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EDITORIALS

Terror under arrest
Fighting militancy Omar Abdullah’s first task
T
HE arrest of Hizbul Mujahideen founder Mohammad Ahsan Dar in Bandipore district in Jammu and Kashmir symbolises a major success achieved by the security forces in their drive against militancy. Since he coordinated the activities of various terrorist outfits in the strife-torn state, his detention is bound to affect the functioning of these destructive organisations.

Friend in need
India’s stake in Kabul’s progress
O
NE common factor for India and Afghanistan is the threat of terrorism they face. Small wonder that Afghan President Hamid Karzai took the first available opportunity to visit India to discuss the post-Mumbai situation. The joint statement issued after the talks he had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a ring of familiarity.



EARLIER STORIES

Friends or foes?
January 15, 2009
Losing sheen
January 14, 2009
A dangerous trend
January 13, 2009
Don’t bank on others
January 12, 2009
Policing the people
January 11, 2009
Prosecute Raju
January 10, 2009
Asatyam
January 9, 2009
Right to ask
January 8, 2009
Chief Justice acts
January 7, 2009
Fund of goodwill
January 6, 2009


Modi as PM
India Inc’s sense of humour
L
OOKS like all that a chief minister has to do to be projected as prime minister is call in the corporate czars for an investment conference and hold out the promise of open season for their business. So it would appear with leading businessmen such as Mr Anil Ambani and Mr Sunil Bharti Mittal rooting for Mr Narendra Modi as prime minister.

ARTICLE

Kashmir not the key to Kabul
US logic on terrorism is flawed
by Sushant Sareen
A
NYONE who has ever wondered why India has been so obstinate in its refusal to allow third-party mediation on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir should have got his answer in the linkage that the next US President, Mr Barack Obama, and his foreign policy aides have drawn between Afghanistan and Kashmir.

MIDDLE

Puppy love
by A.J. Philip
A
T the end of my story, Payal Sodhi, founder trustee of the Chandigarh chapter of the People for Animals (PFA), was in tears and sobbing like a child. And every time we met afterwards, she would tell me not to tell any more such stories. I do not know whether it was my narration that brought her to tears or the poignancy of the story.

OPED

Poverty in Afghanistan
Wealth of the elite sows bitterness
by Pamela Constable
A
CROSS the street from the Evening in Paris wedding hall, a monument to opulence surrounded by neon-lighted fountains and a five-story replica of the Eiffel Tower, is a little colony of tents where 65 families, mostly returnees from Pakistan, huddle against the winter cold and wish they had never come home.

Polio eradication possible by year-end
by Satnam Singh
P
oliomyelitis was targeted for eradication by 2005. Regretfully, in 2008 India and Nigeria were the only two countries left still reporting indigenous cases, 517 and 758 respectively. In the latter part of 2008, Pakistan and Afghanistan did not report any cases and are looking forward to consolidate the gains in 2009.

Delhi Durbar
Shekhawat back in limelight
F
ORMER Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is having a field day shuttling between Delhi and Rajasthan, from where he aspires to contest the Lok Sabha elections. Back in Rajasthan, the veteran is busy covering villages — his political nurseries. 

 





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Terror under arrest
Fighting militancy Omar Abdullah’s first task

THE arrest of Hizbul Mujahideen founder Mohammad Ahsan Dar in Bandipore district in Jammu and Kashmir symbolises a major success achieved by the security forces in their drive against militancy. Since he coordinated the activities of various terrorist outfits in the strife-torn state, his detention is bound to affect the functioning of these destructive organisations. Keeping in view the fact that the man has a history of dodging the police, measures must be taken to ensure that he is unable to escape from jail again as he did in the past. As Dar is a terrorist ideologue, chances of the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba, the Hizbul Mujahideen or the other militant networks using surprising tactics to get him freed cannot be ruled out.

His arrest may help find out the extent of militant operations today. The new state government headed by Mr Omar Abdullah should concentrate on fighting the monster at a time when terrorists are demoralised and disoriented. In the recent elections the militant leadership was given a body-blow by the voters, who overwhelmingly exercised their franchise ignoring the boycott call issued by the extremists. People have no love lost for the terrorists and their masters across the Line of Control. That is why militant outfits are finding it difficult to get fresh recruits.

There is a decline in the infiltration from the other side of the LoC. But the infiltration may go up once the winter is over and snow starts melting, as it has been happening in the past. While the Central Government has to keep putting diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to force it to destroy terrorism root and branch, the state government must use all the resources at its command to make the problem disappear forever. All the militants in hiding should be ferreted out and put behind bars. Equally important, the Omar Abdullah government has to undertake development projects on a massive scale to tackle the growing unemployment problem in the state. After all, development remains as one of the most effective weapons to fight militancy. The scourge requires a multi-pronged attack to bring Jammu and Kashmir back on the road to progress.

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Friend in need
India’s stake in Kabul’s progress

ONE common factor for India and Afghanistan is the threat of terrorism they face. Small wonder that Afghan President Hamid Karzai took the first available opportunity to visit India to discuss the post-Mumbai situation. The joint statement issued after the talks he had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a ring of familiarity. Though Pakistan was not named, it was apparent that they had that country in view when they wanted all states to stop terrorism from originating in their territories. Mumbai is a classic case where the attack originated in Pakistan, though, as the Pakistan government says, it was perpetrated by “non-state actors”. They may have been “non-state actors” but that did not minimise the gravity of the attack. Call it by any name, terror is terror and it has no legitimacy except in the warped minds of those who plan it.

Afghanistan is now facing a serious threat to its democratic existence from the fundamentalist Taliban. That the Taliban enjoy the support from both ‘state’ and ‘non-state actors’ in Pakistan is no secret. Unfortunately, a vast territory in the landlocked nation is now under the Taliban which do not approve of the growing economic and political relations between Kabul and New Delhi. India and the US have evidence that the attack on the Indian mission in Kabul was the brainwork of the Pakistani ISI and was executed by the Afghani terrorists. An idea that has been gaining ground is to co-opt the Taliban into the Afghan government to end the strife in the country.

India cannot but look askance at any such proposal as it knows that, given the Taliban’s propensity, it will in due course edge out the pro-democracy forces represented by Mr Karzai from the government. This will have dangerous implications for the whole world. Be that as it may, India’s relations with Afghanistan are based on friendship. That is why despite the risks, India has been increasing its investments in infrastructure in Afghanistan. There is no other explanation for its decision to gift 250,000 metric tonnes of wheat to tide over the food crisis in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this is something which some elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot stand.

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Modi as PM
India Inc’s sense of humour

LOOKS like all that a chief minister has to do to be projected as prime minister is call in the corporate czars for an investment conference and hold out the promise of open season for their business. So it would appear with leading businessmen such as Mr Anil Ambani and Mr Sunil Bharti Mittal rooting for Mr Narendra Modi as prime minister. Though the massacre of Muslims that Gujarat witnessed in 2002 under Mr Modi’s statesmanship may be a minor matter for these captains of business and industry, there are bigger issues they have overlooked.

The first big issue the corporate elite has missed is that neither the people nor the parties of this country are likely to take their advocacy of Mr Modi’s candidature seriously. When a FICCI delegation met Indira Gandhi to express support for the Emergency, one of India’s most distinguished editors noted that they are men who would have done this anyway; “honourably if they can, dishonourably if they must”. Similarly, should other political heavyweights expect them to endorse their candidature for the post of prime minister, it is unlikely that any businessman would have the gumption to refuse.

There are other, bigger issues. The same Mr Anil Ambani, thanks to his association with the avowedly secularist Samajwadi Party, was a member of the Rajya Sabha. Is he now saying that he would be loathe to support Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav as prime minister? His answer is anybody’s guess. One really feels sorry for Mr L K Advani, who has to contend with not only the opposition but also opponents on his own turf. First there emerged Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, then came Mr Kalyan Singh and, as if they are not problem enough, here is Mr Modi rising anew. Mr Advani should ask the leaders of India Inc whether they have read his book. If they haven’t, this might be the moment to throw the book at them.

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Thought for the Day

The shelf life of the modern hardback writer is somewhere between the milk and the yoghurt.

— Calvin Trillin

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Kashmir not the key to Kabul
US logic on terrorism is flawed
by Sushant Sareen

ANYONE who has ever wondered why India has been so obstinate in its refusal to allow third-party mediation on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir should have got his answer in the linkage that the next US President, Mr Barack Obama, and his foreign policy aides have drawn between Afghanistan and Kashmir. The incoming US administration wants to play an active role in resolving the Kashmir issue, not out of altruism but because it thinks that a “satisfactory” solution of the Kashmir issue will help in the achievement of US security interests in Afghanistan. In other words, US interests and not some higher ideal or vision will guide and propel its mediation efforts.

Needless to say, since Pakistan will be satisfied with nothing less than a solution of Kashmir that is substantially, if not entirely, according to its wishes, it means that the US implicitly expects India to sacrifice on Kashmir to satisfy Pakistan. Not surprisingly then, India is deeply suspicious of the US desire to play an honest broker on resolving the Kashmir issue, and will find it impossible to accept US good offices in settling its problems with Pakistan.

Clearly, the Americans see Kashmir as the missing part of the puzzle on not only defeating the Al-Qaeda/Taliban-inspired Islamist insurgency in Afghanistan, but also ensuring the unstinted cooperation and compliance of the Pakistan Army in fighting the Islamist guerrillas. The guiding logic of the argument linking Kabul with Kashmir is seductively simple — give the Pakistani state something to show on Kashmir, which in turn will make it easier for Pakistan’s Army and its politicians to sell to their people the idea of cooperating with the Americans in the War on Terror.

The Americans believe, somewhat naively, that by “satisfying” Pakistan on Kashmir, they will be able to end Pakistan’s policy of running with the jihadist hare and hunting with the American hound. What is more, normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan will free the Pakistan Army from its engagements on the eastern front with India and enable the deployment of the bulk of troops on the troubled western borderlands.

Unlike the US officials and academicians, India knows that any argument linking Kashmir with Kabul is totally specious and self-serving. There are broadly two dimensions to the Kashmir imbroglio. The first is the bilateral Indo-Pak track in the search for a mutually acceptable solution to the problem. The second is the International dimension of the insurgency in Kashmir, which is inextricably linked to the jihadist ideology and radical philosophy that is afflicting Islamic societies around the world. Unless both these dimensions are understood, quick-fix solutions advocated by campus radicals and neo-liberal think-tanks will end up creating a problem far worse than the one that confronts the people of the region and the world at present.

The terrorism in Kashmir is nothing if it is not part of the international jihad being waged by disparate Islamic groups in different parts of the world. Centred on the Islamist identity of Kashmiri Muslims, the basic DNA of the separatist movement in Kashmir is jihadist, only it is packaged in nationalist hues. Although the so-called moderate separatists try to agitate and win support by bandying more liberal labels, the real ideologues of the separatists — people like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Syed Salahuddin — make no apologies for the Islamist underpinnings of their demand.

Since the jihadists, both Kashmiri and Pakistani, see Kashmir as a part of the larger international jihad, their success in Kashmir will not bring an end to Islamic militancy in either the region or the world. Instead a victory for the jihadists in Kashmir will only serve as a shot in the arm for Islamic radicals and give a tremendous boost to violent jihad in other parts of the world by attracting ever more recruits to their war against both Muslim and non-Muslim societies.

The argument that once Pakistan’s concerns on Kashmir are addressed the Pakistani state will be in a better position to take on the Islamic militias rests on the heroic assumption that Pakistan remains strong enough to eradicate the menace of Islamic militancy. The facts on the ground suggest that this assumption no longer holds true. Simply put, the Pakistani state no longer dominates the radical groups that operate inside that country and has lost the coercive monopoly that enables a state to impose its authority over recalcitrant elements.

Today the Pakistani state is almost reduced to being a minor player, surviving on the sufferance of both non-state and statist jihadist militias. The bottom-line is that instead of the Pakistan Army exercising control over its jihadist assets, the army itself has become an asset of the jihadists. This means that even if Kashmir is solved entirely according to the Pakistani wishes, the Pakistani state will not be able to put the jihadist monster back in the bottle. In fact, victory for the jihadists in Kashmir will sound the death knell of the Pakistani state structure and put it at the mercy of the Islamists.

There is, in any case, very little that will be achieved by any international mediation that is aimed at hustling India into making concessions on territory or sovereignty or both only to address Pakistan’s neurosis that emanates primarily from its refusal to accept that Kashmir is a part of India. Quite aside the fact that Munich-type agreements, based as they are on the appeasement of irredentism, have never brought peace, it is an entirely fallacious argument that tensions with India prevent Pakistan from taking effective action on its western border.

India has until now done absolutely nothing to exploit Pakistan’s discomfiture on its western borders. For nearly five years now, India has scrupulously observed the ceasefire along the Line of Control, and this despite Pakistan’s repeated violations of it. The peace process between India and Pakistan has made a lot of progress, both in the official dialogue as well as in the back-channel. Imaginative and out-of-the-box solutions were being actively considered by both countries to solve the Kashmir issue to the satisfaction of both sides. The confidence building measures already in place in Kashmir — bus service, travel across the LoC, opening up of trade across the LoC, meeting points for divided families — were unimaginable a few years back.

In fact, ever since the peace process commenced, border tensions between the two countries were practically non-existent. And yet if during this entire period Pakistan’s capacity and capability to take on the Islamic militants has declined, then surely the reason for that isn’t India but something that is seriously wrong inside Pakistan.

The Obama administration will be making a terrible and very costly mistake if it tries to reach Kabul and Kandahar through Kashmir. Instead of being a short-cut to winning the war in Afghanistan, this will be a path that will bring with it the worst of both worlds. Not only will the US end up strengthening the militant Islamists, it will also lose the support and trust of India in this widening war. Unfortunately, imperial hubris will ensure that the US embarks on this disastrous road. The only hope is that things don’t reach the point of no return before the Americans realise the mistake they have made.

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Puppy love
by A.J. Philip

AT the end of my story, Payal Sodhi, founder trustee of the Chandigarh chapter of the People for Animals (PFA), was in tears and sobbing like a child. And every time we met afterwards, she would tell me not to tell any more such stories. I do not know whether it was my narration that brought her to tears or the poignancy of the story.

To begin at the beginning, my neighbour at Kayamkulam in Kerala had a puppy, which was more lovey-dovey than he wanted it to be. He saw in it a fierce future protector of his home and property but it turned out to be a cuddly puppy which would rather give him company than guard his house.

A non-nonsensical businessman, he decided to part with the puppy, barely a few months old. He realised it was not the kind that would bark and bite. The next time he went to Thiruvananthapuram, 120 km away from his hometown, he took the puppy in his car. On the way, 20 km before the state capital, he stopped the car and left the puppy on the roadside.

As my neighbour sped from there, he could see the puppy in his rearview mirror, running after the car. It was a heartrending sight but he kept pressing the accelerator till the dog faded out of sight. He thought the story of the puppy had ended.

One and a half years later, he had a surprise of surprises when one morning he found a dog at his doorstep wagging its tail. One look and he recognised the dog he had last seen in the mirror.

It had grown into an adult. The leather collar he had put around its neck was still there. Around it was a festering wound with puss oozing out. It happened because the neck had grown bigger than the collar.

The dog was stinking and he had to use a cane to shoo it away. All his efforts to keep it at a distance were in vain. He remembered that as a puppy it enjoyed sitting on his lap, though he did not encourage the idea much. His children, too, feared to go anywhere near it, though the dog longed for their company.

It was a mystery how the dog returned to the house. For one and a half years its single-minded objective must have been to reach his master who, it did not know, had abandoned him. Nothing else would have mattered to him. Not even the constant pain the over-tight collar must have given.

Imagine which other animal would have shown so much love for its master as to cover a distance of 100 km in one and a half years. But, alas, my neighbour did not know how to handle him.

In retrospect, he could have taken the dog to a vet and he would have got the collar removed and freed it from pain. And the dog could have lived a full life. But my neighbour had a different plan.

A pharmacist by profession, he knew what poisonous substance could kill the dog. Yes, that is what he did when he administered potassium cyanide to his pet.

When my neighbour told me this story, I nearly cried. For days together, the killing haunted me. Of course, I did not tell Payal Sodhi that the intense grief she felt was mine, too, when I heard the story from my neighbour.

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Poverty in Afghanistan
Wealth of the elite sows bitterness
by Pamela Constable

ACROSS the street from the Evening in Paris wedding hall, a monument to opulence surrounded by neon-lighted fountains and a five-story replica of the Eiffel Tower, is a little colony of tents where 65 families, mostly returnees from Pakistan, huddle against the winter cold and wish they had never come home.

Similar startling contrasts abound across the Afghan capital. Children with pinched faces beg near the mansions of a tiny elite enriched by foreign aid and official corruption. Hundreds of tattered men gather at dawn outside a glittering new office building to compete for 50-cent jobs hauling construction debris.

"I am a farmer with 11 children. Our crops dried up, so I came to the city to find work, but all day I stand here in the cold and no one hires me," said Abdul Ghani, 47. "All the jobs and money go to those who have relatives in power, and corruption is everywhere. How else could they build these big houses? Nobody cares about the poor," he added bitterly. "They just make fun of us."

Seven years after the fall of the Taliban and the establishment of a civilian-led, internationally backed government, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with rates of unemployment, illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition on a par with the most impoverished nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Most homes lack light, heat and running water; most babies are born at home and without medical help.

Now, according to U.N. figures, the populace is getting even poorer. A combination of drought, soaring food prices, scarce jobs and meager wages has meant that about 5 million Afghans – far more than in any recent year – are slated to receive emergency food aid. Many families spend up to 80 percent of their income on food.

Yet against this grim backdrop, pockets of wealth have mysteriously sprung up in Kabul and other cities. Officials who earn modest salaries on paper have built fantasy mansions, and former militia commanders with no visible means of support roar around the muddy streets in convoys of sport-utility vehicles, spattering the burqa-covered widows who squat at intersections with their hands held out.

It is difficult to prove, but universally believed here, that much of this new wealth is ill-gotten. There are endless tales of official corruption, illegal drug trafficking, cargo smuggling and personal pocketing of international aid funds that have created boom industries in construction, luxury imports, security and high-tech communications.

"The entire economy has become criminalized," said Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official who quit his post as Afghan finance minister several years ago and is expected to challenge President Hamid Karzai in elections this year. "There is a crisis of governance. Corruption is way up, and poverty is massive. People are disheartened and confused."

Much of the corruption takes the form of penny-ante bureaucratic palm-greasing, with clerks demanding small bribes to stamp forms or police officers at checkpoints requiring truck drivers to pay to enter cities. But some is more audacious, such as municipal authorities selling government land for luxury housing projects or security officials colluding with the drug traffickers they are supposed to be catching.

Afghanistan has always been poor. Its people are among the hardiest on the planet, and its warriors have been famed for fighting foreign armies in sandals and shawls. But it is the widening gulf between the haves and the have-nots – between the VIPs in speeding SUVs and the garbage scavengers riding donkey carts – that has increasingly embittered the public, turning it against the Karzai government and its foreign backers.

In dozens of interviews this month, Kabul residents complained that they were struggling to feed their families and heat their rooms on scanty or occasional wages, while access to sources of prosperity such as ministerial sinecures and jobs with international agencies was limited to the lucky few with relatives in high places or the means to pay bribes.

"People are really feeling the gap between rich and poor now," said Ebadullah Ebadi, a spokesman for the World Food Program here. "Once there were three classes in Afghanistan: the rich, the middle and the poor. Now those in the middle are joining the poor, and prices are rising so high that people can't feed their families on salaries that once allowed them to educate their children and even save a little money."

Karzai has publicly acknowledged that corruption plagues all levels of his government, yet critics say he is either unable or unwilling to stop it. The new Afghan constitution has numerous provisions requiring officials to disclose their assets and perform their duties with financial transparency and accountability, but they are rarely heeded, according to a recent study by the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan.

The public mood of frustration, desperation and disgust has played into the hands of Taliban insurgents, who present themselves as an alternative source of justice and carry out swift physical punishments of thieves or other miscreants in rural areas under their control. It was a similar appeal to law and order in the mid-1990s, when Afghanistan was in the throes of civil war, that allowed the Taliban militia to quickly achieve power with little bloodshed.

Most Afghans do not favor a return of the Taliban, especially in cities where their extreme version of Islam clashed with the lifestyles of the country's educated classes. But more and more, people recall the five years of Taliban rule as a time of brutal but honest government, when officials lived modestly and citizens were safe from criminals.

"Nobody loved the Taliban, but what we see now is outrageous. The leaders are not rebuilding Afghanistan, they are only lining their pockets," said Abdul Nabi, 40, a high school teacher. "I haven't been paid in three months. The other day, a colleague came to me weeping and asked to borrow money to buy bread. Who can we blame for this?" he demanded. "Where can we turn to change things?"

Matthew Kauffman adds: Soldiers in Afghanistan committed suicide in record numbers in 2008, in step with a dramatic spike in combat deaths in the country, new military figures show.

Seven Army soldiers committed suicide in Afghanistan last year, compared with 15 suicides in total during the previous 75 months of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to figures from the Defense Manpower Data Center.

Col. Elspeth Ritchie, a top Army psychiatrist, said military officials during the past several years have tracked an increase in mental health problems among soldiers serving in Afghanistan. In 2004, she said, anxiety and depression were far less common among soldiers in Afghanistan, compared with those in Iraq. But by 2007 and early 2008, soldiers in Afghanistan were suffering depression and anxiety at the same rates as their counterparts in Iraq, she said.

"In Afghanistan, there are considerable barriers for providers getting to the troops due to the difficulties in travel and weather, compared to Iraq," Ritchie said.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Polio eradication possible by year-end
by Satnam Singh

Poliomyelitis was targeted for eradication by 2005. Regretfully, in 2008 India and Nigeria were the only two countries left still reporting indigenous cases, 517 and 758 respectively. In the latter part of 2008, Pakistan and Afghanistan did not report any cases and are looking forward to consolidate the gains in 2009.

Progress made by other regions of the world is as follows:

«No locally acquired cases of polio have occurred in the Americas since August 1991.

«Independent international commissions certified the WHO regions of the Western Pacific and Europe as polio-free in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Countries such as China, the Phillipines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are part of the Western Pacific WHO region.

Around mid-1970s when the smallpox eradication global programme was about to achieve its objective, India gave quite a few anxious periods. This can best be described in words of Dr Donald A Henderson, former chief of the World Health Organisation’s global smallpox eradication prograamme (1966-1977).

He was recently sharing some of his observations with the editor of Bulletin of WHO:

“Yes. During 1973 and early 1974 we were doing really well Latin America was free, Indonesia was free and Africa seemed pretty much free, except for Ethiopia. The problem was in India, where we were simply not succeeding. So in the late 1973, WHO and Indian government staff worked out a plan to visit every house in India in the space of 7-10 days.

The concept was that if we could discover the cases more quickly than before, the containment teams could interrupt the chains of transmission. The results were astounding. One state had been reporting about 500 cases a week, but the search teams found 10,000 cases. This was really a black day. We had no idea it was this bad.

“But in January and February, searches were steadily improving. India reported the largest number of cases in about 20 years. However, we sensed that we were successfully implementing the right strategy and, if we could defeat the disease in India, we could defeat it in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ethiopia. And indeed the last case in India occurred little more than a year later.”

Continuing with Dr Henderson’s response to the query on the prospects for eradication of polio. “Even towards the end of smallpox eradication, the senior staff never talked about potential eradication of any other disease. There’s a reason for this. No other disease had so many of the attributes that made smallpox amenable to eradication.

“The polio vaccine can be expensive and requires several doses and even then protection is not guaranteed. Protection against smallpox for 10 years or more is possible with a single vaccination. The smallpox vaccine could be kept at 37°C for a month, whereas the polio vaccine has to be kept cold up until it is actually administered in the field. This is difficult to do in developing countries.

“We knew exactly where smallpox was because each infected individual had a distinctive rash. With polio, there are 200 infected children for one paralytic case, so the other 199 are perfectly able to transmit it to others. And they could spread it, undetected, to many different parts of the country. You could not do what we did with smallpox in terms of focusing specifically on an outbreak and on vaccinating the people around that to prevent the spread.”

Why, instead of so many mass oral polio vaccine immunisation campaigns, has the disease continue to be reported especially from states like UP, Bihar, Karnatka and Andhra Pradesh.

Some communities refused immunisation fearing harmful health hazards for their children in future. Cold chain shortcomings in certain areas compromised the effect of the vaccine and in other places figures of vaccine coverage were fudged by field workers.

The political and state health leadership worked hard and removed the shortcomings uncovered. Currently, efforts are on by strengthening surveillance, case reporting and follow-up community-based measures to interrupt wild poliovirus transmission in particular from western UP and Bihar.

Poliovirus types 1, 2 and 3 can cause paralysis. Most often type 1 is isolated from paralytic cases and type 3 from much less cases. Circulating wild type 2 poliovirus has not been isolated since October 1999 from any of the countries.

India Expert Group, an extension of the Advisory Committee Poliomyelitis Eradication (ACPE), convened in Delhi on November 10-11, 2008, expressed optimism at the feasibility of interrupting type 1 polio in the country during the coming dry season of 2009.

To cement gains made by the use of monovalent (type1) oral vaccine the group suggested the use of inactivated polio vaccine as supplement to monovalent live oral vaccine in very high risk areas.

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Foundation — a key supporter of the global eradication effort — on a visit to India on November 5 , 2008, praised the government’s commitment to rid the country of polio and said, “I’m more convinced than ever that India will be successful in the eradication of polio”.

Let us hope that by the last quarter of this year no paralytic polio case is reported and similar status, if maintained for three more years, will get the certification from the ACPE that poliomyelitis stands eradicated from India.

The writer is a former Programme Director, WHO South Asia Regional Office, New Delhi.

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Delhi Durbar
Shekhawat back in limelight

FORMER Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is having a field day shuttling between Delhi and Rajasthan, from where he aspires to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

Back in Rajasthan, the veteran is busy covering villages — his political nurseries. In the capital, he marks his attendance every now and then lest the BJP- Shekhawat face-off should acquire a colour the leader does not like.

So he makes it a point to be around for setting the record straight. And then, there is this all-important meeting he is seeking with good friend and BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose word he considers final.

Even after two open-heart surgeries and two angioplasties, he is fit for another political innings.

Ask him if he feels sad that things should have come to such a passé between him and his erstwhile party, and he quips, “Why should I be sad? I am happy with my share of limelight. It has come after a long time.”

Who knows, Shekhawat’s time in the sun may well have just begun.

Avoiding media

BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad is an extremely media savvy person, always on hand whenever the media need a quote or byte. But he has suddenly made himself scarce of late.

The reason is not far to guess. His bete noire and film actor Shatrughan Sinha has thrown his hat in the ring to contest from the newly carved Patliputra Lok Sabha constituency, what was earlier called the Patna Lok Sabha seat.

Prasad had been working assiduously for sometime to secure a nomination for this seat and thereby graduate to the Lok Sabha from the Rajya Sabha. But with ‘Shotgun’ staking a claim, Prasad’s chances seem to be receding.

Already party insiders say ‘Shotgun’ ought to be rewarded since he has been out in the cold whereas Ravibabu has still good three to four more years to complete his second term in the Upper House.

We will have to wait for some more time at least to see who wins this combat in the party arena.

GenNext is here

Many photo journalists failed to click their cameras when the British Secretary of State entered the majestic Hyderabad House for his talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The reason being that nobody ever thought the visiting leader would be so young.

When he disembarked from his car, many thought Miliband could be part of the British delegation. The young and tall leader hardly appeared to be a politician.

It was only after he posed for photographs with Mukherjee that lensmen realised he was the one for whose pictures they had all assembled.

A senior journalist was so surprised to see the visiting dignitary that he remarked “he (Miliband) looks like a college student...after all it is time for the ‘GenNext’ to come to the centre-stage in the political arena.”

Contributed by Aditi Tandon, Faraz Ahmad, Ashok Tuteja

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