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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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O P I N I O N S

Perspective | Oped | Reflections

PERSPECTIVE

Bane of reservations
Let’s redesign our strategies of social reform
by Virendra Kumar
T
he policy of reservation, as originally conceived by the founding fathers of the Constitution, was adopted as a singular strategy to dismantle social structure based on caste. The caste system in India, wrote Gandhiji in Harijan (February 11, 1933), “is the very antithesis of absolute equality of status: the sooner public opinion abolishes it the better.”

On Record
Quotas for OBCs need-based, says Veerappa Moily
by Smriti Kak Ramachandran
A
s the Chairperson of the Oversight Committee set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, M. Veerappa Moily says his task is to find the means for the proper and practical implementation of the proposed 27 percent reservation for OBCs in higher educational institutions.






EARLIER STORIES
Fatal debts
June 24, 2006
Belated wisdom
June 23, 2006
Courage under fire
June 22, 2006
Nathu La calling
June 21, 2006
“Aaj ka MLA”
June 20, 2006
Maoists in the mainstream
June 19, 2006
Reform school education
June 18, 2006
A surgeon insulted
June 17, 2006
The road not built
June 16, 2006
Petrol and protest
June 15, 2006


Rectify the alarming mismatch
by Rajesh Kochchar
T
he Centre’s proposal to enforce reservations in all educational institutions and the demand for reservation in private sector jobs should be viewed as expression of serious concern. There is an alarming mismatch between economic growth and distribution of its benefits.

OPED

When Emergency was clamped
by K.K. Katyal
O
n the morning of June 25, 1975, the telephone at my New Delhi residence rang earlier than usual. On the line was S. Nihal Singh, Resident Editor of The Statesman, the paper I worked with then. His tone was swift and tense. “You know”, he said, “what all has happened? 

Profile
Dr Venugopal: A medical prodigy
by Harihar Swarup
I
n the last three years, more than 22 best doctors of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have left for private hospitals, not just for money but having been fed up with petty politics vitiating the academic atmosphere. Some of them had put up 20 years of service. It will be sad indeed if the Institute’s Director, Dr P. Venugopal, too have to quit following his spat with Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramdoss.

Diversities — Delhi Letter
Untested blood for Kashmir hospital patients
by Humra Quraishi
T
he National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has swung into action against the racket of substandard drugs being sold in Himachal Pradesh, with indirect or direct involvement of medical officers of the state.

  • Book on Noor Inayat Khan

Editorial cartoon by Rajinder Puri

 REFLECTIONS

 

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Bane of reservations
Let’s redesign our strategies of social reform
by Virendra Kumar

The policy of reservation, as originally conceived by the founding fathers of the Constitution, was adopted as a singular strategy to dismantle social structure based on caste. The caste system in India, wrote Gandhiji in Harijan (February 11, 1933), “is the very antithesis of absolute equality of status: the sooner public opinion abolishes it the better.”

Jawaharlal Nehru envisaged the restructuring of social polity by getting rid of the caste system and much that goes with it, because these are “wholly incompatible, reactionary, restrictive, and barriers to progress,” and that “there can be no equality in status and opportunity within its framework, nor can there be political democracy.”

Discarding caste as the basis of social order, Bhim Rao Ambedkar emphatically stated: “You cannot build anything on the foundation of caste. You cannot build up a nation; you cannot build up a morality. Anything you build on the foundation of caste will crack and will never be a whole.”

Reservation policy, as a strategy to disperse caste factor, is to be realised by acting upon the cardinal principle of exception, which is manifest in the provisions of the Constitution, at least on three counts. First, since reservation represents a drastic departure from the most fundamental principle of equality, which categorically forbids the state to discriminate against any citizen in any matter on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, reservation is to be resorted to sparingly.

Secondly, when the invocation of exception is considered imperative, the same is to be effectuated only for certain purposes and in respect of certain category of people. Clause (4) of Article 16, for instance, permits the state to make provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of “any backward class of citizens which in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the state.” In this respect, the claims of the members of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe shall also be taken into consideration, “consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration” (Article 335). Here one can notice the presence of at least three caveats while effecting reservation — backwardness, inadequacy, and efficiency.

Thirdly, the reality of reservation is transitory in nature. Reservation of certain number of seats in the legislative bodies for the advancement of the SC/STs, for example, can be done only for a stipulated period. The Constituent Assembly Debates (CAD) clearly reveal that the reservation was desired not “forever,” but only for the period considered necessary for merger of the Harijans into the “Hindu society” (XI CAD 738). Thereafter, there would be no need for reservation (VII CAD 691). Yet, the period of reservation is being extended periodically by successive amendments, the latest being the 79th Amendment that extended quota in the legislative bodies up to January 25, 2010 (Articles 330 and 332 read with Article 334).

The cumulative effect of the whole strategy is that the reservation policy, premised on the principle of exception, is required to be used restrictively and with utmost caution and circumspection, else, to quote Ambedkar, “the exception made in favour of reservation will ultimately eat up the rule altogether (and) nothing of the rule will remain” (VII CAD 702).

As the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, he made his position clear by stating that he did not want that the people should attack and say that the Drafting Committee produced a Draft Constitution “in which the exception was so large that it left no room for the rule to operate” (ibid). It is on this count, this writer believes that the seven-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court in Champakam Dorairajan (1951) unanimously declined to extend the benefit of Article 16(4), which apply in the matters of public employment, to the realm of admissions into educational institutions maintained by the state either wholly or partly in view of Article 29(2) of the Constitution. In their opinion, “communal considerations in the matters of admission” in educational institutions was least intended by the founding fathers. This intent was, however, expanded by the very first amendment of the Constitution by introducing clause (4) into Article 15.

The 93rd amendment that came into force from January 20, 2006, extends the ambit of reservations even to “private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of Article 30.” Pursuant to this new amended policy, when the government evinced intention to reserve 27 per cent seats for Other Backward Classes in institutions of higher learning, the whole issue got precipitated, and led to the prolonged strike by medicos all over the country that was later called off on the intervention of the Supreme Court, which is seized of the matter.

The pro-reservationists argue that so long as the quota remains numerically within the limit of less than 50 per cent, it is perfectly constitutional. The anti-reservationists assert that the argument of constitutionality needs to be debated dispassionately by rising above the petty politics of vote banks. They have no faith in the so-called Group of Ministers constituted by the Prime Minister for resolving the issue, because their political interests are too entrenched to be relied upon them for any detached decision.

Even as Oversight Committee Chairman M. Veerapa Moily said recently that in implementing the 27 per cent quota in higher educational institutions, all decisions would be taken after keeping in mind the interests of all groups, Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar has mooted the idea of raising reservations for the Scheduled Castes from the existing 15 to 16.23 per cent in proportion to their increased population.

In this scenario, adjudication by the Supreme Court assumes special significance. It is bound to examine the overall gamut of reservations. In the changing society, the Constitution is a dynamic document. The dynamism is often expressed by saying that “the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is”.

The basic structure doctrine is perhaps the best manifest example of this dynamic character, which is invoked by the Supreme Court when there is a failure on the part of the state to meet the legitimate expectations of society, lest the social order collapse under the weight of its own absolutism! Why should we feel shy of reshaping our strategies of social reform by continually balancing equity with equality. To adopt an attitude of cynicism that the present schism will die down in due course of time, as it had happened 15 years ago in the case of the adoption of Mandal Commission Report, is no rational response to the conflict problem. n

The writer is UGC Emeritus Fellow, Department of Laws, Panjab University, Chandigarh

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On Record
Quotas for OBCs need-based, says Veerappa Moily
by Smriti Kak Ramachandran

M. Veerappa Moily
M. Veerappa Moily 

As the Chairperson of the Oversight Committee set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, M. Veerappa Moily says his task is to find the means for the proper and practical implementation of the proposed 27 percent reservation for OBCs in higher educational institutions. He is, however, quick to assure both the pro and anti-reservationists that their respective concerns will be addressed. Stressing that quota for OBCs is need based and not a political move, Moily, who is also the Chairman of the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), rubbishes reports that there is any discord between him and Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh.

Excerpts:

Q: How will you strike a balance between the concerns of pro and anti-reservationists?

A: I am here to carry out the instructions that have been given to the Oversight Committee. We have been mandated to carry out in letter and in spirit the 93rd Constitutional Amendment and ensure its implementation. This committee is entrusted with the task of carrying out the implementation of 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in institutes of higher learning including the IITs and the IIMs and we are working out the finer details of how this can be done.

Q: Will the government accept your committee’s recommendations?

A: Our task is to put forth the dynamics of implementation. It is for the government to accept or decline. I cannot comment on the government’s decision. I will do what I have been told.

Q: Among the many concerns that universities and other institutions have put forth are adverse effect on quality and lack of infrastructure. They have recommended a staggered implementation. Will you support their request?

A: Reservation will be implemented in one go. There is no question of staggered implementation. Our mandate is very clear...we have to find ways of implementing reservation from the next academic session. We cannot propose staggering it as has been reported in the media. The 27 per cent quota will be introduced in all central educational institutions from the next academic session and the intake will be increased accordingly. As for infrastructure and finances, when the government has proposed reservation, it will have to provide the means to do so. The government will have to make arrangements for allocating funds and meeting the requirements like hiring faculty, building hostels and classrooms. To get an assessment of how much (money) will be required, we have asked all the five subgroups working with the committee to provide us with their inputs by June 30. Based on these inputs we will finalise an interim report by July 10 which will then be submitted to the government. The final report will be submitted by August 31.

Q: You have assured that merit will not be affected by the increase in the intake of both students and teachers. How?

A: I am reiterating that merit will not be compromised. Institutes of excellence like the IITs and the IIMs will continue to remain so. We have already mentioned that the seats of the general category students will remain unchanged and more seats will be added to accommodate the OBC candidates. The Bill is slated to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. It could be deferred if necessary. But all decisions will be taken by consensus and keeping in view the interests of all groups.

Q: Have you received suggestions to recommend the revision of the existing reservation policy? Will your committee examine the issue of creamy layer which many have suggested should not be provided reservation?

A: Our mandate is not to review the reservation policy nor will we discuss the issue of the creamy later. It is the government’s prerogative to include or leave out the creamy layer.

Q: What about the private and deemed universities? Will they be included in the quota ambit?

A: All institutions set up under the Central or State Acts, all private and deemed universities will have to make provision for the 27 percent reservation. Our effort is to create an inclusive society.

Q: Do you agree that there is a need to take a relook at the elementary and secondary education?

A: Though we have been talking about elementary education for the last 46 years, we have failed to achieve the targets. We have a dismal 8 per cent who are afforded higher education. The enrolment at the higher levels is far below than other developing countries, some of whom have an enrolment rate of 25 per cent. China’s percentage is 70. Education cannot be put on a backburner if we have to become a knowledge society. We must take some important steps for which the country’s mindset must change.

Q: What about your recent proposal to shift from oath of secrecy to oath of transparency?

A: In the present age of accountability and transparency, we need to make this shift. It is a well-considered recommendation and now it is up to the government to take action on it. 

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Rectify the alarming mismatch
by Rajesh Kochchar

The Centre’s proposal to enforce reservations in all educational institutions and the demand for reservation in private sector jobs should be viewed as expression of serious concern. There is an alarming mismatch between economic growth and distribution of its benefits.

Though India economy has shown a healthy average annual increase of about 6 per cent for the past many years, there has not been a corresponding rise in employment. About 60 per cent of the workforce still depends on agriculture, even though its share in national GDP is down to a mere 20 per cent. The services sector comprising trade, transport, hotels, IT, communications, financing, insurance and real estate, now accounts for more than 57 per cent of India’s GDP, but employs only 23 per cent of the workforce.

The glamour boy of the services sector, of course, is the offshore IT and BPO industry which currently employs about 7 lakh people. Services sector employment invariably requires better social and communication skills than manufacturing or agriculture does. Employment has become essentially a middle class phenomenon.

Indian agriculture is stagnant, small and medium enterprises are under pressure, and IT sector is a middle class preserve. Where do we go from here? Since India owes its economic boom to globalisation, state intervention can only produce limited results.

Upper castes, which have enjoyed the fruits of western education for close to two centuries, are loath to give up the advantage. Also, the sense of guilt, which society feels towards the Dalits, does not extend to the middle castes. The OBCs cover a wide spectrum. At the lower end are groups, which are only slightly better off than the Dalits. At the upper end, we have caste groups which compete with the traditionally dominant castes. Thus, there is a need to create a nuanced hierarchy within the broad category that is OBC. There can be reservation for some groups, grace marks for others, benefits for one or two generations for some others and so on.

Encouragingly, products of our highly valued upper end technological institutes do intellectually satisfying work only if they go to the US. If they remain in India, either they do repetitive work for foreign companies or become managers. Service sector is welcome, but India’s destiny lies in agriculture and manufacturing. It is essential for India not to be carried away by the current boom in services sector.

Globalisation as it stands today is incompatible with the demands of world democracies. It cannot continue in its present form forever. Instead of celebrating a passing phase in world economy, let us lay firm basis for socially sustainable economic development, while the going is good. If we want to benefit from knowledge-based economy, let us first become a knowledge-imparting and knowledge-generating society. n

The writer is former Director, National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi

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When Emergency was clamped
by K.K. Katyal

On the morning of June 25, 1975, the telephone at my New Delhi residence rang earlier than usual. On the line was S. Nihal Singh, Resident Editor of The Statesman, the paper I worked with then. His tone was swift and tense. “You know”, he said, “what all has happened? Emergency has been declared. Top Opposition leaders, Jaya Prakash, Morarji, Vajpayee, Advani have been arrested. Even Chandra Shekhar (a Congress Working Committee member) had not been spared. A lot more may happen. Let us bring out a supplement as soon as possible.”

Just then I discovered that most of the day’s newspapers had not arrived. On a day like that it could not be a case of routine delay, I felt. It did not take long for my suspicion to be confirmed. In New Delhi’s “Fleet Street”, where most newspaper offices were located, there was a mysterious failure of power supply disrupting the printing process. It was restored only after the deadline expired. “Orders from above”— power company officials confided on the condition of anonymity.

Next two hours in The Statesman office — and the main story for the supplement was ready, complete with the text of the proclamation, the details of the arrests as given by the news agencies, constitutional provision for the internal emergency and its implications. The page layout looked impressive, what with the shocking banner-headline, the file pictures of arrested leaders. The page was about to be sent to the press, when the agency ticker announced the government’s decision to impose censorship.

Without losing time, I took the page proof to the Press Information Bureau at Shastri Bhawan. The officials had received the censorship but did not have the faintest idea of how to go about it. The P.I.O. A.R. Baji, scratching his head, tried hard to figure out the modalities but in vain. He finally directed me to the Information Officer in charge of the Home Ministry —normally a nice, friendly type but wore a stern look then. He, too, was puzzled but finally chose to make a liberal use of the blue pencil.

Leaving nothing to chance, he deleted everything except the proclamation and the official rationale for the Emergency. Even the pictures of the leaders were bloted out, their names were retained in the story but not in the headlines. Whatever appeared even remotely “unsafe” was cancelled.

The supplement was printed — with the gaps in the text — a tell-tale evidence of what was to be the pattern of official behaviour in the months to come. In the process, I had the “distinction” of being the first journalist to have this story censored.

Later in the day, I met D.K. Barooah, Congress President, at his house. He was profusely apologetic for not having kept an appointment the previous evening. He was at the Prime Minister’s house, he said, and the “discussions got prolonged”. That was an under-statement. I had waited for more than three hours after the scheduled time but had to leave without meeting him. “Yesterday’s was a marathon session”, I remarked. No reply. “Momentous decision”— silence maintained. “Did Sanjay take part in the discussions?” “That way even Maneka was there, serving tea and biscuits. It did not mean she was involved in the discussion”, Barooah snapped.

Later, more details became known. The decision to promulgate “internal emergency was given the final shape at that meeting. It was a culmination of the exercise that had gone on during the preceding fortnight — after the Allahabad High Court judgement unseated Indira Gandhi, and the country seemed in for a massive, unmanageable agitation for her removal from office. Involved in it were legal experts, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, Chief Minister of West Bengal, Rajni Patel, Bombay Congress boss and main fund collector of the party, Barooah and, of course, Sanjay Gandhi, architect of the plan. It was a highly secret operation know only to a few others (for operational reasons) — Bansi Lal, Haryana Supremo, Om Mehta, Minister of State for Home, R.K. Dhawan, Indira Gandhi’s aide, and Kishen Chand, Lt-Governor of Delhi.

The draft of the proclamation was carried by Dhawan to Rashtrapati Bhavan later at night. The President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, singed it at 11. 45 pm, 15 minutes before the deadline fixed by the core group, without posing a single question. The Cabinet was called the next morning for what turned out to be an ex-post facto approval. The ministers who reached the Prime Minister’s house, venue of the meet, had no idea of what it was about. Karan Singh did not have time for a shave — so short was the notice for the Cabinet meeting. None demurred. Only Swaran Singh had the temerity to inquire whether any other course was not available.

In her nation-wide broadcast that evening, Indira Gandhi said she had to take this step “because of the deep and widespread conspiracy which had been brewing ever since I began introducing certain progressive measures”. The plot, according to her, was intended “to negate the very functioning of democracy”. Murdering democracy to “save” democracy, said a commentator.

The developments after the Allahabad judgement on June 12 caused great worry to Indira Gandhi and Sanjay. The Opposition called for her resignation and the appointment of a temporary prime minister till the disposal of her appeal to the Supreme Court. The demand picked up, with a section of the Congress making no secret of their endorsement.

The Congress Parliamentary party did affirm its faith in her but she was not sure whether, once out of the office, she could get back. The Prime Minister’s household was, therefore, sensitive to the press reports on the Opposition plans to step up pressure against her — and for an interim arrangement. This, they feared, could become permanent.

There was palpable distrust of her colleagues — Jagjivan Ram and Chandra Shekhar, in particular. Even the suggestion that Swaran Singh be given the temporary charge was not liked, though his potential for causing political problem for her was the minimal. Press correspondents considered responsible for “giving publicity” to the Opposition activities were identified as unfriendly. I was among those who had reported the developments faithfully, that is, without omitting items considered inconvenient by the establishment.

Months after the Emergency was promulgated and I moved from The Statesman to The Hindu, my sin was not forgotten. One evening, I was called by Sanjay (in the Prime Minister’s house). He wanted to know whether I was involved in the political coverage between June 12 and June 25 and, whether I had been reporting the events related to the demands for the Prime Minister’s resignation. I replied that the entire Bureau was pressed into service to cover what was an important period in the country’s politics.

My attempt not to be identified as the writer of “critical” stuff did not work. Sanjay picked a couple of sheets of papers from a side-table and held them in his hand, so as to enable me to have a look at its contents. These were the pages (original or copies, I am not sure) from the register maintained by the Deputy News Editor, carrying the list of the stories, filed by the Bureau members and their names. This record was meant for internal use — its copies were sent to the Calcutta office and to the News Desk for information. How did Sanjay get it? Who could have passed it on to him? Was there a Sanjay mole in The Statesman? That was my first — and the last — meeting with him.

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Profile
Dr Venugopal: A medical prodigy
by Harihar Swarup

Illustration by Sandeep JoshiIn the last three years, more than 22 best doctors of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have left for private hospitals, not just for money but having been fed up with petty politics vitiating the academic atmosphere. Some of them had put up 20 years of service. It will be sad indeed if the Institute’s Director, Dr P. Venugopal, too have to quit following his spat with Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramdoss.

AIIMS is supposed to be fully autonomous, known as one of the biggest referral institutes in India. However, in the ongoing tussle between the Institute’s Director and the Health Minister, this premier centre of medical sciences has lost much of its reputation. Worse still, patients are the hardest hit. No one will deny that over the years, there has been political interference in AIIMS functioning, jeopardising the research work.

Dr Venugopal himself is a medical prodigy. A keen researcher, he is a renowned cardio-thoracic surgeon, having performed India’s first heart transplant as far back as 1994. Since then, he has been associated with over 50,000 open heart surgeries. He was decorated with the Padma Bhushan award in 1998 for his achievements.

Dr Venugopal is no nonsense man. His colleagues say, he is straight forward and a strict disciplinarian. He would not tolerate interference in his work or bestow undue favour on anyone howsoever high and mighty he may be. Like all intellectuals, he is at times moody, temperamental, intolerant of lesser mortals and has strong likes and dislikes. Even though a first rate medical man, he is a poor PR person.

Few outside AIIMS know that Dr Venugopal himself underwent cardiac surgery a few years back. He picked up the junior most surgeon of his team, Dr A.K. Bisoi, his student for 11 years, to operate upon him. Incidentally, Dr Bisoi was born the year Dr Venugopal completed his MBBS course. The bypass surgery was conducted in the same operation theatre and on the same table that he has been using for his patients since he joined AIIMS as a faculty member in 1970.

Dr Venugopal gave detailed instructions to his team before lying down on the table. Exactly five hours after surgery as he became fully conscious, his first task was to inquire about his patients admitted in the ICU. Within days he was on his feet, as active as ever, performing surgeries again.

One of Dr Venugopal’s achievement is research in path-breaking “stem cell” therapy. The bone marrow is a potential source of stem cells. These cells when injected into the heart, turn into heart muscle cells and repair the damage. The AIIMS doctors used the stem cells as an additional therapy to conventional treatment. Dr Venugopal got interested in stem cell therapy when the AIIMS began to hunt options in cardiac treatment. Donors were hard to come by. Often patients went through medication and then there was nothing doctors could do to save them.

Stem cells extracted from a patient’s bone marrow or, in the case of a new-born, taken from the umbilical cord, are simply the building blocks of life. Umbilical cord blood banks offer amazing medical recipes as they freeze stem cell samples. These cells can be used 50 years after a person is born to treat ailments that may develop due to genetic predispositions.

As part of a path-breaking study, conducted from February 2003 to January 2005, 35 cardiac patients have been given stem cell treatment and have been monitored at six-, 12- and 18-month intervals. There have been no mortality and all the patients were brought in at a stage when their hearts were beyond bypass surgery.

A national stem cell centre was proposed to be set up at AIIMS which would coordinate the research and its applications. Statistics speak for themselves, Dr Venugopal claimed. He was quoted as saying that after six months, 56 per cent of the affected (read dead muscle) area injected with these cells, had shown improvement. After 18 months, this went up to 64 per cent. Most heart patients come at a stage when a transplant is the only solution. With stem cell therapy, the long queue of people awaiting a heart transplant can be cut down drastically.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalm, himself a scientist, got interested in stem cell research. In one of his speeches, he recalled his meeting with Dr Venugopal and how the AIIMS Director apprised him of his experiences. The President quoted Dr Venugopal as telling him that in cardiac diseases, where conventional medical and surgical treatment were ineffective because of the affliction of the heart muscle, the use of bone marrow stem cells will improve the function of the heart muscle.

This kind of application of this procedure is the latest and very few cases have been done in the world, the first time in India. This is expected to open new frontiers in the treatment of patients for regeneration of heart muscles, thereby giving new hope for the patients suffering from heart disease, Dr Kalam said in his speech at a function at a reputed Delhi hospital.

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Diversities — Delhi Letter
Untested blood for Kashmir hospital patients
by Humra Quraishi

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has swung into action against the racket of substandard drugs being sold in Himachal Pradesh, with indirect or direct involvement of medical officers of the state.

I am reminded of a similar racket, far worse, when a news-item in March 2005 had revealed that unchecked blood was given in three hospitals of Jammu and Kashmir. The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG), in a damning report tabled in the State Assembly, brought forth many startling facts on the rot in the state’s health sector. As many as 31,280 units of blood not tested against HIV and Hepatitis had been administered to patients by three hospitals in the state.

The Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, considered an organisation on a par with the PGI, infused 1,235 units of blood into patients without checking it for HIV or Hepatitis owing to the non-availability of kits. Similarly, 14,492 units of blood were not tested for HIV and 17,173 units for Hepatitis B by Lalla Ded Hospital in Srinagar and the district hospitals in Rajouri and Udhampur.

I had read a report on this issue a few months back. Yet another report hit the headlines in March last. Is there a co-relation between the two reports? The second report (The Tribune, March 14, 2006) stated that 745 HIV cases reported in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the report, the government informed the State Assembly that 745 confirmed HIV positive cases were reported from various medical institutions in the state. Of these, 95 full blown AIDS cases were reported from different medical institutions. “However, the government had no details whether any full blown AIDS patient had died in the state during the past two years…”, the report said. Is there some co-relation between the two — untested blood given to patients in government hospitals and the number of HIV infected?

Book on Noor Inayat Khan

Music day came by, falling as it does on the longest day which could also happen to be the hottest day here in our side of the earth. These days owe their origin to the West, so who are we to complain? Rather, coo along…In the midst of all this talk of the East and West, I am sitting curled up with a just launched, immensely readable book, Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan (Roli).

London-based journalist-writer Shrabani Basu has written this fascinating story of how an Indian origin woman played a vital role during World War II. As Basu mentions, “I had first heard of Noor Inayat Khan many years ago in an article about the contribution of Asians to Britain. I was immediately drawn to the subject…As an Indian woman myself, Noor’s life had a natural attraction for me. How a Muslim woman from a conservative, spiritual family went on to become a secret agent, working undercover in one of the most dangerous areas during the war, was something I wanted to study in detail…Noor was an unlikely spy. She was no Mata Hari. Instead, she was dreamy, beautiful and gentle, a writer of children’s stories. She was not a crack shot, not endowed with great physical skills and a far cry from any spy novel prototype…”

Almost 60 years after the war, the long dead Noor Inayat Khan is re-surfacing. Though it’s not the first time that a book on her has been written — at least three books on her have been written before — this one is rather different and more focused.

Then, there is V.S. Rajan’s recently published book, A to Z of Success (Ocean Books). It’s for the young “a companion of the youth”. And he was forthright to say that it’s his wife Gomti who actually set him into writing this volume. “She says why do we make children walk behind us, they should walk in front and we should follow them…she’s a teacher and not inclined to writing so I took off…completed writing it in three to four months.”

As the Principal Adviser to CII with focus on education outreach programmes, Rajan is quite aware of what the young of the country are facing. I do hope that CII with all its potential and resources will reach out to the troubled and turmoil stricken states and sectors of the country — like the Northeast, the Kashmir valley and several other sensitive areas where the young do need some anchorage of a lasting sort.

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Beware of the passionate tears in woman’s eye. They can arouse a mighty surge in the most timid of men. And in the valorous, a burning thirst for gory revenge.
— The Mahabharata

The wise man is balanced and calm. He meditates over all aspects of a question before speaking. His words are the words of rationality.
— The Buddha

Have you not observed those who commend themselves? God, on the contrary, commends who God will: and they will not be treated unjustly in the slightest degree.
— The Koran

They alone have known the right way who eat the fruit of their own toil and share it then with those in need.
— Guru Nanak

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