Perspective | Oped


Democratic rule in Pakistan
The army can play a constructive role
by Lt Col (retd) G. S. Bedi
AS the leading political parties winning the recently held elections in Pakistan have decided to form a coalition government at the centre, the question that is being increasingly asked is: “What will be the role of the powerful Pakistani armed forces under the civilian dispensation?”

A memorable trendsetter
by Harihar Swarup
Politics makes strange bed fellows. In distant Meghalaya, the NCP led by P.A. Sangma is a bitter rival of the Congress party while at the Centre NCP supremo Sharad Pawar is a constituent of the ruling UPA. In Maharashtra, the Congress and the NCP are sharing power in a coalition government.


Costlier food
March 15, 2008
Setback to growth
March 14, 2008
Warning from Lahore
March 13, 2008
Scarlet’s tragedy
March 12, 2008
‘Chak de’ was only a flicker
March 11, 2008
Bane of instability
March 10, 2008
Challenge of education
March 9, 2008
The endgame
March 8, 2008
Bal does a Raj
March 7, 2008
Bolt from the Blues
March 6, 2008
Now or never
March 5, 2008
Putin’s protege
March 4, 2008
Minority bashing
March 3, 2008


PIL as industry
Justice is not delivered to the poor
by Shobha Aggarwal
WHEN I joined the Campus Law Centre, Delhi University, after completing BA Honours in Philosophy from St. Stephen’s College in 1984, I was mesmerised by public interest litigation (PIL).

Nanded on fast-track expansion
by Amrik Singh
WHILE I had been to Hazoor Sahib a quarter century ago on my own, recently I had an occasion to revisit it on business for a couple of days.

On Record
Organ donation should be voluntary
Dr Samiran Nundyby Tripti Nath
DR Samiran Nundy, a liver transplant surgeon of international repute and member of the Singhvi Committee that drafted the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1995, watches every step the government takes to promote organ donation.                                          Dr Samiran Nundy




Democratic rule in Pakistan
The army can play a constructive role
by Lt Col (retd) G. S. Bedi

AS the leading political parties winning the recently held elections in Pakistan have decided to form a coalition government at the centre, the question that is being increasingly asked is: “What will be the role of the powerful Pakistani armed forces under the civilian dispensation?”

The role of the armed forces in any country is to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation from the threats of internal subversion and external armed aggression. In democracies they serve as an instrument of state policy in the hands of the duly elected civilian government to achieve the national objectives.

But in Pakistan the role of the armed forces has been beyond this basic premise. They have ruled the nation for more than half of its 60 years of existence and supervised the civilian governments for the rest of the period, even when not in power.

The pattern of relationship between the civilian government and the armed forces is determined by the degree of involvement of the armed forces in fighting the threats to the nation and societal values.

The continued absence of a strong political leadership in Pakistan for a long time after the sudden demise of Mohammed Ali Jinnah in September, 1948, led to the armed forces expanding their role to that of the “savior” of the nation.

Starting in 1958, there have been four military coups. Each time, the bureaucracy colluded, the judiciary legitimatised and the common man, merely, remained the silent spectator.

The people like senior leading lawyer Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada were content with the military rulers being moderate. Mr Pirzada assisted the military rulers starting from Ayub (1958), Yahya (1969), Zia (1977) to Musharraf in October, 1999, to manipulate the judiciary.

While drafting the oath for judges he is said to have omitted the words “to protect, uphold and defend the constitution”.

For, as Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, the armed forces spread their tentacle wide and deep in the political and economic vitals of the country.

Some of the top brass became highly corrupt. The country willy-nilly endured it until Musharraf summarily dismissed Mr Iftikar Mohammed, Chief Justice of Pakistan. The lawyers rose like a phoenix.

Many a sacrifice later, including that of leading political leader Benazir Bhutto, the country ushered in a new era of democratic rule. The Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-N emerged as the two major winners of the February 18 elections.

Whereas the political parties have been quick to proclaim loudly to banish the armed forces from politics forever, the armed forces, on their part, have shown utmost forbearance and restraint.

People in Pakistan and elsewhere give credit to the armed forces in a large measure for conducting free and fair elections in the country. They lost no time in showering encomiums on Gen Ashfaq Kayani when he took over as the Chief of Army Staff in November last year, by describing him as a “thinking” and “professional soldier”. Even the External Affairs Minister and the Chief of Army Staff in India went out of their way to say so.

The connotations of a “professional soldier” in military parlance are different from that of a professional doctor, lawyer or engineer as commonly understood. The “professional soldier” in military parlance is the one who pursues “a higher calling” in the service to society.

General Kayani, on his part, has initiated the de-politicisation and de-induction of the army officers from civil services. He has assured unstinted support for the democratic process in the country.

On the concluding day of the recently held Corps Commanders' conference at GHQ in Islamabad on March 6, he said that the army should not be “dragged” into politics. It would like to concentrate on its professional duties.

The armed forces in Pakistan are still being trained on the pattern of the British armed forces. The rigorous training inculcates the values of moderation, secularism and respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions.

Out of the five core institutions of leadership, the armed forces, the judiciary, the police and the civil services, the armed services continue to be rated as the best, embodying all that is best in Pakistan by many of the top research organisations in the world.

On the other hand, the civilian coalition government faces some of the greatest strategic challenges of “uncertainty and instability” in the history of Pakistan so far.

The country has become a hub of terrorism and a safe haven for regrouping of elements and leaders of Taliban and al-Qaeda. It will very soon become the most crucial battlefield in the world in the “global war on terrorism”.

The Fund for Peace, a Washington-based organisation engaged in research on peace and stability in the world, has rated Pakistan as the 12th most instable country on the “Failed States Index 2007” prepared by it.

The coalition government suffers from “inherent instability”. A small political tectonic shift, and there will be a massive earthquake. The aggravating factors are the likely failure of its uninspiring leadership to honour the mandate of the people without demur.

They won the victory with the movement for the restoration of independence of the judiciary and the war cry of “Go Musharraf, Go”.

The re-instatement of judges and the removal of Musharraf, therefore form the sine-qua-non conditions for the formation of an effective and stable government.

An unpopular Musharraf has become an albatross for the civilian govt, the army and America. He does not seem to understand this. He must be jettisoned, NRO or no NRO.

The mandate being to serve as a coalition, each partner must be willing to subordinate his own good for the good of the nation. Otherwise, a catastrophe worst than what happened in the wake of the 1970 elections awaits the country.

Under such circumstances, the role of the army is neatly cut out which is to provide the necessary stability to the nation. The civilian dispensation needs them like never before.

The role model of the Pakistan armed forces has been the Turkish armed forces, who are the guardian of the Turkish constitution and other democratic institutions of the state since the foundation of modern Turkey by Gen Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.

The role of the Turkish army has been institutionalised through the mechanism of the National Security Council, which is the apex decision-making body of the Turkish government. Whereas the members of the armed forces, initially, dominated the council, their strength as well as the executive powers of the council have been progressively reduced through parliamentary legislation.

The newly formed civilian government can take a leaf out of the Turkish book. President Pervez Musharraf created the National Security Council in 2004, which must stay to provide the necessary checks and balance in the governance of the nation.

Under the present arrangement, the role of the army is predominant, which can be progressively reduced through constitutional amendments by the civilian government.

To carry out the above role effectively, the armed forces must redeem and restore their image which has taken a severe beating lately. First, it is their continued involvement in counter-insurgency operations against the Islamic militants on a piecemeal basis rather than as a part of a larger coherent politico-economic strategy. The civilian government, and the armed forces need to evolve such a strategy jointly for whole of the nation.

America is trying to lessen the burden on the army by offering to train and equip the Frontier Constabulary, a para-military force of about 85,000 drawn largely from the population of the local tribal areas. This is a step in the right direction.

But what has been more damaging to its image is on the second count — the wrongdoings of Musharraf , while in uniform, as the Chief of Army Staff and the President.

Now that he is no longer COAS, the army can keep a formal distance from him as required by the law. Any show of undue fealty will only further damage its image. Discretion is the best part of valour.

The army and the newly elected civilian government need to assure America that there is a world beyond Musharraf. For America, it is, probably, a case of once bitten, twice shy. It had an unsavory experience in Turkey where the government passed a parliament Bill in 2003 to deny its request to attack Iraq from Turkish soil.

It fears that the same may happen in Pakistan in its war on terror if Musharraf is not on the scene. Similar is the apprehension about the spectre of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of militants.

A well-coordinated command and control structure for the nuclear weapons, where the command is with the political leadership and the control of weapons with the powerful armed forces, will eliminate the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of militants.

Pakistan is not an easy country to govern. The armed forces have very relevant and constructive role in providing stability to the nation and guarding its democratic institutions. For the present, the importance of the armed forces must be preserved.



A memorable trendsetter
by Harihar Swarup

Politics makes strange bed fellows. In distant Meghalaya, the NCP led by P.A. Sangma is a bitter rival of the Congress party while at the Centre NCP supremo Sharad Pawar is a constituent of the ruling UPA. In Maharashtra, the Congress and the NCP are sharing power in a coalition government.

In the recently concluded election in Meghalaya, Sangma spoiled the chances of the Congress to secure a majority but his hope of making a big comeback to the state politics too was dashed as his party could win only 14 seats in the 60-member assembly.

A nine-time MP and former Speaker, Sangma resigned from the Lok Sabha after being elected to the state assembly.

The Congress emerged as the single largest party having secured 25 seats. Sangma tried to outsmart the Congress by cobbling up an alliance of non-Congress parties and named it the Meghalaya Progessive Alliance.

Claiming the support of 33 MLAS, the MPA staked claim to form a government but Governor S.S. Sidhu invited the Congress, being the largest single party, to form a government and prove its majority on the floor of the assembly within 10 days. Crying foul, Sangma has now taken the matter to the Supreme Court.

Sixty-year-old Sangma is no ordinary leader. Of his 31 years in Parliament, he was a member of the Council of Ministers of three Prime Ministers — Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao.

He was also once projected as a prime ministerial aspirant. Sangma claims he got feelers from the Congress to return to the party fold but says "there is no question of returning to the parent organisation".

Having spent a life-time in the Congress and claiming that "I am a born Congressman", Sangma has been quoted as saying "the Congress does not nourish anybody. I have not seen the Congress helping or promoting any person".

Debarring Sonia Gandhi from occupying any of the top posts has been on Sangma's political agenda since he sought to raise the issue at the Congress Working Committee eight years back and invited expulsion along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar.

While her foreign nationality issue is now a closed chapter, it remains on Sangma's personal agenda. There was time when Sangma was very close to the Nehru-Gandhi family, often called a blue eyed boy of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Rajiv sent him to Meghalaya to head the state government in 1988. Come the general election in 1991 and he was again at the centre-stage in Delhi and given the dual charge of Coal and Labour ministries by P.V. Narasimha Rao.

Few know that as I & B Minister, Sangma initially prepared the draft of the Broadcasting Bill, envisaging liberalisation of the usage of airwaves and investment in the electronic media.

When the Congress party was not in a position to form a government after the 1996 election, he was pitch-forked to the chair of the Speaker.

Sangma was only 50, the youngest ever leader to hold the august office of Speaker and that too with distinction. He turned into a bitter critic of the BJP having been promised a second term as the Speaker but was ditched by the then ruling party leaders at the last minute.

The diminutive leader from the North-East was watched with admiration in his varied moods by millions of people on the T.V. sets as he conducted the proceedings.

His impromptu comments made him a popular figure. Though he could complete only 18 months of his tenure, he had set a trend which might become a reference point for his successors.

Christmas and New Year's eve are celebrated at Sangma's house with great gusto. He is in the best of spirits when holding a glass in his hands and wishing his friends "merry Christmas" and "a happy New Year".

He is well known in the Capital for his hospitality. Hailing from the Garo hills district of Meghalaya, he belongs to the small Christian minority community of Garo and serving drinks has been customary in his community on occasions like Christmas and betrothal ceremony. Sangma is again at the cross-road of his eventful political career.



Wit of the week

KPS GillA challenge has been thrown at my face and I accept the challenge. I want to prove to the world that it is not because of the lack of talent or capability. I want Indian hockey on top again.

—IHF chief KPS Gill

The result in Santiago shows that Indian hockey now needs to implement the operational plans which have been provided nearly a year ago as part of the “Promoting Indian Hockey” project without any further delay.

Els van Breda Vriesman, chief of the International Hockey Federation (FIH)

Everyone is mourning that Indian hockey is dead without realising that the women still have a chance of qualifying for the Olympics. Women’s hockey is a neglected sport and this is our chance to prove ourselves.

Pritam Siwach, former India captain and member of the current team

Shahrukh KhanObviously there’ll be some money from TV, gate sales and merchandising but beyond that I don’t know. The expenses involved in paying the players, creating a platform for the team, travel, hotel etc are huge but I am not doing the figures. At the end of the year, we’ll see how much we have lost and then, maybe, I’ll have to dance at a few more weddings! But having started, I don’t want to hold back now.

Shahrukh Khan, actor and co-owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders

Light pollution occurs when areas are overlit or lit poorly. Overlighting refers to places where lights are not strictly necessary such as neon signs on buildings. Light trespass, which means light going where it is not wanted or required, could lead to health problems.

—Reg Wilson, a member of the board of directors of the International
Dark Sky Association

The army has always been strong in Pakistan because we didn’t have other institutions. Nothing has been free, not even the judiciary. Since it’s the only organised institution in the country, it has all the resources and it’s armed. It’s the country’s biggest political party. The army has tasted power for so long that it has become political.

—Mehdi Hasan, Pakistan’s leading political analyst and author of the
“Political History of Pakistan”

Rahul GandhiI know the concerns of security. I don’t need the permission of the SPG or the police to meet people. My intention was to remove the distance between the leader and the people.

Rahul Gandhi, Congress MP from Amethi

Sachin TendulkarThe Australian team have always been competitive. Probably in 1991, they did not go on the defensive if an Indian batsman played a couple of shots. In the recent series, however, they immediately posted a deep point. This did not happen in 1999 and 2003.

— Sachin Tendulkar



PIL as industry
Justice is not delivered to the poor
by Shobha Aggarwal

WHEN I joined the Campus Law Centre, Delhi University, after completing BA Honours in Philosophy from St. Stephen’s College in 1984, I was mesmerised by public interest litigation (PIL).

At that time, I thought that after becoming a lawyer I would only do PIL work as some present-day PIL stalwarts — then just beginners — tried to indoctrinate us into the PIL realm.

We were much influenced by the media blitzkrieg centering around the court proceedings and pronouncements upon PILs filed by our professors!

When I became a lawyer in 1989, I started a small group called ‘Legal Support Group’, which provided free legal aid to the poor and needy, but refrained from filing PILs for reasons not clear in my mind then.

In 1998-99, I finally discovered the reason for my discomfort with PILs all along, as I researched into the fundamental question — whether the PILs have been able to provide justice to the poor or not. Not surprisingly, I came to the conclusion that not a single PIL judgement has provided any real justice to the poor masses. The reason was simple — that PILs flouts the principles of natural justice which is the very essence of justice in existence from time immemorial.

PILs do not follow any due process of law. They are like bypass surgeries conducted for coronary artery disease which sustain the illusion that some good is being done. However, an objective study will show that PILs do not deliver justice. They violate the principles of natural justice.

In the ongoing debate on PILs and judicial activism (set in motion by Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Markandey Katju of the Supreme Court, many articles have been written in the newspapers.

An important point being harped upon by the writers is that since the legislature and executive are not performing their role properly, the third pillar, i.e. the judiciary could step in and set things right.

Such a reasoning smacks of an utter contempt for the final arbiters of change, i.e. the people of India who can and have overthrown dictatorial governments in recent history precisely at a time when the judiciary was found utterly wanting in taking a principled stand.

The real power is with the people. Any debate which excludes the people is contemptuous of the people. Also, a cursory look at the articles published in English dailies in the last few weeks would show that barring a stray exception, the writers happen to be the very same — PIL stalwarts who file PILs; erstwhile judges who sat in the Bench hearing the PILs. So it is only their opinion which is getting wide coverage. Hence the debate is one-sided.

Thus, in the end, in the name of the poor — who are yet to receive any advantage out of PILs — the PIL has become a multi-million dollar industry. The day is not far when PIL NGOs will be listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (one such funding organisation is already enlisted).

Of course, the only sad part is that vested interest is not allowing the real debate on PILs to take place. These “PIL stalwarts” consisting of lawyers, ex-judges, NGO-activists will be answerable to the future generations for ruining the Indian jurisprudence.

This writer has read somewhere that it takes about 100 years for a forest to regenerate by itself after being denuded for pecuniary interests. That is the time span it will take for the Indian jurisprudence to recover from the ravages of PILs. That, too, will happen only if the vested interest is crushed and a complete ban is put on PILs.

Not one of these NGO activists, PIL lawyers or retired judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts have made any attempt to get a feedback from the poor and downtrodden masses in whose name PILs have been touted to be filed.

Such is the utter contempt of the intellectual class towards the poor people. Nor have they ever done a research study to prove the very assumptions of their theory which propounds that the poor have benefited by the cottage industry that PILs have become.

In the interest of justice and fair play, the government should undertake an in-depth nationwide study to ascertain whether the poor have benefited or not in the last 30 years of coming into existence of PILs; or whether the poor have actually suffered on account of PILs!

To make the study authentic and objective, all those forces which have a vested interest in perpetrating PILs should not be associated with the study.

Till such time that the results of the study are made public, if at all PILs are to be admitted, it should be ascertained that the poor would benefit out of PILs and in case are not harmed by PILs.

Secondly, the poor themselves should be heard in these cases and not through any vested interests.n

The writer, a Delhi-based advocate, is a member of the PIL Watch Group.



Nanded on fast-track expansion
by Amrik Singh

WHILE I had been to Hazoor Sahib a quarter century ago on my own, recently I had an occasion to revisit it on business for a couple of days.

Certain impressions of this visit may be shared with readers in this part of India. What is being done in Nanded is important by itself. At the same time, it has implications for other holy places in the country.

As a large number of people know, the Gurgaddi Divas (the day on which the Adi Granth was made the Guru) will be celebrated in October-November at Nanded this year. Since this is the third centenary of the occasion, the matter is receiving a good deal of attention from everyone concerned.

The gurdwara at Nanded, of course, took the initiative. At the same time, both the Central government and the Government of Maharashtra have extended a helping hand.

While it is difficult to visualise what is happening at Nanded, the fact of the matter is that something needs to be written about it so that people in other parts of the country get to know about what is happening and what advance planning can achieve.

Both the Central and the state governments have shown imagination and provided resources for getting the town ready for the visit of a million plus pilgrims who are likely to visit Nanded on that occasion.

Under the Urban Renewal Fund, the Centre has been able to provide considerable financial help and the state government has risen equally to the occasion— indeed more than that.

A committee presided over by the Home Minister has met several times and is keeping a close track of the plan and how it is being implemented. It was in connection with one such meeting that I had the opportunity to visit Nanded.

If one may put it this way, the entire city is being remodelled to quite an extent. Everything connected with the city, power supply, water availability, sewage and sanitation, the widening of roads, river front development and so on are being taken care of.

Even health facilities are being expanded. In this connection, one development is particularly worthy of mention. The approach road to the main gurdwara was narrow because a new colony had got established in the recent years. Nobody had taken into account the fact that the passage to the gurdwara had got somewhat blocked. The existing width of the road was 30 feet whereas under the new plan it was required to be 60 feet.

Nobody had visualised earlier that, within the next couple of decades, the third centenary of Guruship would be celebrated in Nanded and millions of pilgrims will pour into the city. Considerable planning and re-planning would have to be undertaken.

What has happened during the last year or two is somewhat unprecedented because an overall view of development is now being taken. The residents of that colony (some 300 families) agreed to vacate the premises and move across to a road a couple of furlongs away. The Municipal Corporation had some land there. It undertook to rebuild a new colony for them and this enabled the families to shift from there.

On the 10th of last month when I was there in connection with the meeting of this committee, there was a public function in which some families were handed the keys to the new houses which had been built.

The Municipal Corpo-ration had undertaken to complete this job by the end of this February and it was completed in time. That the corporation was able to stick to this schedule of work was something which does not happen all that often.

What is the secret of the people in Nanded being so cooperative? Partly it was the availability of open land where new construction could easily come up. But no less important was the absence of any local politics.

No political party attempted to fish in troubled waters and create difficulties which could not be taken care of. This aspect of town planning impressed me deeply and that is why I have chosen to refer to it.

Many other important things are being done. For example, the railway station is being remodelled. Something similar could have been done in Amritsar a decade or so ago when there was an occasion for it. All that had to be done was to involve the Railway Board in Delhi and everything would have followed. But that was not done. At Nanded not only is the railway station being redone, even a new railway station is being set up. It is a signal example of advance planning.

Nanded is being linked by air both with Bombay and Hyderabad. This would enable affluent pilgrims to travel to Nanded by air. According to plans which are being faithfully followed, the airport will be ready in three months.

In other words, almost everything is happening as planned. The committee has had three meetings so far and each meeting is given a detailed report of the progress being made.

During the British days, Nanded was under the control of the Nizam of Hyderabad. When the merger with India took place, the town was about one lakh strong. Today its population is approaching half a million.

If the October-November celebrations go on as per schedule, it would be reasonable to assume that the town would begin to grow further.

So far there is hardly any industry in that town. Whatever growth has taken place is the normal urban growth. Likely enough, it will receive a new impetus for further growth in the years to come.

Another dimension of the problem is that around the city of Nanded, there are a number of other gurdwaras. Each has its own history and its own measure of importance. Access to each one of them is being ensured.

Apart from the town, the gurdwara is also being redone to some extent. Some of the existing buildings are being demolished and new ones are coming up. While there is a good deal of open space around the gurdwara, more is being organised.

In this way an open space of 20,000 square metres is being provided for further expansion, if required. As it is, nine multi-purpose halls are under construction.

Apart from what is being done at the gurdwara level, the Punjab government is building a substantial guest house with accommodation for about 150 persons. The SGPC is also doing the same, though on a smaller scale.

The whole thing has been visualised in such a way that for the next half a century or so, there would be room for further expansion. To do the same sort of thing in Amritsar would not be possible today.

Last of all, it is necessary to mention that a well- designed museum is also under construction. A large number of historic articles are available and will be put on display at this museum.



On Record
Organ donation should be voluntary
by Tripti Nath

DR Samiran Nundy, a liver transplant surgeon of international repute and member of the Singhvi Committee that drafted the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1995, watches every step the government takes to promote organ donation.

He has reacted strongly to the government's recent move to harvest organs of all brain dead persons in governmenent hospitals by borrowing the predominantly European concept of presumed consent.


Q. Has the Transplantation of Human Organs Act,1995, failed in its objective of promoting cadaver organ donation, recognising brain death and curbing the illegal trade in human organs?

A. I think it has not failed but succeeded to a certain extent. By making the trade in human organs illegal, it has certainly reduced it. Before the Act came into being, people were blatantly taking out kidneys from poor people and putting them into rich people.

One of the reasons India does not have enough cadaver organ donation is that the Act requires four doctors to diagnose brain death on two occasions at an interval of at least six hours. Perhaps, we could follow the Western model of requiring only two doctors to do so and the interval could be reduced to two hours.

The other reason is that doctors and the general public cannot understand the concept of brain death. They think that if the heart is beating, the person is alive. If he is brain dead, he is actually dead legally and medically. The heart will inevitably stop despite all system support within two to five days.

Q. How do you look at the controversy caused by the government's move to harvest organs of all brain dead persons in government hospitals by introducing the concept of `presumed consent'. What is your view?

A. I don't agree with the co cept of presumed consent. We should continue with expresion consent where the consent of the next of kin of a brain dead patient is necessary for harvesting his organs for transplant. It should be an opting in system instead of an opting out system as the semi-literate poor may end up getting exploited.

Instead, the government should encourage people to carry organ donor cards. In the US, every driving licence holder must indicate whether or not he has pledged his organs. We must put in place a system where all doctors should be required to request relatives of brain dead donors to allow cadaver organ harvesting. We should have a strict law where the donor card overrides the wises of the relatives and ensures that the will of the donor is honoured.

Q. How does India's organ donation rate compare with that of the US, Spain and other European countries?

A. India's organ donation rate is terrible. It is less than .01 per million. Spain has the highest donation rate at 35 per million. The US has an organ donation rate of 16 to 17 per million and the UK has almost the same rate.

The Transplantion of Human Organs Act has been in place for 12 years but there have been not more than 300 cadaver organ donations across the country during this period. Few hospitals in India have transplant coordinators who can bond with the family of a brain dead person and convince them of the merits of cadaver organ donation. Trauma centres should have such coordinators and grief counsellors. A brain dead person can give his pancreas, liver, two kidneys, heart, lungs, bones, corneas and other tissues.

Q. Will the government's proposal to create 10 more organ retrieval banking organisations (ORBOs) meet the shortage of human organs for transplant?

A. One ORBO has not been very effective. Then how would 10 ORBOs help? I don't think they have publicised the benefits of transplant. The performance of an ORBO has not been up to the mark. In contrast, the Army Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi and non-government organisations as Forte in Bangalore and Mohan Foundation in Chennai have done good work to promote organ donation. But it is a good that the government is at last interested in promoting organ transplant which will save hundreds and thousands of young lives at their most productive.

Q. The government has also proposed incentives to the donor's relatives as a customised life insurance policy.

A. I'm critical of this entire inducement business. It is for the officers at Nirman Bhawan, the Health Ministry headqurters, to sort out whether a customised life insurance policy of Rs 2 lakh for three years with one time premium to be paid by the recipient in case of cadaver is an incentive or an inducement.



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