Letters | May 08, 2017
  • Once Upon A Revolution
    May 08, 2017

    This is with reference to your cover story on the Naxalbari movement completing 50 years (Spring Thunder That Wasn’t April 24). There are hardly any political movements that happen in this new age. The movements of today are focused more on securing individual benefits rather than thinking of collective interests of people. The Naxalbari movement is still remembered because it aimed for the welfare of the society as a whole. It penetrated deeply into the lives of the common people and their struggle for survival. Your cover story is a good recap of the movement, especially in this new age of protests as people can look back at Naxalbari and learn from what worked and what didn’t for those revolutionaries. The forces which that revolution had set out to crush have become more powerful. The land mafia and corporate have colluded with the administration to become more powerful and dangerous. The landless and poor have no one to turn to as even small protestations are crushed and silenced. People with leadership skills and intellect concentrate on their own well being now. A feeling of unity among people seems to be completely absent.

    Ramachandran Nair, Oman

    The Naxalbari movement may have been born as a left-wing poor peasants’ uprising in 1967 with the ‘land to tiller’ slogan but today, after fifty years, it has become a bloody, often directionless movement of people who are still holding on to utopia and the past, not realising that nothing can be achieved out of it anymore. Once the ‘bullet’ is chosen over ‘ballot’, there is no scope of going back to being a normal, law-abiding citizen. Call them whatever—Maoists or Naxalites, they cannot fight the might of the state and expect to come out as winners.

    M.C. Joshi, Lucknow

    Your essay on the fifty years of Naxalbari is no doubt comprehensive. However, it does not make any mention of the seminal contribution of leaders like Nagbhushan Patnaik and his ilk from Orissa. It is common knowledge that Patnaik and his associates were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for their active involvement and participation in the Naxalite movement.

    J.K. Das, On E-Mail

    Naxalbari was a movement of disillusioned youth who wanted to create a just, equitable and responsible polity and society. It was a dream that turned sour but some of its arguments remain valid even today. The government managed to crush the movement with all its force, but can it ever crush the dream? Naxalbari was a result of centuries of exploitation against the forest-dependent adivasis. The exploitation began in the colonial regime but continues till today as described elaborately by Prof Nandini Sundar in her well-res­earched book The Burning Forest. The tenets of the Naxal movement will rem­ain relevant for oppressed people such as the adivasis of central India until the government does some real development in those areas and wins back their trust by understanding and supporting them. As of now, that seems like a really long shot.

    Sadly, the State appears least bothered in understanding the plight of the adivasis and has learnt no lesson even after the Supreme Court declared the State-sponsored tool of terror called the Salwa Judum illegal. In the name of development, the government works with big corporates in these areas which are inv­olved in ‘anti-people’ activities. The Chhattisgarh police continues to harass local journalists and activists in Bastar while in Delhi, the differently-abled and ailing professor G.N. Saibaba of the Delhi University has been imprisoned after being branded a Maoist.

    Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun

    All things should be discussed without violence. The Naxalites were pressed to chose the path of violence 50 years ago. But they continue with it, killing security personnel, political leaders and even innocents. The intention and concept of the movement were good—to fight for the landless, the oppressed, but the means to achieve these goals were not. How long can they keep fighting for? And how many are going to die? Ideally, the governments of the states where the movement is still alive should push for a dialogue with the Maxalites—now called Maoists—somehow. It seems to be the only way out. But then, these two are sworn enemies.

    M.Y. Shariff, Chennai

    Forever Young and Dead is the most heart-touching article I have ever read on the subject (Comment). While ass­essing the young movement we need to assess the economic and social circumstances at that time to make an ­objective analysis. And that is what ­the author has done.

    V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi

  • One-Liner
    May 08, 2017

    It may have been crushed by the State, but the echoes of Naxalbari will live on.

    C.S., On E-mail

  • May 08, 2017

    This refers to Mainstream Pushed to the Margins (April 24), your story on the marginalisation of “pro-India politics” in Kashmir, which marked a new low with a measly seven per cent turnout in the recent parliamentary bypolls in Srinagar. I don’t agree that Kashmiri youngsters are “angrier than they were in the 1990s” as I don’t remember the last time they were not angry. Kashmir has never been normal and Kashmiris have never been “not angry”, unlike normal people like us who get angry now and then. And if “people have rej­ected this sham election as they are no longer interested in status-quoist politics”, do they really think we care whether Kashmiris participate in elections or not, and whether they live or drown themselves in the Antarctic Ocean? Did you see the responses from all over India to the videos of atrocities by security forces and the heckling of CRPF jawans in Kashmir? Barring the “chattering classes”, everyone else supports what the Indian army has been doing in Kashmir. You report that NC spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu “blames the Centre for the political radicalisation of Kashmiri youth, by leaving them no non-violent recourse to pursue their political aspirations”. You should know that we believe in the law of karma, according to which the oppressed are responsible for their own oppression—they are only paying for their sins. Remember how they drove the Pandits away from Kashmir without any mercy. They shouldn’t expect any mercy now.

    Akash Verma, Chennai

  • A Dose In Time Saves Nine
    May 08, 2017

    This refers to your cover story on the vaccine market (Vaccine Vendors’ Greed Gone Viral, April 17). It is important for readers to read the response in the journal Indian Paediatrics 2012, given by a doctor quoted extensively in your story. Responding to serious ethical objections to the recommendations of the expert committee on immunisation, this doctor had said there was no conflict of interest and that it was not possible to follow ethical guidelines. Now he is taking the high road by saying the same thing he had ­refuted as the head of that committee in 2012. As doctors, we promise to self-regulate and follow a code of ethical conduct that keeps our patients at the centre. There are many arguments for and against the controversial vaccines and I would not paint them as all bad. Vaccines are good for children in general. Context and population epidemiology determine how useful they would be. I hope your story helps people understand why they must ask doctors the rationale for any particular vaccine before letting it enter the bloodstream of their children. Vaccines have helped us bring down the incidence of several diseases and we should not reject them in toto.

    Dr Sanjiv Lewin, Bangalore

  • May 08, 2017

    This is about your cover story on immunisation being controlled by private vaccine makers (Vaccine Vendors’ Greed Gone Viral, April 17). It’s amazing how Outlook has written an article based on information given by one disgruntled doctor. Opinions of other senior members of the profession have been given no importance. It’s irresponsible of a rep­uted magazine to paint the whole profession as greedy and unethical. This is pure sensationalism in the garb of ­investigative journalism. The vaccines recommended by paediatricians are recommended not only in India, but all over the world, including in developed countries. Data on vaccine efficacy and diseases are also available. The article is technically so incorrect that I can just go on writing. By creating distrust in the minds of the reading public, such articles do a great disservice to society.

    Neeraj Kumar, Chandigarh

    This article will surely add to the already tarnished image of Indian doctors.  As paediatricians, we depend a lot on recommendations by organisations like IAP on deciding and prescribing vaccines, but I am unaware of any nefarious business involved in it. Yet the article seems nonsensical when it mentions vital vaccines like IPV, HIB, PCV and MMR as unnecessary. I’d like to relate an experience I had related to Hepatitis A. In the district of Leh (population: 1.5 lakh) I once ­diagnosed three cases of Hep A getting overly complicated, and resulting in ­encephalopathy during an epidemic. We referred two of them to AIIMS Delhi. Though both children recovered, it took them almost six months to regain health. This incident made me introduce an additional vaccine in the area; I started with my own children. Yet how facile Outlook’s story seems!

    Spalchen, On E-Mail

    When I became a parent, my gynaecologist cou­sin handed me an advisory on the minimum vaccines for my new-born—in complete contrast to the long list my friends got from their doctors att­en­ding them post delivery. Every one of them followed those prescriptions in letter and spirit, least realising that it was open ext­ortion that took advantage of the feel-good factor of the mother and the father. Imagine the happiness of a proud parent, and who among them would want to question, if not suspect, the good intentions of the doctor when told to administer a set of ‘must’ vacci­nes to their kids? Doctors are considered next to god; parents believe whatever comes as medical advice. Can we have the medical association look into this and try stop this open loot? With the kind of greed lurking around the field, public health has tur­ned into a heartless enterprise.

    Kamal Kapadia, Mumbai

    Wonder why we have so many vaccines today vis-a-v-vis what it used to be some four decades ago. Is someone middle-aged today any less healthier because of a couple of less vaccines (s)he was ­administered as a child?

    Manali K.K., Mumbai

    When Edward Jenner gifted the world the first vaccine in 1796, the British scientist could never have imagined that his pioneering invention would also open the doors for a greedy business in the future. ‘Prevention is better than cure’ is a phrase that sometimes sounds like a slogan used to promote vaccine culture. If its consequences are kept in mind, greed also comes across as a kind of contagious disease. Wonder why a vaccine has yet not been manufactured to contain it.

    V.M., On E-Mail

  • May 08, 2017

    The story on the Dalai Lama’s Arunachal visit, and China’s reaction to it, was a satisfying read (The Monk Who Stung A Hornet, Apr 17). The statement from the Chinese foreign ministry that India disregarded Chinese concerns by allowing spiritual leader Dalai Lama to visit Tawang, even after India asked China to refrain from intervening in its internal affairs, shows that China’s bullying, big-brother attitude is coming in the way of improving bilateral relations. Knowing well that Dalai Lama had visited Arunachal several times in  the past, one wonders why China is upp­ing the ante now. China should stop being devious and learn to respect the sovereignty of India.

    K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad

  • Endemic Unacknowledged
    May 08, 2017

    This ­refers to the column about tackling dep­ression (It’s Sadder In Denial, Apr 24). Experts lost in a jungle of views belittle common sense in negotiating and looking for a cure to depression. As a rule, wide disparity in income levels, and the need for some of the una­ffluent many to ape those who are rich, whets the appetite and creates temptation. Its non-fulfilment creates depression. Ritu Bhatia suggests medical treatment, but fails to see that common people have little money, along with vanishing ethics in the field of medicine. India’s bleak employment scenario is ­itself depressing, and the government and the bureaucracy treat common people with undisguised contempt. No wonder so many are depressed.

    J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad

  • May 08, 2017

    This ­refers to your interview with Justice Balbir Singh, chairman of the Law Commission (“It is those lawyers without work who agitate the most”, April 17). It cannot be said that students ­entering the legal profession lack knowledge of the laws, but sadly the best of the lot are mostly being rec­ruited by the corporate sector. That leaves only those who belong to families of lawyers or those who have no other option—they are the ones we come across in the courts more often than not. The Advocates Act, 1961, has sufficient provisions dealing with misconduct, disciplinary action and penalties. Amendments would reduce the freedom of lawyers and discourage new entrants to the profession. The Bench and the Bar are like two wheels of a cart and both are necessary for time-bound delivery of justice. Pressure from politicians and the government threaten to break both wheels.

    A.S. Malhotra, New Delhi

  • Editor, Verify Your Facts!
    May 08, 2017

    Dear Editor, Outlook

    This is in regard to your cover story ­titled “When a baby is a business ­opportunity” published in the April 17 issue of your magazine. The article has caused a great deal of anguish among a group of public health experts and paediatricians in India. A petition with signatures of 1754 members of our community to support the points made below can be accessed at https://goo.gl/YMdx6A.

    The story raises a number of concerns, and amongst other things mentions ­issues of high number of vaccines administered by private paediatricians, drawing comparison to the public sector’s free immunisation programme. Furthermore, concerns have been raised on the process of inclusion of vaccines under the Universal Immunisation Programme and on the need for lifesaving vaccines.

    As a group of public health experts and paediatricians in India, we have been taking note of the rise in news ­reports on the immunisation programme and would like to voice our opinion and strong reservations on the misleading and factually incorrect information published in your magazine that has the potential to decreasing the immunisation coverage in the country ­because of parents refusing life saving vaccines as is happening in the west leading to outbreaks of diseases that had not been seen for years. A single wrong publication in The Lancet, which was later retracted by the prestigious medical journal and led to the cancellation of the medical licence of the author , continues to create confusion and resultant vaccine hesitancy . Our point is that a single misleading ­article can have long lasting effects and be the cause of sickness or even death of lakhs of children.

    • The cover story in your magazine seems to imply that paediatricians only work on selling vaccines, which is not true. A paediatrician’s role is to provide care from the time a child is born right up to the time they grow up to being healthy young adults. A paediatrician’s role is not only to diagnose and treat life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles etc. but also to prevent these diseases in his/her ­patients. The responsibilities also inc­lude monitoring the child’s physical & mental developmental and providing critical care during emergencies.

    • A paediatrician’s role includes providing a wide basket of vaccines in the private sector immunisation schedule that is comparable to immunisation schedules of developed countries theworld over that have played an important role in reducing decadal ­infant/child mortality rates and saved millions of young lives and protected them from the horror of debilitating illnesses that cripple not only the child but also strain the families with monetary and emotional turmoil.

    • Let us state very clearly that all vaccines being delivered either in the private sector or in public sector in India go through rigorous safety checks & ­efficacy studies before they are lic­ensed for use by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). As paediatricians, we are only allowed to administer those vaccines that are licensed in India by the government regulator and we strongly abide by this rule. There should not be any doubts about safety and effectiveness of any of the vaccines licensed for use in India currently.

    • It’s important to clarify that the ultimate goal of the immunisation programme in the government and in individual office practice are different. Both the government and the individual practitioners are always guided by recommendations of technical bodies, like the WHO, which have clear cut guidelines for vaccines to be used for various reg­i­ons. Given that the goal of both public and individual office practice is diffe­rent, the schedules and the type of vaccines advised would be different. Both play a critical role in providing a number of options of life saving vaccines.

    • While the government provides free immunisation against diseases that it considers to be of critical importance to public health, there are several public health priorities competing for available resources in our country. Public health immunisation programmes aim to reach a certain minimal level of population immunity. We support the efforts being made by the Government of India which has demonstrated huge successes in  making India polio-free and has ­recently eliminated Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus.

    • A practitioner in office practice aims to offer immunisation to provide the best available protection against dise­a­ses to an individual child. The vacci­nes which have been labelled as “not essential” in your magazine are meant to protect against diseases which are serious and have significant burden in the country and should be accessible to those who can afford them beyond the public health sector programmes.

    • Lastly, it is a matter of pride that Indian manufacturers today supply ­between 60-70 per cent of the vaccines being administered globally. The issue raised in your magazine on the foreign hand is misleading and factually incorrect. India is fast becoming a global leader in providing lifesaving vaccines to the world and this fact should be celebrated as one of the great successes in recent public health efforts.

    We as a group of concerned paediatricians want to voice our strong reservation on the factually inaccurate statements and misleading stories that were published in your magazine.

    We urge you as the editor of Outlook to verify facts before publishing articles related to healthcare as these can cause serious damage to the country’s preventive health programme.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Dr Rashna Dass Hazarika, Consul­tant Paediatrician, Guwahati, Assam

    Dr Unmesh Upadhyay, Consultant Paediatrician, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

    Dr Spalchen Gonbo, Consultant Paediatrician, Jammu & Kashmir Health Services

    Dr Mangla Sood, SEPIO, Himachal Pradesh

    Dr Devajit Sharma, Consultant Pediatrician,Guwahati, Assam

    The Correspondent replies:

    The story published by the magazine does not question the fact that vaccines are the most cost effective health interventions available to the government as well as private sector. Having said that, your concerns fail to address any of the issues the story discusses. This includes the high mark-up available to paediatricians for most vaccines as well as several forms of gifts and inc­entives provided to doctors by vaccine manufacturing companies—both Indian and foreign. Overwhelming evi­dence proves that the India ­association of paediatrics continues to be almost completely funded by vaccine manufactures; a cause of serious concern considering it is the body res­ponsible for recommending vaccines in the private sector. I would like to rei­terate that the corruption discussed in the story is at an institutional level.

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