerns of people are still being neglected by our very own people. If the issues concerning people are not heard by the administration and government, then the meaning of democracy ceases to exist.

This incident was very visibly a result of the blinded deaf authorities. It had an implied reaction from the students in the form of very violent protests which led to self-resignations of the Director & the Dean. This and whatever post-incident action that is going to be delivered are very obvious reactive actions from the authorities, but a question that still finds an answer for itself is that when will the authorities of premier institutes and organisations take proactive measures towards the safety and well-being of their members?

Need to enhance medical competence to handle crisis

Ever since Mumbai was hit by terrorists on November 26 last year, there have been many steps taken to improve the security and to counter similar situation in the future in a better way. There has been no denying that there was security lapse due to which terrorists were able to create mayhem in the city. But, it is the time to introspect the weaknesses in our system and try to plug the same to avoid such occurrence again in any part of the country.

This post is basically to attract the attention of readers and administrators on the incapability of our medical staff during such hour of crisis. There is a report that 70 people died in the carnage at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). Out of these 70 people, 30 who were hit on hands or legs lost their lives due to non-availability of treatment at the right time. So, we should learn some lessons and try to step up the emergency handling capability of the administration.

It is thus very essential that our administration tries to ponder on the following points which I and few of my doctor friends felt should be implemented:

  • We need to have concept of ‘triage’ in this country. This concept needs to start from the place of disaster itself. Triage is a process of prioritising patients based on the severity of their condition. This rations patient treatment efficiently when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately. The term comes from the French verb trier, meaning to separate, sort, sift or select.
  • Then we need to place ambulances at the strategic locations throughout the city. The staff with the ambulance should be well trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR is an emergency medical procedure for a victim of cardiac arrest or, in some circumstances, respiratory arrest. These are the two commonest complications which person injured in such strike undergoes. There should be training of civilians as well in CPR. The situation in our country is such that even medical professionals don’t have any experience in this. Right now, staff in ambulance is just not capable to do this simplest procedure which is taught in school in many of the Western countries.
  • The infrastructure in hospitals in current scenario is not up to the standards. There are very less number of beds in casualty and operation theatre. A hospital was just a few metres away from CST station and if it was better equipped, then few more lives probably could have been saved. Hence, it is very important to have separate wards/beds to handle any emergency situation.
  • The biggest problem then faced is shortage of blood. The blood bank and hospital coordination is also poor in our country. It takes much time for a relative of injured or a hospital staff to collect blood and then give it to the wounded. Therefore, it is essential that our blood-banks and hospitals work in tandem.
  • According to a few medical students, there should be especial training given to doctors as well. It is just because under normal circumstances, a doctor hardly treats the bullet injury.Few of them were of view that this training should be done by the army doctors, who are quite familiar with the treatment during bullet injury. There can also be the proposal of setting a separate unit of trained doctors like we have National Security Guard (NSG) or something. These doctors can be flown in the minimum time period to the place of casualty. They can work in aggregation with the regular staff of hospitals and also this can overcome the shortage of and burden on regular doctors. There is a fact that the doctors are overburdened in regular days and during emergency situation the condition gets even worse.
If there is proper team of trained medical and paramedical staff to handle any crisis then the number of deaths can be brought down. Whether the points mentioned above are feasible or not is to be decided by decision making bodies. But, I have felt that the current medical facilities are just not enough. It is thus of utmost importance that the administration thinks over this aspect as well.

Obesity Epidemic in India

OBESITY IS a condition in which there is excessive accumulation of the fat in the body. Some years back it was restricted to affluent countries where per capita income was high, physical activity was low and and foods high in saturated fat and sugar were freely available. But with the dynamic growth in last decade or so obesity has now reached epidemic proportions in prosperous, urban India.
Both overweight and obesity are defined in terms of body mass index or BMI- the ratio of your weight to your height that is calculated by dividing your weight in kg by your height in meters squared. The doctors say that the changes in diet coupled with increasing inactive lifestyles have sparked the obesity epidemic in urban India.
Because of urbanisation and moderniaation, our lives are becoming more sedentary and less physically active than it was before. People are spending most of their leisure time in front of television. Household durable goods like washing machines, cooking gas and electric ovens etc, again reduce the physical activity. Application of transportation even for shorter distance is increasing. All these prevent the people from physical activity and leads to overweight and obesity. At the same time, consumption of oily and junk food is responsible for overweight and obesity.
According to Dr Umesh Kapil of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, “The risk of obesity in India is highest in the 20 per cent of the population that consumes 80 per cent of visible dietary fat.” Obesity is largely seen among adults but is growing in incidence among children mainly because they pick up unhealthy lifestyle patterns from there parents. Kapil said that school surveys in Indian cities show that 30 per cent of adolescents from India’s higher economic groups are overweight. Though the obesity is starting scene in India compared to western countries, it is very essential to tackle the same before it becomes epidemic.
With such high rate of globalisation and industrialisation, more and more people are settling in urban areas and their lifestyle is also changing at great pace. All this is having an effect on human body and people are becoming obese. Obesity is related to various other diseases as well. There is an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallstone disease and cancer of breast, prostate and colon. In fact, there are 30 medical conditions which are directly related to obesity.
Apart from this many psychological problems are related to the obesity. Emotional suffering may be one of the most painful parts of obesity. Many people think that obese individuals are gluttonous, lazy, or both, even though this is not true. As a result, obese people often face prejudice or discrimination in the job market, at school, and in social situations.
It is very sure that in coming time, obesity will emerge as challenge for India and therefore this is the right time to throw attention on the problem, as prevention is always better than cure.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Investment Vs Justice

VictimBHOPAL, THE capital city of Madhya Pradesh, is also known as the centre of the ’biggest industrial disaster’ or the ‘Hiroshima of chemical industry’. On December 3, 1984, a union carbide pesticide producing plant leaked highly toxic cloud of methyl isocyanate into the air of a densely populated region of Bhopal. Of the 800,000 people living in Bhopal at that time, 2,000 died immediately, 300,000 were injured and as many as 8,000 have died since.Due to the accident, many people suffered from various diseases and disorders even till many years later. The worst part is that people living near the premises of the site still continue to suffer. People living around the Union Carbide plant site have two options when it comes to drinking water. Either they are forced to drink the contaminated groundwater, which continues to be affected by toxic wastes dumped in the plant premises, or the municipal water is supplied from the nearby Raslakhedi village, known for a huge sewer. The water from both sources has been officially declared unfit for drinking.

The Bhopal gas tragedy is a catastrophe that has no parallel in industrial history. Yet the people who have suffered are still awaiting justice, even after more than 23 years. On Wednesday, victims of the tragedy protested against the inaction on the part of the government to nail the culprits. The fight that the survivors of the tragedy are leading is now not restricted to them only. In 2001, Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide for $9.3 billion, despite this, Dow has refused to accept moral responsibility and does not take accountability for the Bhopal gas tragedy. Even our Commerce Minister has also commented that ’Dow cannot be held accountable for Union Carbide’s liabilities’.

Union Carbide and its former chairperson, Warren Anderson, both of whom face charges of culpable homicide and grievous assault, are absconding from Indian courts since 1992. By virtue of its acquisition of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical has inherited Carbide’s civil liabilities – of clean-up and compensation for water to the affected people. Also, in acquiring Union Carbide, Dow was well aware that it was inheriting an absconder.

The government went a step ahead and in the year 2006, it approved the collaboration between Reliance and Dow for the transfer of Union Carbide-owned patented technology. But according to the activists, this is illegal as Union Carbide’s assets in India are subject to confiscation as per the 1992 order of the Bhopal magistrate.

Instead of showing some sympathy and the will to fight for the victims, the government is worried about loosing the investment in the country. They feel any overtures to hold Dow liable for Bhopal-related issues will scare away Dow’s promised $1 billion investment in India and also discourage other American investors. Dow even admitted paying $22,000 (Rs 88 lakhs) as bribe to agriculture ministry officials to expedite registration of the three pesticides namely Dursban, Nurelle and Pride.

The company had to pay a fine of $ 325,000 (Rs 1.43 crores) to the Securities Exchange Commission for violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act last year. Dow tried to wash its hands off the controversy but there was substantial evidence against them. Dursban pesticide is banned in the US, as it is a neuro-toxin that can cause permanent damage to children’s brains but we are registering such pesticides so that we don’t loose investment. After all, who cares about the people when we have the population of over 1.1 billion.

In May 2007, Sharad Pawar said that the enquiry in this matter was going on by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The probe is concluded. But the report is gathering dust. Meanwhile, the pesticides and the culprits are roaming free and poisoning the children. Dow Chemicals should not be allowed to expand its operation in India until justice is meted out to the victims. Indian state’s unwillingness to discourage foreign private investment has been a crucial factor in the continuing injustice in Bhopal!

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Why Dr Binayak Sen must be released

Dr Binayak Sen seems to have caught the imagination of the mainstream media in India at last. But one has to remember that he has spent a year in a Chhattisgarh jail.

An international award by the Global Heath Council named after Jonathan Mann to Dr Sen for his untiring work in the field of people’s health and human rights followed by a strong appeal by 22 Nobel Laureates demanding his release seems to have convinced the media that there is something extraordinary about Dr Sen’s arrest and that the issue needs to be probed.

Dr Sen, a paediatrician by training, was arrested on May 14 last year by the Chhattisgarh police under the dreaded Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which are in many ways more draconian than the now repealed Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act.

The police claimed it had evidence to prove that Dr Sen was actively helping out Maoists by providing them logistic support. The only piece of evidence they have been able to show till date is the fact that he made 33 visits to Narayan Sanyal, an old, ailing Maoist leader in jail. They were perfectly legal visits and allowed under the jail manual, not something clandestine. Sanyal was suffering from many diseases and required regular medical support.

As a civil right activist and doctor it was not unusual for Dr Sen to come into contact with extremist Maoists, especially since he was in Chhattisgarh, which is reeling under the bloody conflict between the state and the Maoists.

His plea for bail in the Supreme Court was rejected, which did not find it necessary to verify the claims by the state counsel. It agreed with the state that a free Binayak was a threat to the national security in Chhattisgarh.

The state is a dangerous place for civil right activists. It is the most recent destination for rich capitalists eyeing its mineral rich land and want it to be made available. How do you do it unless the tribals are driven out of their lands?

This is a state where governance is traditionally and criminally tilted in favour of moneylenders and the land and forest mafia. And welfare schemes aimed at the poor, especially the tribals, do not trickle down.

In such a scenario there is bound to be an emergence of a movement for justice. It does not necessarily have to be non-violent as the exploitation of the poor, who have been forced to be part of the developmental state, is extremely violent. National prosperity stands in striking contrast to the increasing impoverishment of the tribals.

Chhattisgarh was fertile land for the Maoist movement as the state failed shamefully to make the mechanism of justice work for the poor. Its loyalty to rich, national and multinational companies creates a compelling urge to eliminate anyone coming in the way. A report by an expert group set by the Planning Commission to look at the developmental challenge in extremist affected areas, says, ‘there is, however, failure of governance, which has multiple dimensions and is not confined to the inefficiency of the delivery systems only. It is not fortuitous that overwhelmingly large sections of bureaucracy/technocracy constituting the delivery systems come from the landowning dominant castes or middle classes, with their attachment to ownership of property, cultural superiority and a state of mind which rationalises and asserts their existing position of dominance in relation to others. This influences their attitudes, behaviour and performance.’

‘Internal displacement caused by irrigation/mining/industrial projects, resulting in landlessness and hunger, is a major cause of distress among the poor, especially the Adivasis. It is well known that 40 per cent of all the people displaced by dams in the last 60 years are forest-dwelling Adivasis� The law and administration provides no succour to displaced people and often treats them with hostility since the displaced people tend to settle down again in some forest region, which is prohibited by law. The Naxalite movement has come to the aid of such victims of enforced migration in the teeth of the law.’

The report further states that the Adivasis displaced from Orissa and Chhattisgarh, settling in the forests of Andhra Pradesh would have been easily evicted by officials but for the presence of the Naxalite movement.

Suffering from continuing land loss and displacement, dwindling livelihood resources, acute malnutrition and pitched against a formidable combine of profit-hungry companies and a callous administration, Adivasis found some solace from the Maoists. The Maoists therefore are not the cause but a result of the miseries of the Adivasis.

Instead of addressing these issues, the state took recourse to a militarist shortcut by helping in creation of an armed campaign called Salwa Judum which vowed to eliminate the Maoists. It employed Adivasis in its ranks, most of the times forcibly. It is not a coincidence that Salwa Judum started days after the signing of contracts between the state and some companies.

Salwa Judum is a law unto itself. Though it is claimed to be a peaceful people’s movement in reality it is a State-sponsored peoples’ militia which marches into villages, forces people to join or burns their houses, destroys their cattle, livelihood and drives them out. More than 640 villages have been evacuated in this drive. Lakhs of Adivasis have been forcibly removed from their habitations and some 40,000 of them live in Salwa Judum camps set up by the government, living in hellish conditions as another state-sponsored Administrative Reform Committee report found out. The committee was lead by senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily.

The Supreme Court was forced to express its displeasure of Salwa Judum by observing that the government cannot arm people and instigate them to kill others. Defending Salwa Judum was not a state lawyer but counsel for the central government who made an astonishing admission that the state police were unequal to the might of the Maoists. They were employing as special police officers only those who have been at some point, in some way been victimised by the Maoists, he pleaded. It was extraordinary for a state to openly defend an army of revenge.

Dr Sen’s consistent opposition to Salwa Judum is the real cause of the state’s ire. It was all good and rosy till he confined himself to providing health services to the poor. In fact, the government had invited him to advise on its health programmes.

Binayak Sen was a gold medallist from the prestigious Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu. He decided to leave his teaching job at Jawaharlal University in New Delhi to move to Chhattisgarh in 1978 to work with the legendary trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi, who built up the formidable Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. Niyogi was later killed by the industry mafia. Dr Sen moved around in villages, establishing clinics and providing healthcare to those who were damned by State-run systems.

But as Dr P Zachariah, his teacher at CMC, says, “His interest in civil activism grew out of witnessing malnutrition deaths among children. The lack of governance worried him deeply. Chhattisgarh is a complicated state with a complicated history. The government did not meet the people’s needs and it was easy for Naxalites to exploit that. The government found it difficult to deal with militants who operated out of dense forests and took a very repressive stance. In the end, it led to the creation of Salwa Judum.”

“The police machinery too was getting large funds to fight the Naxalites. In the dark days that followed, people began to disappear. As a member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Binayak couldn’t help but get involved. The PUCL was constantly approached by villagers saying that their relatives had disappeared. The police had to be approached, FIRs had to be filed, and Binayak began to help,” Dr Zacharaiah said.

Areas of disagreement between Dr Sen and the state government were bound to emerge. He could not have approved of measures like Salwa Judum. His work as the general secretary of the state’s PUCL became a pain for the government. He was also staunchly anti-communal and critical of the activities of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Adivasi-dominated areas. Otherwise a quiet man, this English-speaking doctor was increasingly becoming a cause of worry for the state government. He was, like other law-abiding activists, a critic of unlawful encounters by the police and thus an impediment to national and multinational companies. He needed to be silenced and removed from the scene.

This was done by the state symmetrically, with an active help from the local media. In April and May last year, the Chhattisgarh police stared a vilification campaign against him when he was away in Kolkata to see his ailing mother. He was declared an absconding Naxalite doctor who had fled to evade arrest.

Dr Sen’s brother circulated an open letter telling the world that he was not absconding, had gone to visit his mother and the police was in fact indulging in this vilification only to justify his arrest. His fears came true. Dr Sen returned to the state capital Raipur and was immediately arrested under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

These laws do not need actual acts of conspiracy to make you criminal, even a perception that you may, even in future entertain thoughts which would be potentially against the state interest is sufficient reason for arrest.

Appeals by several civil right activists and individuals demanding the repeal of such absurd laws and the release of Dr Sen have been treated with disdain by the Chhattisgarh and central governments.

There is a strong belief in the establishment that all civil right activists are nothing but a respectable cover for extremists of all kinds, including the Maoists. They very conveniently ignore the criticism of Maoist violence by these individuals. What is disturbing is that if this liberal middle space is gone, there would not be a counter voice to violence.

It is only appropriate that the Global Health Council chose Dr Sen for its Jonathan Mann award. His international colleagues cutting across disciplines have asked the state and central governments to create situation for him to be able to receive this award in person which would be given in a public ceremony in the US on May 29. Given the arrogant insensitivity of our state institutions, it is unlikely that the appeals would be heard.

Can we expect our judiciary to help redeem the promise the Constitution makes to the people to safeguard their right to hold opinions and express it even if goes against the official line the state would like all of us to follow?

By: Apoorvanand, he is a literary critic and a Reader in Hindi at Delhi University

Source: Rediff

Condoms and their Contribution to India’s Development.

CondomsCONDOM OR Nirodh is one word, which is still not being used in our society openly but with the problem of population bomb looming over India and AIDS control programme, have got wide recognition and a large number of people are open to the word Nirodh or condom. Nirodh, meaning protection was the brainchild of an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) student and went on to create history in the country’s family planning movement. It was the collective effort of management that led to spectacular success of Nirodh.

In 1964 India’s population was 470 million and with an annual addition of 12 million it was to double in three decades. Since urgent steps were the need of the hour, the allocation for the family planning in the Third Plan was quintupled to $56 million and help of international agencies was sought.

Condoms were available in India since the 1940s even in 1968 the total users of the product by four private manufacturers was barely one million and at 25 paise, the price was same as in US markets.

Therefore they were available to elite classes only. To tackle this, it was suggested that government should import condoms and sell it at 5 paise, which was done but it was essential that we had our own condom manufacturing unit to tackle the growing demand. In 1969, Hindustan Latex Limited (HLL) set up the first condom factory in Thiruvananthapuram with an annual production of 144 million pieces.
It is estimated that over five million people in India are infected with HIV/AIDS. National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) recognises the usage of condom in order to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and has started focusing on areas where spread is more likely. It believes that promoting condoms among high-risk groups such as prostitutes and their clients is the best way to slow the spread of AIDS. The other advantage of condoms is that they prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as well. The condom is effective at reducing the transmission of genital herpes, warts, syphilis, gonorrhea and many others. Condoms are often used in sex education programmes, because it has the capability to reduce the chances of pregnancy and the spread of some sexually transmitted diseases when used correctly. Indian made condoms have done reasonably well and are considered as a blessing. Now HLL produces the world’s largest variety of condoms.
condom.jpgThough the Indian population has more than doubled in the last three decades and is predicted to be the world’s largest by 2050, the growth rate has fallen considerably and much of the credit goes to the humble Nirodh.
There are umpteen advantages of using condoms. But still awareness regarding condom is very low. It is high time that we realised the importance of using condoms and thus contributing towards nation’s development. The government of India and many NGOs are doing their best.
So the next time when you hear the word ‘condom’ don’t feel shy and try to spread awareness regarding it to your friend, family, colleague, among others. By doing so, you will help them and the government. Probably this is the reason the country’s population growth rate is down from 2.4 per cent in 1964 to 1.8 per cent in 2005.

Should Organ Trade be legalised?

HUMAN ORGANS Transplant Act was enacted in 1994 and it put some curbs on the commercial trading of kidney. But it resurfaced in 1998 after discovery of organised rackets in Noida and Karnataka that year.

The organ trafficking is not new to the world and India is considered to be one of the biggest centres. The number of renal transplants has increased manifolds in last decade and has led to a number of ‘unrelated’ transplants in the name of ‘altruistic donation’. Kidney is a paired organ in the human body and one of the kidneys can be removed from a live person and thus, is most preferred organ in trafficking business. The donors are poor people, who are lured by very lucrative offers for jobs but are paid a meagre sum by brokers involved in the racket, while hefty financial gains are enjoyed by the person at the higher level of hierarchy.

Dr KumarThe Gurgaon kidney racket kingpin, Dr Amit Kumar, has been arrested and very soon will be deported to India from Nepal. Kumar has been on the run for few weeks. Only time will tell whether the arrest of kingpin would have any effect on the kidney trade going on in the country and worldwide. This incident has surely led to a debate as to whether organ sale should be legalised.

Consider a hypothetical situation, where the person X is living on dialysis for couple of years but could not find a donor for himself. One day, person Y, who is in dearth of money, approaches X and offers to donate his kidney for a certain amount. X can pay that much but knows that law does not permit him to do so. What should he do now? No guesses, he will go for it, whether legal or illegal!

There is a yawning gap between the demand and supply of kidneys worldwide and this leads to black marketing of kidney. Whenever one law is broken, there will be a series of illegal activities such as exploitation of recipient and donor, human rights violation. The rich people are ready to pay huge sum of money to save their lives, and there is a set of donors that donates for the sake of money only, or is made (forced) to donate the organ. In a last year’s report, World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that ten per cent of all transplants involved patients from developed countries to poor countries to buy organs. This was the case in this racket too, and Dr Kumar conducted 500 transplants in a few years, mainly involving the foreign recipients.

The various policies and strategies to boost the donations have not been successful. Till date, the supply of transplant organs is left to altruism but now we need some more imaginative strategies. We need to encourage a law of ‘presumed consent’, which authorises the doctors to remove organs from a ‘brain dead’ individual if there are no objections from the family members. Several European countries including Austria, Belgium, France, and Italy have legalised this law and they have witnessed increase in the number of donations.

We can also have a policy, where kidney sale is legalised and the recipient has to obey some pre-set rules such as health insurance cover for donor, no exploitation at any level, no commerce involved, etc. A review committee consisting of responsible persons can formulate these rules.

I think that we should now seriously look at this alternative because the current black market is accessible only to those people who have resources.

Organ TradeMany moralists will not agree with this point of view. Ethically thinking, we may feel that buying and selling of organs is wrong, but is it morally wrong to let a patient suffer and die on dialysis when something can be done to save his/her life? Why not legalise the sale of organs then?

Unless and until we bridge the ever-widening gap of demand and supply, such rackets will continue to flourish. The efficacy of the legal system is also questionable and very soon, we may see Dr Kumar on bail and the never-ending trial leading to nowhere.