#India-Ganga is now a deadly source of cancer,#study


Anirban Ghosh | Oct 17, 2012, 12.52AM IST

 
KOLKATA: The holy Ganga is a poison river today. It’s so full of killer pollutants that those living along its banks in Uttar PradeshBiharand Bengal are more prone to cancer than anywhere else in the country, says a recent study.

Conducted by the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) under the Indian Council of Medical Research, the national study throws up shocking findings. The river is thick with heavy metals and lethal chemicals that causecancer, it says.

“We know that the incidence of cancer was highest in the country in areas drained by the Ganga. We also know why. Now, we are going deeper into the problem. Hopefully, we’ll be able to present a report to the Union health ministry in a month or two,” NCRP head A Nandkumar said.

The worst-hit stretches are east Uttar Pradesh, the flood plains of Bengal and Bihar. Cancer of the gallbladder, kidneys, food pipe, prostate, liver, kidneys, urinary bladder and skin are common in these parts. These cases are far more common and frequently found here than elsewhere in the country, the study says.

Even more frightening is the finding that gallbladder cancer cases along the river course are the second highest in the world and prostate cancer highest in the country. The survey throws up more scary findings: Of every 10,000 people surveyed, 450 men and 1,000 women were gallbladder cancer patients. Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar’s Vaishali and rural Patna and the extensive tract between Murshidabad and South 24-Parganas in West Bengal are the hot zones. In these parts, of every 1 lakh people surveyed, 20-25 were cancer patients. This is a national high. Relentless discharge of pollutants into the riverbed is responsible.

“This is the consequence of years of abuse. Over years, industries along the river have been releasing harmful effluents into the river. The process of disposing of waste has been arbitrary and unscientific. The river and those living along its banks are paying a price for this indiscretion,” Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute director Jaideep Biswas said. The Kolkata-based cancer institute is an associate of the National Cancer Registry Programme.

Biswas, a senior oncologist, said Ganga water is now laced with toxic industrial discharge such as arsenic, choride, fluoride and other heavy metals. Dipankar Chakarabarty, director, Jadavpur University School of Environmental Studies, concurs. “We’ve been extremely careless. Indiscriminate release of industrial effluents is to blame for this.”

“The arsenic that’s gets into the river doesn’t flow down. Iron and oxygen present in the water form ferroso ferric oxide, which in turn bonds with arsenic. This noxious mix settles on the riverbed. Lead and cadmium are equally heavy and naturally sink in the river. This killer then leeches back into the groundwater, making it poisonous,” Chakrabarty explains.

Surface water, Chakrabarty explains, is treated before use. But that’s clearly not the case with groundwater and it’s mostly consumed raw, often straight from source. The impact is devastating. “The consequences of using or drinking this poison can manifest earliest in two years and latest in 20. But by then, it’s way too late.” Those who’ve been bathing in this poison river are equally at danger, says Biswas. The need of the hour is to strictly implement laws regulating discharge of industrial waste into the river.

 

#Fellowship- Maternal Health #India #mustshare


THE MATERNAL HEALTH YOUNG CHAMPIONS PROGRAM

 

 

 
Maternal mortality is a major threat to women’s lives in developing countries. While maternal health outcomes have improved in some countries over the past few decades, rates of maternal death remain alarmingly high. Every minute, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth and over 300 million women in poor countries suffer from maternal morbidity. In many very poor countries the majority of mothers do not receive even the most basic health care, and quality care during childbirth – when both the mother and child are most at risk – is often unavailable.
 
Program Overview
To reduce maternal mortality and morbidity over the long-term, emerging public health leaders need to be equipped with the skills, commitment, and vision to respond fully to multiple causes and consequences of this threat.
 
Maternal Health Young Champions are students or young graduates in public health or a related field who are committed to improving maternal mortality and morbidity through either research or innovative field work in their home country.
Maternal Health Young Champions Program, a partnership between the Institute of International Education and Harvard School of Public Health, offers a unique fellowship to 10 young people who are passionate about improving maternal health in their home country. The Young Champions who are selected will be matched with in-country mentors from selected organizations for a nine-month research or field project internship focusing on a particular area of maternal health. The fellowship includes leadership training and participation in the Global Maternal Health Conference 2013 in Arusha, Tanzania.
 
Eligibility Requirements Applications are currently being accepted from candidates from Ethiopia, India, Mexico, and Nigeria who meet the following minimum criteria:
  • Bachelor’s or equivalent degree
  • 20-35 years of age
  • Clearly articulated plans for continued technical experience, research, or study
  • Demonstrated career commitment to improvement of maternal health, especially in developing countries
  • Interest in academic research or technical service provision in the field (excluding policy advocacy)
  • Articulated work/study project goals
Please circulate this information widely within your institution or networks, particularly to candidates whom you think would be excellent applicants for this program.

For more information on the program or to apply, go to www.iie.org/mhyc or contact:

John Bodra
Program Officer -India
Tel: +91-11-2651-6873                     Email: info@iieindia.org.in

APPLICATION DEADLINE-NOVEMBER 10, 2012

 

#India- #Abbott suspends giving gifts to doctors #goodnews #medicalethics


 

 

 

 

By Frederik Joelving

 

NEW YORK | Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:03pm EDT

 

(Reuters Health) – Abbott Laboratories Inc has instructed its sales representatives in India not to give gifts to doctors, who are prohibited by local law from accepting them, a practice that has been used as a bargaining chip by companies wanting a piece of the country’s burgeoning healthcare market.

 

According to an internal email dated October 11 from Sudarshan Jain, managing director of Abbott Healthcare Pvt. Ltd, the gift-giving has been temporarily suspended.

 

“Only Abbott-approved clinical/scientific literature may be distributed to current and potential customers,” said the email, which was reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday. “No brand reminders or therapy reminders in your possession should be given to any current and potential customer and no further brand reminders or therapy reminders should be ordered.”

 

Accepting gifts or travel arrangements from drugmakers is against the law in India, but enforcement is inconsistent.

 

Public health experts say gift-giving leads to dangerous overprescribing and unnecessary use of expensive medications when cheaper versions are available. That can be a significant burden for the 400 million people in India who live on less than $1.25 a day.

 

A sales representative with Abbott Healthcare told Reuters that therapy reminders are low-value items such as pens, whereas brand reminders refer to electrical appliances and other pricier merchandise.

 

The representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was not worried about his job getting harder without the gifts, but, he quipped, it would certainly make his bag lighter.

 

As multinational drug companies ramp up investments in emerging markets to realize billions of dollars in annual sales, they have faced increased scrutiny from the United States and European governments. U.S. authorities are currently probing a number of leading global drugmakers for kickbacks and bribery overseas.

 

A Reuters investigation in September showed Abbott’s Indian subsidiaries plied doctors with scanners, vacuum cleaners, coffee makers and similar items in return for prescribing the company’s drugs to patients. Sales representatives were shown lists of gifts in strategy guides issued by the company.

 

In August, Pfizer Inc paid $60.2 million to settle a U.S. probe involving illegal payments to win business overseas, including kickbacks such as cellphones and tea sets given to doctors in China. Last year, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $70 million to settle U.S. charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) that it had bribed healthcare providers in Greece, Poland and Romania.

 

Scott Davies, a spokesman for Chicago-based Abbott Labs, confirmed the decision but declined to say what had prompted the move. He said he was not aware of any inquiries from regulators about the company’s dealings in India.

 

“This is an internal action,” he told Reuters. “We are suspending that brand reminder program while we review it.”

 

Davies said the suspension encompasses Abbott Healthcare and Abbott True Care, but did not have information on whether other Indian subsidiaries would continue the practice. He declined to address travel payments.

 

(Editing by Ivan Oransky, Michele Gershberg, Maureen Bavdek and Claudia Parsons)

 

 

Release Indian citizens kept inside Bangladesh jail for 10 years illegally #mustshare


To

The Hon’ble Chairman

National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House

Copernicus Marg

New Delhi – 1

 

Respected Sir,

 

Our organization Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) is a human rights organization working in West Bengal, India, since 1997.

 

For past few years we have been in continuous fact finding effort that a large number of Indian and Bangladeshi nationals are lodged in jails in each other’s country, deprived of basic legal and human rights. They are kept in the dark at every stage from the time of their arrest. Even after completing their term of punishment as per court orders, they are not released; they have to wait for years for a formal process of exchange of prisoners to take place.

 

We have authentic information that four Indian nationals namely (i) Mr. Sukumar Mridha, son of Mr. Direndranath Mridha, residential address at village-Chargheri, Police Station- Sundarbon Coastal Chotomollakhali, District-South 24 Parganas; (ii) Mr. Kanai Mondal, son of Mr. Pradip Mondal, residential address at village-Mitrabari, Police Station-Sundarbon Coastal, District-South 24 Parganas; (iii) Mr. Ashok Mondal, son of Mr. Shyamapada Mondal, residential address at village-Kumirmari, Majherpara, Police Station- Chotomollakhali Coastal, District-South 24 Parganas and (iv) Mr. Subhas Chandra Mondal, son of late Prafulla Mondal, residential address at village- Kalidaspur 9 no. village, Police Station-Chotomollakhali Coastal Police Station, District-South 24 Parganasare spending their dark days at Satkhira Jail in Bangladesh. They were all fishermen by profession and their family members stated before our fact finding team that about 10 years ago they were arrested in the territory of Bangladesh after they by mistake entered into Bangladesh territory while they were fishing.  Those ill-fated persons are still detained in jail most probably asJan Khalas and the concerned authorities are still insensitive for their repatriation into India.   

 

It is true that in order to deport them to their respective home land a formal process of repatriation is followed by both the countries but its completion entirely depends upon the action of the bureaucratic heads of the Bangladesh and Indian Governments as well as the border forces of both the countries.  It is our hard earned experience that it takes abnormal time to complete such process even sometimes the detention undergone by the prisoners during such process are more than the term they actually spent under punishment.

 

Therefore we expect your kind interference in this matter. If you kindly take some necessary step for repatriation of those unfortunate victims who are still lodged in Satkhira Jail in Bangladesh as their family members in India are anxiously waiting for their return, it will surely be regarded as a great humanitarian example.

 

Thanking You,

Yours truly,

 

 

 

Kirity Roy,

Secretary, MASUM 

 

Pharma vs India: a case of life or death for the world’s poor #Health #drugs


WEB EXCLUSIVE, New International  Oct , 2012

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Cases being heard in Indian courts could ‘open the floodgates’ for pharmaceutical companies to challenge generic drug production and keep prices ridiculously high, explains Nick Harvey.

It’s a worrying time for the poor and the sick. Two cases brought to India’s courts by transnational pharmaceutical companies could massively effect whether people in the Global South can access life-saving medicines. The most significant of these involves Swiss drugmaker Novartis which was refused a patent in India for its anti-cancer drug Glivec (imatinib) and is now challenging the country’s patent law.

There could be significant impact on access to medicines in countries such as India. Irekia under a CC License

‘People are already dying because they can’t get treatment and if Novartis wins things will become worse,’ says Eldred Tellis, who runs a centre for drug users and people living with HIV in Mumbai. ‘They are targeting India because many quality generic drugs are produced here for many people.’

Thanks to India’s 1970 Patents Act, around one-fifth of the world’s generic drugs – containing the same active ingredients as a patented drug but made by a different company at a fraction of the price – are made in the country. As well supplying India’s huge population, these drugs are shipped to poor countries around the world.

‘We source 80 per cent of our global HIVmedicines, as well as other medicines, from India – as do the Global Fund,’ says Michelle Childs, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). ‘So what happens in India can immediately affect other countries and set a precedent for them.’

The problem with patents

Novartis is challenging a clause in the Indian law, ‘Section 3d,’ that prevents drugs being patented that are modifications of existing drugs, a tactic known as ‘evergreening’ used to extend patent periods. The company originally failed to patent Glivec in India as it was discovered before the country was forced to start patenting drugs in 2005. The latest patent application is based on a salt form of Glivec (imatinib mesylate), which, although being easier to absorb, is arguably no more effective.

Studies have found the majority of global research and development (R&D) money is used to produce these minor variations, leading not only to high prices but a lack of genuinely new drugs.

‘About 85 per cent of all new drugs are proven to be little or no better, clinically, than existing drugs,’ says Donald Light, professor of comparative healthcare at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. ‘They are all better than placebo but they are not better than last year’s drug that was better than placebo.’

As these cases move through the Indian courts, the bottom line remains that they could significantly impact access to medicines for the world’s poor.

This is at odds with the pharmaceutical industry argument that the patent system is there to allow companies to receive more money to make new medicines. Producing new drugs is, they say, such an expensive business that only the big companies can afford to do it.

‘These are potentially dangerous substances so you really need to do a lot of research,’ says Mark Grayson, deputy vice-president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). ‘You need to do clinical trials, even after the drug is on the market; you need production plants to be sterile, drugs need to be safe, all these costs need to be borne and they are not cheap.’

What they fail to mention is that the majority of R&D for developing new drugs is publicly funded. This was the case for Glivec, which was also awarded ‘orphan drug status’ in the US, allowing Novartis to receive tax breaks that paid for a large proportion of the clinical trials.

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<p>‘The vast majority of the original research on Glivec came from charities and the government,’ says <a class=Jamie Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), an intellectual property pressure group. ‘But at the very end Novartis comes in and gets a patent on it and makes a couple of billion dollars a year.’

These mammoth profits are generated by aggressive pricing. When this court case began in 2006, Novartis sold Glivec for $2,200 per person per month, while the generic version was produced in India for a tenth of that price. That companies could be facing such huge losses to generic competition has wound up the neoliberal press in the US with the Wall Street Journal calling it a ‘drug disaster.’

Countries are allowed by the World Trade Organization to produce generic drugs if there is a major public health imperative, a practice known as compulsory licensing. India issued its first compulsory licence in March, ordering German drugmaker Bayer to allow a generic manufacturer to make its cancer drug Nexavar (sorafenib) for one-thirtieth of the usual $5,000 price tag. India’s patent controller argued that not only had Bayer failed to make the drug ‘reasonably affordable’, it had failed to supply the drug in large enough quantities, a decision Bayer is challenging in the courts.

‘With a patent comes obligations, one of which is you make your medicine available in the quantities needed,’ says Michelle Childs.

Targeting the poor

As these cases move through the Indian courts, the bottom line remains that they could significantly impact access to medicines for the world’s poor. If both Novartis and Bayer win, the floodgates could open for companies to challenge the laws and licences that allow generic drug production.

With the vast majority of profits in the pharmaceutical sector being made in wealthy countries, why are poor countries being targeted so aggressively? The answer, like so many others, relates to inequality. While not currently profitable, poorer countries are seen as ‘emerging markets’ because of their burgeoning middle classes.

Most of the people affected by high drug prices will die knowing nothing about patents, laws, licences or pharmaceutical companies

‘The drug companies see India as a market of 100 million, although that’s less than 10 per cent of the population,’ says Jamie Love. ‘These are the people they care about, as they are the ones with enough money.’

This desire to keep the Indian élite onside may be why Novartis’s chairperson Daniel Vasellareportedly donated hundreds of ancient Indian sculptures to a Mumbai museum last month. But most of the people affected by high drug prices will never visit a museum. And most will die knowing nothing about patents, laws, licences or pharmaceutical companies.

‘The people we work with on the ground have no idea what’s going on right now in the courts,’ says Eldred Tellis. ‘But we do, and we know that Novartis losing is their best chance to live.’

 

#India – #Aadhar a magic number? #UID #Privacy


 

The unique identity number will reduce corruption an bottlenecks in governance delivery. But many issues, especially regarding privacy continue to dog the project
PRATAP VIKRAM SINGH | OCTOBER 22 2012

 

To fight corruption at the lower levels and eliminate role of middlemen the central government has introduced the unique identity number, Aadhar, in the delivery of social security services and subsidy – which, according to an estimate, accounts for Rs4 lakh crore annually. Aadhar, the “magic number”, has been endorsed by the topmost functionaries of the government as citizens’ “right to identity” and a “boon for government schemes”. One of the prime deliverables of an Aadhar enabled services delivery system would be to facilitate the direct transfer of benefits into the beneficiary’s account. Benefits through pension, scholarship, employment guarantee programme (MNREGA), public distribution system and subsidy on kerosene and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) will directly flow into the right hands.

As rightly pointed by the prime minister during the launch of Aadhar enabled services delivery system, in Dudu in Rajasthan, the government  delivers scholarship to 1.5 crore students, old age pensions to two crore senior citizens, cashless health insurance  through Rashtriya Swasthya Beema Yojana (RSBY) to 3 crore families and wages under MNREGA to five crore families. In most certainty, Aadhar integration with these schemes will put a check on the pilferage happening at the delivery level.

Secondly, with the Aadhar number you can access the services from any location irrespective of where you come from. This is huge advantage for people who migrate from one place to the other in search of livelihood. Thirdly, Aadhar will boost financial inclusion. As soon RBI issues notification, which is expected in couple of months, a person will be able to open an account just on the basis of Aadhar , which could be used as a standard KYC (know our customer). This will lead to huge reduction of cost incurred by the banks in customer acquisition. An Aadhar enabled banking will also give big boost to electronic and mobile banking and will facilitate cashless transactions, micro in size, but massive in scale.

The unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) conducted multiple pilot projects, which has resulted in considerable financial benefits to the exchequer. In one of the pilots, in Mysore, though Aadhar linkage, the cooking gas connections witnessed a dip by 40 percent. In another, kerosene consumption fell by 80 percent, in Alwar. Similarly, pensions’ delivery under five schemes in Aurangabad witnessed savings of Rs 7.7 crore.

However, despite all successful pilots, the integration of UID with government schemes faces multiple challenges. A latest study on the pilot project on direct cash transfer being run in Delhi for past one year contradicts the government’s assumptions. The study, which was conducted by the Delhi government and United Nations Development Programme, highlights the use of cash (given in place of ration into the beneficiary’s account) for availing private health care services by the beneficiaries. Although the report found that the ration money was not utilised by the beneficiaries for liquor consumption, this may not hold true for rest of the rural India, where many liquor consuming men rarely think twice before using the savings in buying more liquor.

On a more practical level, the poor telecom network in rural areas is another key challenge in operationalising Aadhar enabled services delivery system. As Aadhar authentication happens online (in contrast to smart cards which also facilitate offline authentication), it requires GPRS connectivity, which is still a distant dream in the rural areas in states like Chhattisgarh.

The integration of government schemes with Aadhar and the monitoring of services delivery system itself requires massive computerisation of the databases and records of the respective lien departments. Unfortunately, it has been quite slow even after six years of the launch of the national e-governance plan, which has allocated more than Rs 30,000 crore for the same.

Moreover, the perception on integration of Aadhar with social security schemes as a panacea to the challenges surrounding the government spending and services delivery system is too naïve. The application of Aadhar in eliminating corruption in services delivery system has its own limitations. For example, in MNREGA, as rightly pointed out by Jean Dreze, the substantial pilferage happens during the purchase of materials. The wage disbursement, itself, cannot be checked in case of a quid pro quo between the wage earners and the pradhan (elected village head). Moreover, the exclusion of the actual beneficiary and inclusion of ghost beneficiaries is primarily because of wrong identification by the state governments.

Lastly, the privacy concerns raised by the civil society organisations on centralised data storage and possibility of sharing the same data with other agencies are yet to be answered by the government.

 

CNDP Appeals To The Australian PM Against Uranium Export to India


 

Dear Prime Minister,

We urge you to reconsider the decision to supply uranium to India. This uranium will fuel the massive expansion of nuclear power programme that the Indian government is undemocratically pushing on poor people of India, criminally overlooking the concerns of safety, environment, livelihoods of surrounding populations and the financial implications.

Supplying uranium to India also amounts to legitimizing its status as a nuclear weapons state. At a time when people’s aspirations for comprehensive nuclear disarmament have heightened globally, any such dilution of disarmament norms would be unfortunate.

As the struggles of common people, farmers, fisherfolk, women and children in places like Koodankulam, Jaitapur(Maharashtra), Mithivirdi (Gujaratat), Fatehabad (Haryana), Chutka (Madhya Pradesh), Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh) etc have highlighted, the nuclear expansion is in no way helping the poor, as it was claimed by you while reversing the Australian Labour Party’s policy of not supplying uranium to India. In fact, under the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Indian elite offered the lives and livelihoods of its poor people, India’s huge consumer market and rehabilitating global nuclear corporates in return for an elusive seat on the nuclear high table.

In Koodankulam 2 fishermen have died recently in a brutal police repression while large numbers of protesters are languishing in jail. Charges of sedition and ‘war against the Indian state’ have been leveled against thousands of non-violent protesters in past few months. In the pursuit of this nuclear insanity, the government has brushed aside the voices of its own secretaries, the Chief Information Commissioner, members of the National Advisory Council and voices of independent experts and eminent citizens. We reiterate our demand to drop all fictitious charges against the Koodankulam protesters and initiate a broad-based public consultation on nuclear energy.

Parliamentarians from UK and Australia, human rights organizations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, and citizens groups from more than 165 countries have condemned the police brutalities on the anti-nuclear protesters in India. We urge you to take a principled stand and reconsider supplying fuel to the Indian government’s nuclear insanity.

For CNDP,

Achin Vanaik
Admiral L. Ramdas
Amarjeet Kaur
N D Jayaprakash
Praful Bidwai
Sukla Sen
Anil Chaudhary
Lalita Ramdas

 

ATTN #London-Stop Koodankulam protest,@24th Oct #Aldwych


Join us at Stop Koodankulam protest, Wednesday 24th October

Thosands rally against Kodankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu

Protest outside Indian high commission.
This protest is part of the international day of action.
Protests will also take place on the same date in Belgium, Germnay, Malaysia,India, Sri Lanka.

Wednesday 24 October
4pm to 7pm
India House Aldwych
WC2B 4NA
Nearest tube: Holborn
  • Stop the project to build a nuclear power station at Koodankulam immediately
  • Stop police brutality against Koodankulam campaigners. Defend the democratic right to protest
  • Abolish all nuclear projects in Tamil Nadu and all Indian states. We demand massive public investment into renewable energy, the sources for which are abundant in India, and in millions of green jobs, with decent pay and health and safety legislation
  • End western government investment in Indian nuclear projects. Solidarity with all those fighting big corporates involved in energy across the planet – people and planet – not big business profit – must be the priorities
  • Header image alt text

Solidarity For Koodankulam Struggle From UK

Thousands demonstrate at Koodankulam nuclear power plant, Tamil Nadu
20 October, 2012, http://www.foilvedanta.org/

A number of Foil Vedanta members were represented at this meeting in the House of Commons. We send our solidarity to those affected and fighting this dirty and dangerous technology being forced upon them.

Doctors, academics, legal workers and activists at a packed meeting in the House of Commons in London last night (18 October) declared their solidarity with the protesters against the nuclear power plants at Koodankulam, India and Hinkley Point, Somerset, UK and their opposition to nuclear power as a source of energy. The meeting was hosted by MP Caroline Lucas and organized jointly by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and South Asia Solidarity Group .

Caroline Lucas M.P. told the meeting that she was deeply worried about the situation in Koodankulam – both in terms of the nuclear plant and the treatment of local opponents. She also condemned David Cameron’s policy of exporting civil nuclear technology to India.

She said “In agreeing to lift a ban on the export of nuclear technology and components to India, Prime Minister David Cameron ignored official recommendations and shunned concerns that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. The government also seems untroubled by the fact that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, the organisation in charge of safety in all of India’s nuclear facilities, shares staff with, and is funded by, the organisations it is supposed to be regulating. This clearly compromises its ability to act independently and to enforce vigorous safety regulations. The fact that the nuclear establishment in India is under no obligation to disclose information on the nuclear power sector to citizens, nor does the country have a long-term radioactive waste disposal policy only adds to the concerns. I pay tribute to the campaign against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, which is standing up for local people in the face of human rights abuses by the police and the authorities. By standing in solidarity together, we can send a clear and strong message that nuclear power is not a welcome solution to our energy needs.”

Poste

#India-Delhi HC intervenes to see SC/ST students clear an MBBS paper


Jitender Gupta
Pushed around Dr Manish (standing) and other SC/ST students of VMCC
Society: discrimination
The Drona Syndrome
It takes Delhi HC to see SC/ST students clear an MBBS paper
The Vardhaman Mahavir Medical College is considered one of the best medical colleges in India. It is located in the national capital and its teaching hospital is the well-known Safdarjung Hospital. From all accounts, it’s also a place that needs to completely overhaul its prejudices. Twenty-five students of the college, all belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs), have had to move the Delhi High Court in sheer frustration, having repeatedly failed exams because of alleged discrimination. Teachers don’t seem to take the students’ grievances seriously: one teacher told Bhalchandra Mungekar, ex-Planning Commission member and MP, who headed a commission of inquiry into the complaints, that some  failures were because of “typographical mistakes”. Attitudes are unlikely to change soon. “The authorities mock us as ‘court batch’ students,” says Dr Manish, one of those who filed the case. “We continue to face a hostile atmosphere in college.”

Mungekar’s report to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, finalised after a series of meetings between the aggrieved students and the college authorities, held between February and June this year, gives an account of the troubles these students were put through. “Most of the active energy of these students is diverted and wasted in fighting such injustice,” says the report, a copy of which is with Outlook. “It leaves them frustrated, sometimes compelling them to give up studies midway. Occasionally, it even forces them to end their life.”

***

Damned spots!


The report of the Bhalchandra Mungekar (above) finds fault with the principal and other faculty members of VMMC.

***

The report focused on one college, but the bias probably exists in most colleges across India; what is shocking, though, is its existence in premier institutions offering professional courses such as those in medicine, engineering, business management, law and so on. In March, Anil Kumar Meena, an ST student of the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)—just a few minutes’ walk from Vardhaman Medical College—had committed suicide. Inability to cope with English, and also with how SC/ST students were looked upon by teachers and fellow students, was blamed. Tragic examples of this sort are not hard to find in colleges across the country.

The Mungekar report, though, was prompted by what one set of SC/ST students went through at one college. It’s a harrowing ordeal. Of the 35 SC/ST students admitted to the 2004-09 MBBS batch at Vardhaman Medical College, 25 hadn’t cleared the physiology exam even by July 2010, having failed repeatedly. Physiology is a pre-clinical subject, normally cleared in two semesters in the first one-and-a-half years of admission to the course. These students took a supplementary exam in October 2010—and again failed to clear it, despite having passed in other subjects. Failure in the October 2010 test meant they lost another year. The report says SC/ST students made between four and 13 attempts at passing physiology; eight failed despite 4-9 attempts and left the course; 24 have not yet passed despite 2-8 attempts. In contrast, not one general category student failed the physiology exams held in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In the same years, 15, 14 and 25 SC/ST students failed in the subject.

The students had written to the vice-chancellor of the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, to which the college is affiliated. They had also approached the college authorities, and finding their supplications ignored, used the Right to Information Act (RTI) to find out why they’d failed repeatedly. “All this points to discrimination by design against these students,” says Mungekar, who has also recommended that the students be paid `10 lakh each in compensation for the discrimination they had been made to suffer.

“It must be emphasised that the hostility of the college authorities towards SC/ST students is found to be so strong that the latter always had to approach the information commission with applications under RTI,” says the report. The report also wants Dr Shobha Das, the director, professor and head of the department of physiology, suspended under the Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1978. Das was the one who put forth the “typographical mistake” explanation.

The commission was shocked at the casual manner adopted by the college authorities. An RTI application revealed that one student, Rajeev Kumar Meena of the 2007 batch, had obtained seven marks for the theory part and 11 for the practicals in the July 2010 exam. But the results said he’d scored six and eight marks respectively. He was failed. Das, the physiology department head, claims to have tried to have the error rectified but  the college had already declared the results so it was in vain. No action was taken against Das for the mistake either.

The students had nowhere to go. The college does have a liaison officer to look specifically into the grievances of SC/ST students, but he didn’t care to record their complaints. The report notes that the principal, Dr V.K. Sharma, wasn’t even aware there was such a liaison officer. Sharma himself proved to be of little help; it was when he failed to address the students’ grievances that they approached the court, which ordered the college to allow the failed students to attend class. The college authorities brazenly ignored the order for a year till the students’ counsel reminded them.

The court’s observation is telling: “We’ll be failing in our duty if we do not deal with the submissions of the students, who belong to a different stratum of society, and are facing a hostile atmosphere because they have approached us…” Later, on a court order dated July 8, 2011, the students took a supplementary exam in physiology, conducted by the Army College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, under close supervision of the court and in a supportive atmosphere. Many of the students who had been failing in physiology since 2004 passed this time. The ending was not so happy, actually—for in addition to all the extra-curricular efforts they had to take to fight the discrimination, it must be remembered that the students ended up having to attend classes with a fresh batch, losing a year anyway.

As Mungekar observed, “The casual manner in which the college authorities treated this matter not only shows indifference but also the contempt they have for SC/ST students.” Some of the students, it must be noted here, were even forced to drop out in the face of such behaviour. Sadly, the Mungekar committee’s findings about prejudices against SC/ST students—and a lack of willingness to address special needs any group might have—could well apply to many colleges across the country. However high they may stand in the rankings.

Pakistani-American Raps For #Malala Yousafzai #spokenword #poetry #vaw #Taliban


A man holds a candle next a picture of Malala Yousufzai at a school in Lahore. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)

A man holds a candle next a picture of Malala Yousufzai at a school in Lahore. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)

By- Suka Kalantari,  at the  theworld.org

The day after 14-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out for women’s education, Zaki Syed, a 24-year-old Pakistani-American rapper from Sacramento, California, started getting a lot of phone calls asking him to write a rap about it.

“I was getting calls from people in Pakistan saying, ‘Hey, you have to do something. You have to write something.’ Even my mom was like, ‘You do a rap for everybody, you should do something for her too.’”

But Syed says he had already began writing a spoken-word poem dedicated to Malala Yousafzai, which he’s now posted on YouTube.

Syed starts the spoken-word poem saying, “All she really wants to do is read. The first verse in the Quran is to read.” He said that an important belief in Islam is to educate ones self.

“Reading and getting an education is an Islamic right,” Syed said. “This was just a way of responding to the Taliban extremists and possibly any future extremists who try to come out and justify what had been done. I wanted to make it very clear that Islam, or God, would not condone what they did. The Quran says that God is telling the prophet to read. It’s like your Muslim duty to go out and be educated and be knowledgeable.”

In both Urdu and English, Syed raps, “You sisters, you mothers, you daughters: the respect of the nation is in your hands.” He explains it’s a very old saying in Pakistan. He sang it in both languages to make sure young women in Pakistan understood the lyrics.

“It says that the nation is in women’s hands. And it’s up to them to lead the way. I was thinking of all Muslims when I wrote this. My attack was towards the Taliban, but also to tell the nation of Pakistan that literacy is something we’re suffering and she was trying to advance it. She is a representation of something that people in Pakistan desperately need, which is education.”

Syed, who is also a sociology student at Sacramento State, produced another rap video last month urging tolerance and understanding of Sikhs in the wake of the Wisconsin shootings. In an interview with The World’s Marco Werman he says he uses rap to break down stereotypes.

“I think that the media has always stereotyped – made a stereotype – that anyone who has a beard, who has a turban, must be a terrorist,” Syed said. “That’s very untrue and, in fact, most Muslims don’t even have turbans.”

Syed has also rapped about Pakistan’s earthquake, the floods in Bangladesh, and the discrimination that sometimes comes with growing up as a Muslim-American after 9-11.

Lyrics to “Malala Yousafzai”
Chorus:

All she really wants to do is Read
The first verse in the Quran is to Read
Because when you read to the people you go out and Lead
When Malala bleeds the whole country bleeds
Because she represents the seed of what we need
So many mouths and minds to feed
So when the Taliban, Yeah when the Taliban shot Malala
They shot a part of Pakistan, The Part of Pakistan
That believed in the first verse of the Quran and that is
and that is to read
All she really wants to do is Read
The first verse in the Quran is to Read
Because when you read to the people you go out and Lead
When Malala bleeds the whole country bleeds
Because she represents the seed of what we need
So many mouths and minds to feed

Lyrics:
Now Swat Valley is a beautiful place
But Swat Valley has turned into a murderous place
Swat Valley is also the same place in which Malala was born in 1998
Who would of thought a gunman would try to decide her fate
But no gunman can decide her fate, only God can
I think God had a plan for her to fight Taliban
Woman’s education was at the top of her goal
So when they banned school
They straight up crushed her soul
So she started to blog and she started to protest, and pretty soon became activists
A symbol for Pakistani people that were starting to feel repressed
Stuck in war between the east and the west
U.S. foreign policy and Taliban causing a mess
So when Malala was shot by an extremist the whole country screamed that shedidn’t deserve this
It sparked of something you wouldn’t believe
People saying the Taliban has hijacked my country
And that it is time for them to leave
Protests in Numerous Pakistani Cities
And I heard 50 Islamic clerics have issued Fatwas condemning the Talibans actions now
Wow like how could a child so young become the voice of inspiration
For everyone, like so many women who go to school and then work at night
Only to come home and prepare meals for their families at night
But one of these women told me she is no longer feeling bad about her life
No she is thinking about Malala’s sacrifice and how she herself is lucky to live in a
place where she can be independent and utilize her education right
An inspiration and Light so I use Malala’s message when I talk to Pakistani Women to Unite
Tum batia, Tum Maaou, Tum baana quam ki izzat aap ki haath main hai
You sisters, you mothers, you daughters the respect of the nation is in your hands
So don’t say we cant only say that we can, to a higher education
To a better Pakistan, my Pakistan, your Pakistan
Mera Pakistan, Tumara Pakistan, Hamara Pakistan
Yee Pyari Zameen aur yee pyara Asman
Broken into little tukra by the U.S. Drone Strikes and Taliban
And somebody better please help the Taliban understand that
The Prophet Muhammad told us that Paradise was at our Mothers feet
And to honor our daughters and to treat them with respect so tell me Tehreeki
Taliban is this how you treat your Muslim Sister with respect, by shooting her in the
head and the neck
What kind of Islam is this, what kind of Islam is this, What kind of Islam is this
Please let me know what your following cause I know its not Islam
How could you hurt a girl for trying to follow the first verse of the Quran
Because all she wanted to do was to read

Chorus:
All she really wants to do is Read
The first verse in the Quran is to Read
Because when you read to the people you go out and Lead
When Malala bleeds the whole country bleeds
Because she represents the seed of what we need
So many mouths and minds to feed
So when the Taliban, Yeah when the Taliban shot Malala
They shot a part of Pakistan, The Part of Pakistan
That believed in the first verse of the Quran and that is
and that is to read
Also if the U.S is get inspired by women rights
And wants to fight the good fight then stop the drop strikes
Because education needs to be at the core of any mission
So stop dropping bombs and start dropping knowledge
You say you are for womens rights then why don’t you build a women’s college
Because Illiteracy and Poverty is disease, and drone strikes are the propaganda
on which the Taliban feeds, people joining them because theyre angry that theyre
families have been wiped out entirely
And revenge could keep us in a mental fortitude of slavery
So I am praying really hard for Malalas recovery
Because she brought the proof to the truth, and the truth to abosolute,
And absolute to the proof, proof to the absolute, and absolute to the truth
That’s what happens when education succeeds
Iqra bismi rabbika, read, read, read