NHRC has not given clean chit to Chhattisgarh Govt on Soni Sori as reported in Media

RAIPUR, April 15, 2013

NHRC gives clean chit to Chhattisgarh Government on Soni Sori



  While various national women’s organisations decried an attempt to make Soni Sori, the tribal school teacher accused of acting as a courier between Essar Steel and outlawed Maoists, undergo a “psychiatric evaluation” as a “sinister ploy” by the Chhattisgarh government, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has given a clean chit to the State government on the treatment meted out to the tribal school teacher. Last week, Ms. Sori informed the NHRC members that she has been “treated better” over the last few months, the NHRC claimed in a press statement.

Several national women’s organisations in Delhi decried psychiatric examination conducted on Ms. Sori recently in Jagdalpur jail where she is currently lodged. In a joint statement, seven women’s organisations said that in December 2012, a team of National Commission of Women (NCW) conducted a jail visit here and met Ms. Sori in custody.

“While the NCW report of the visit is still pending, a stray remark made by NCW member Shamina Shafiq, that Ms. Sori needed psychological counselling seems to have provided the Chhattisgarh government the pretext to carry out a full-fledged psychiatric evaluation on her, with the potential of declaring her mentally unsound,” the organisations said in a joint statement. Annie Raja, general secretary of National Federation of Indian Women, who was also part of the NCW team visiting the jail, pointed out that Ms. Shafiq’s remark was not an opinion shared by the entire team and hence, does not have the legitimacy of a formal observation. Hence, in a letter to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, the organisations demanded quashing of further proceedings in “psychiatric evaluation” and initiate steps to redress Ms. Sori’s genuine grievances of “sexual torture and ill-treatment.”

Another statement issued by the NHRC a day after the statement made by the women’s organisation, however, gave a clean chit to the Chhattisgarh government. The NHRC sent a two-member team to Jagdalpur jail on April 10 to “meet her to know her condition.”

“Ms. Sori informed the team that she has been treated better since the NHRC’s last visit,” the statement said. The Commission expressed “hope that the jail authorities would continue to give proper treatment to Ms. Sori.” A.G. Balakrishnan, chief of the Commission Justice, read out the statement here.

While the NHRC’s maiden ‘full commission’ in Chhattisgarh ended in a damp squib on Friday, the Commission took up certain matters and asked the government for a follow-up report. For example, in the case of 7,000 allegedly fake hysterectomies under the Centre’s insurance scheme Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY), the Commission has asked the State government for a detailed report within a month. Hysterectomies, or removal of the uterus, have been carried out in 169 hospitals in Chhattisgarh to claim money under RSVY, according to the Commission’s press statement.

In two cases of fake encounters, mentioned in the press statement, the Commission recommended a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased. Those killed in separate police encounters are Kunjami Joga of Kurtrem village of Dantewada and a Naxalite named Ramesh Barumana for “violation of human rights”. Compensation has also been recommended in cases of custodial killing of 25-year-old trial prisoner Kunjami Kosa and Santosh Dahriya. The State government “gracefully agreed” to pay compensation in all the cases, said the statement.

  • NHRC had sent a two-member team to Jagdalpur jail to know Sori’s condition
  • ‘Sori informed that she has been treated better since the NHRC’s last visit


There is no “clean chit” to the Chhattisgarh government.

On 28 July 2012, Soni Sori wrote a letter to the Supreme Court Judge saying that she is being subjected to humiliating treatment inside the Raipur jail:

“Your Honour, at this time, I am in great mental turmoil and suffering.
1. I am being made to sit naked on the ground.
2. I am suffering from hunger
3. Each part of my body is touched as I am searched.
I am being labelled as a “traitor” and “naxalite” and tortured. My clothes, soap, detergent have all been confiscated and all kinds of accusations are heaped upon me. All my belongings are searched after I am taken for a hearing.”

This formed the basis of an NHRC complaint, and it was to investigate this complaint that the NHRC visited Soni Sori in the Raipur Central Jail on 19 Nov 2012.  The visiting NHRC team confirmed that Soni Sori was being mistreated inside the jail.  The NHRC’s summary page says:

“The report of the Commission’s team shows that there are grounds to believe that Soni Sori has on several occasions beensingled out for harsh and humiliating ill-treatment. Even as a prisoner, she has a right to personal dignity and the right not to be subjected to physical or psychological abuse. It appears that these rights have sometimes been violated. The Commission expects the Government of Chhattisgarh to ensure that the traumatic ordeals and the odious practices to which Soni Sori has been subjected more than once are immediately stopped and do not recur.”


The visiting NHRC team reportedly reprimanded the Raipur jail staff, following which Soni has reported, that these daily harassments stopped.
Subsequently, Soni Sori was shifted out of the Raipur Central Jail on 24 Jan 2013 and taken to Jadgalpur Central Jail.  Now, on 10 April 2013, another 2 member team of the NHRC visited Soni Sori in Jagdalpur Jail and inquired whether the mistreatment of which she had complained was continuing, and she has reportedly told them (as she has told us) that she is no longer being singled out for harassment on a daily basis inside the jail.
This is hardly a clean chit to the Chhattisgarh Government!  The findings of the Commission still remain – and the findings are that Soni Sori was being subjected to “traumatic ordeals and odious practices” inside the Raipur Central Jail. Just because the ill-treatment stopped after a reprimand doesn’t erase the fact that gross ill-treatment existed at all!
As has  been pointed out earlier — the NHRC is NOT looking into the complaint of sexual torture in police custody — that complaint is before the Supreme Court (and has been stuck there forever).  To my knowledge, the complaint of this unnecessary “psychiatric evaluation” has also not been made before the NHRC (since the focus was on getting the NCW to move). So the NHRC has validated the limited complaint that was before it — of mistreatment inside Raipur Jail –and has NOT given the govt a clean chit.  This would be like giving a wife-beater a clean chit for every day that he does not beat his wife.
[That the NHRC has not done more — like take punitive action against jail staff, order compensation for Soni Sori etc. — are of course issues that still need to be taken up with the NHRC.]


#SoniSori doesn’t need counselling #Vaw #custodialrape #WTFnews


DIVYA TRIVEDI, The Hindu, Dec 25, 2012

In contrast to the statement made by National Commission for Women (NCW) member Amina Shafiq that tribal teacher Soni Sori lodged in the Raipur Central Jail required psychological counselling, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) general secretary Annie Raja said there was no need.

Ms. Raja, who visited the 36-year-old teacher earlier this month, along with an NCW delegation, has submitted a report to the Commission, expressing her views. NCW is in the process of finalising the report before making it public. Soni has been regularly writing letters, and has submitted a set of demands in writing to the team which visited her. A person who needed psychological counselling won’t be able to present her case so sharply, Ms. Raja said.

“I met Soni Sori along with the NCW team and spoke to her. She definitely underwent a lot of violence, and even the team acknowledged that ‘something happened’ in police custody. But I don’t think she needs counselling. Truth is, I have evidence that she doesn’t require it, and have submitted a report to the NCW on this. I am just waiting for them to finalise the report, after which we will have a press conference,” she told The Hindu.

“She is hale and healthy. We didn’t find any fault with her health, though she is under emotional trauma, which is natural, considering she has been in custody for more than a year. She needs counselling,” Ms. Amina is reported to have said, after the meeting with Soni.

“NCW says Soni needs psychological counselling to deal with the trauma suffered in police custody. This means that NCW acknowledges that Soni has suffered custodial torture. Why doesn’t NCW then demand that the people who inflicted the torture in police custody be investigated, prosecuted and punished? Justice will heal Soni. Isn’t it Soni’s right to get justice and NCW’s duty to protect her rights?” asks advocate Vrinda Grover.

In her letters, Soni has been complaining of bad health and being denied sustenance, apart from being forced to strip.A tribal teacher in Dantewada district, Soni was taken into custody from Delhi in October last year, on charges of being a courier between Maoists and the Essar group.


The case against cash transfers #UID #Aadhaar

If the system doesn’t work, don’t fix it, just dismantle it, the government appears to be saying in the matter of cash transfers in lieu of subsidies, writes Sachin Kumar Jain

Public distribution system (PDS)

Since 2005, the government has indicated a preference for a policy of cash transfers in lieu of  subsidies it provides to people under various welfare schemes (health, education, agriculture, food rations, etc). The Delhi government has initiated a cash-for-food pilot in two urban slums. Their logic is that people are then free to ‘buy’ these services in the open market.

Therein hangs a tale. The World Bank and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are  key organisations pushing cash transfer policies in India, arguing that people do not receive their entitlements and benefits related to basic services, and so it is time to adopt alternatives, the best one being to transfer cash instead of providing services and substance.

In a paper on the issue, the UNDP argues: “Cash transfer schemes are also being advocated in the Indian context as a measure of enhancing the efficiency of delivery of government programmes. It is well known that the administrative cost of delivery of services in the country is high, there are substantial leakages, and inter-sectoral coordination is not optimal. It has been argued by some that the amount of Rs 2,000 billion that is spent annually on food, fuel and fertiliser subsidies may be better utilised by providing cash directly to the beneficiaries or to the gram panchayats (locally elected village councils) that in turn can implement schemes for the poor… CCT (conditional cash transfer) schemes have been observed to promote more regular health check-ups among pregnant women and children in countries with a good and functioning health infrastructure.” (http://www.undp.org.in/content/cct/CCT_DP.pdf)

The UNDP paper further advocates conditional cash transfers to improve education levels, health indicators and social wellbeing. It says: “Conditional cash transfers are different from unconditional cash transfers — grants to vulnerable persons/groups on the basis of certain predetermined eligibility criteria. Social transfers such as pensions to senior citizens, the physically challenged, children, etc, are the most common unconditional cash transfers. The main difference as compared to CCT schemes is that they are unconditional programmes and do not attempt to influence individual/household consumption preferences. They recognise the vulnerability of those whom the scheme addresses and make provision of a cash grant to enable individual/group coping mechanisms, often in response to guaranteed human rights. These constitute protective social security measures.” Still, the UNDP has provided funding of $10 million, in four phases, to the Delhi government to pilot cash-for-food, which will replace food from the public distribution system (PDS).

In a survey conducted by the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and the Right to Food Campaign, in Delhi’s slum settlements in May-June 2011, a mere 201 out of the 4,005 BPL (below the poverty line) women interviewed stated that they preferred cash transfers; 91% of BPL families wanted the distribution of subsidised foodgrain to continue. Of course, they looked forward to structural improvements in the PDS.

During documentation of a series of case studies on food insecurity and hunger among tribals in Madhya Pradesh, by Vikas Samvad, it was found that people from tribal communities overwhelmingly prefer food, for various practical reasons.

Seventy-year-old Puswa Mawasi of Madulihai village in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district possesses a BPL ration card. But he has never received more than 20 kg of foodgrain, that too of inferior quality. Often, he visits the ration shop only to find it shut. Sukvariya, a 68-year-old woman tells a similar story.

Anjanwada is a village in Sondhwa tehsil of Alirajpur district that has been affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project. The dam has submerged the livelihood resources of 60 of the 63 families residing in the village, yet all these families have been allotted APL (above the poverty line) ration cards. If a villager falls ill, it’s inevitably life-threatening as it takes three hours by boat to navigate the reservoir waters to the nearest primary health centre (which is almost always shut). No public transport system has been set up either by the Narmada Valley Development Authority or the state government.

During our field survey, we asked Puswa Mawasi whether people would be willing to accept cash transfers as an alternative to foodgrain rationing, considering the dismal state of the public distribution system. He thought for a while before replying: “Then we would have to go to Majgawan tehsil headquarters to get our rations from the private dealer.” After a pause, he added: “The cost of foodgrain keeps going up day by day. That would be the end of us, and we would all die of hunger… Our government took more than 12 years to increase the old age pension amount. No, we only want food.”

Sukvariya Bai chipped in: “Cash? No, never. Even today, the liquor contractors spell death for us. If cash flows in place of food, it would not go towards foodgrain but be spent on liquor and gambling. The young seek new pleasures every day. Every rupee we get will be splurged on such frivolous pastimes. Just reform the ration shops and their staff. That’s enough for us.”

The adivasis of Anjanwada speak with one voice. “Will we be cured if cash comes into our hands? The hospital staff already fleece us. Things would get even more difficult with private healthcare. No, we don’t want cash. Just give us foodgrain and healthcare,” they say.

The Nandi Foundation, which supports the idea of cash transfers and putting an end to government involvement in social welfare administration, conducted a survey in 12 districts of Madhya Pradesh in 2010, to assess the opinion of beneficiaries about the policy change. It found that 95% of women opposed the idea of dismantling the public distribution system and replacing it with cash transfers. Women firmly believe that the cash will never come into their hands because, in most families, control of money is in the hands of men who do not always spend it on basic necessities.

Forty economists from around the world (working in internationally renowned universities like Harvard, LSE, D-School, IGIDR, ISI, Princeton, Columbia, Warwick, etc) have written (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-06-01/news/29608448_1_pds-) to the prime minister urging universalisation of the public distribution system. They have also appealed against cash transfers replacing foodgrain rationing. Acting on the appeal of these learned economists, an intensive study of 1,227 households was undertaken in March-June 2011, in 100 randomly selected villages of nine districts, covering Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, under the leadership of Indian researchers Professor Jean Dreze and Ritika Khera. (http://infochangeindia.org/a-pds-that-works-is-better-than-cash-transfers.html)

The study showed that 91% of people in Andhra Pradesh, 88% in Orissa, 90% in Chhattisgarh, and 81% in Himachal Pradesh want only foodgrain. Only 11% in Tamil Nadu, 15% in Rajasthan, and 22% in Jharkhand prefer cash. It is revealing to note that among those giving priority to cash, most are males.

The people surveyed pointed out that there are no other shops besides the government ration shop, in most habitations. So where would they go with their cash? At least at present, foodgrain was available and was being distributed equally. With cash there would be no such equity.

Votaries of cash transfers

K Seethaprabhu, senior assistant country director in India for the United Nations Development Programme, in her paper titled ‘Can Conditional Cash Transfers Work in Rural India?’ writes: “The Indian government is seriously studying the implications of introducing such programmes to address India’s nutritional challenges. In March 2008, ‘Dhanalakshmi’ — a CCT for female children with insurance cover — was introduced on an experimental basis in 11 educationally backward blocks across Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Punjab. The programme provides for cash transfers to the family of a female child on their fulfilling specific conditions: birth and registration of the child, immunisation, enrolment and retention in school. If the girl remains unmarried until the age of 18, insurance cover of Rs 100,000 will be given to her. Several state governments have launched variations of CCT programmes, providing incentives to promote the birth, survival, and education of girls. For example, the Ladli scheme of the governments of Delhi and Haryana puts money in the bank at various stages; the full amount is provided to the girl when she turns 18.”

This approach leaves the question of inequality unanswered. While advocating conditional cash transfers, institutions like the UNDP combine it with unconditional cash transfers, further complicating the issue. They also emphasise the need to strengthen public service institutions like schools, hospitals and the public distribution system.

The World Bank, in its report ‘Social Protection for a Changing India’, launched in May 2011, said: “No country in the world has a well-functioning PDS system. India is no exception. India’s public distribution system has limited benefits due to huge leakage and wastage.” It recommends cash transfers as an alternative to providing subsidised food for the poor. Quoted here is part of a news report (based on the abovementioned World Bank report) on the World Bank’s recommendation, which says: “Leakages and diversion of grains are high. Only 41% of the grain released by the government reaches households, according to 2004-05 NSS (the latest data available), with some states doing much worse. In 2001, the Planning Commission has estimated this leakage of BPL grain at 58% nationally.”

The report, prepared at the request of the Government of India, shows that India’s policymakers and the World Bank are travelling in the same boat and do not believe in drastic reforms in the PDS. Instead of reforms, they are ready to dismantle the system. They don’t want to accept the argument that the PDS is fundamentally necessary to protect food producer farmers, offset price fluctuations and ensure food security to the country at large. They forget that India is not a country with an 85% urban population or 5% poor population — where cash transfers have worked to some extent. It is still a rural economy-based country where 77% of the population survives by spending just Rs 20 ($ 0.44) a day. India will have to retain control over production and public service delivery mechanisms to ensure equality and the availability of essential services which we demand as entitlements.

Government is shrugging off responsibility

It is now an accepted fact that the government system is so corrupt and disorganised that it cannot deliver basic services to the citizens of this country. Any direct government hand in administering foodgrain, healthcare, education and social security would mean the breakdown and ruin of these services. That’s why it’s being said that it is better that people begin to accept a system of receiving cash relief, in accordance with certain eligibility norms.

In financial year 2010-11, the central and state governments spent a total of Rs 3.69 lakh crore on the social welfare sector (education, healthcare, livelihoods, social security, etc). The total amount of subsidy on the social sector, in 2011-12, is Rs 1.62 lakh crore, which is about Rs 20,000 crore more than in the previous year. Public expenditure on the social sector is declining; the cash transfer policy will contribute further to this decline.

The Planning Commission sees benefits in adopting cash transfers, asserting that the government should not have a direct administrative role in the social sector. It advocates that the government should either shut down its ration shops, hospitals and welfare programmes, or adopt a policy of direct cash transfers in lieu of these services in order to enable the private sector to develop. In a paper titled ‘Introducing Conditional Cash Transfers in India: A Proposal for Five CCTs’ (2010), the Planning Commission said what the World Bank wanted to hear. “India has had a long history of untargeted or poorly targeted subsidies, which are in need of replacement, especially because the fiscal burden of these subsidies has become increasingly unbearable after the multiple fiscal stimuli post-2008 economic crisis.” The Department of Food and Civil Supplies in 2008 asked for a Rs 242 crore budget to provide food coupons instead of foodgrain and allow people to use them as cheques to buy food from the open market. Once it is properly set in place, the public distribution system will be shut down.

This year, while reading his budget speech in Parliament, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated that instead of distributing subsidised kerosene and foodgrain the government would directly deposit cash payments into the accounts of beneficiaries. When it was pointed out that cash transfers would prove inadequate if the prices of kerosene and foodgrain rose (once official controls were withdrawn) the government had no answer.

The only refrain was that since subsidies provided under various welfare programmes seldom reached the beneficiaries, the only real solution was to directly transfer cash to them. And that this would offer them the freedom to choose whichever alternative service or commodity they desired that was available in the open market.

The version of the National Food Security Bill approved by the ruling government’s Cabinet committee has a provision to gradually transfer cash amounts in place of foodgrain rationing. While dealing with the question of reforms in the PDS, the proposed NFSA (draft approved by Cabinet), makes clear its intentions on cash transfers. Chapter 13, Section 3(g) of the Bill says: “Introducing scheme for cash transfer to the targeted beneficiaries in lieu of their foodgrain entitlements… in areas and manner to be prescribed by the central government.”

It costs Rs 3.65 for every rupee of development funding to percolate down to the beneficiaries. If the relief meant for poor families in the 150-odd central and state government-run programmes is provided in cash, it would mean that every poor and vulnerable family would receive Rs 2,140 a month, raising them above the poverty line. Will this suffice to provide them access to foodgrain, healthcare and education at the prevailing open market rates?

Until now, the poor have been receiving services directly from the government, which, to some extent, limits the scope for corruption. Once people begin receiving cash amounts, instances of fraud will increase.

Where cash transfers can work

Today, 42 crore of India’s most destitute are able to survive because the public distribution system provides them 35% of the foodgrain they require. The sad fact is that there is no true assessment of poverty in the country. As much as 39% of India’s poor population does not even have a ration card; they get no government welfare relief whatsoever.

The government system cannot be made accountable or free of corruption, so the alternative proposed is not to reform it but to divest it of its purpose and functions and let the people repose their trust in the market.

India is moving towards a system of cash transfers in accordance with certain eligibility criteria. Whether it is foodgrain payments or health services payments, the government will make cash transfers available only to those it accepts as poor. According to present official criteria, a poor family in a village is a family that spends less than Rs 15 per day per capita; the amount in urban areas is Rs 20 per capita. Such exercising of government discretion in transferring money raises the basic fear that the system may no longer remain public or open.

The Indian initiative appears to be influenced by the cash transfer programmes prevalent in South American countries. These are countries where urbanisation has been taking place for the past 200-300 years, and 80% of their populations live in cities. Gender discrimination is comparatively low, as is corruption.

Our Planning Commission fails to see that these countries have developed stable welfare services. They have provisions to extend economic help to families with school-going children, and the programmes are successful because the school system works well. They also have hospitals and other services, making cash transfers a meaningful exercise. In India, the infrastructure for basic welfare services is collapsing; any policy of cash transfers could have disastrous results.

The cash transfer systems of Brazil and Mexico are touted as examples to be followed. But it should be understood that only 5% of the populations of both these countries are below the poverty line, whereas the Indian figure is 46%. This means they require a system of cash transfers catering to only small numbers of beneficiaries, a model that’s unlikely to be viable in India. Similarly, there is a difference between using cash transfers as an alternative to providing basic services, and using them to promote infant care and nutrition in maternal security programmes. Should we really be telling pregnant women to accept Rs 1,400 and get their deliveries done wherever they wish? Or should we be strengthening our healthcare infrastructure and network?

We need, therefore, to be clear about the consequences before deciding to operationalise any system of conditional cash transfers. Seventy per cent of India’s population still lives in villages where few banking institutions are available. As many as 26,000 rural banks have downed their shutters since 1992, and commercial banks have shown no interest in social welfare schemes. That’s why it’s difficult to reach cash to village populations.

We have seen cash disbursals being made to promote maternal security and pension schemes, but even in these cases many beneficiaries do not receive their entitlements because of corruption. This proves that cash transfers do not put an end to corruption, as is claimed by proponents of such a course of action. Eventually, we need to reform and strengthen our infrastructure and systems and make them more accountable.

What’s more, it is important to note that the Supreme Court has defined food, nutrition, and social security as basic human rights. These rights cannot be compromised or curtailed by BPL eligibility and other conditions. Conditional cash transfers limit basic rights. They have only been successful where government systems are capable and influential. In India, the government system is weak and helpless. In such a scenario, the monopoly of the private sector could prove dangerous.

It is being said these days that India is now a developed economy and public distribution programmes only sully the country’s image by suggesting backwardness. That’s why such programmes need to be discontinued. But what intellectuals fail to realise is that the government buys 4-6 crore tonnes of foodgrain every year, at its minimum support price, to run the public distribution system. If foodgrain were not distributed through the public distribution system, the government would buy less from farmers, who would then no longer have the luxury of being able to sell their produce within a radius of 10 km from their villages. This would increase their dependence on companies like ITC and Cargill, leading to a situation where multinational companies, not the government, determine the price of foodgrain.

The public distribution system plays an important role in India, providing security to farmers, controlling price, and providing emergency supplies and foodgrain in areas/states facing scarcity. A system of cash transfers would end this role and destabilise the foodgrain market. Farmers are also participants in the public distribution system; they need to be consulted.

Equally important, the government should introspect on its reluctance to strengthen the infrastructure and working of the public distribution, healthcare and education systems. Is the government implementing such policies merely to benefit the corporate-capitalist forces? If that is so, we need to put a stop to such anti-people policies.

(Sachin Kumar Jain is a right to food activist and freelance journalist based in Madhya Pradesh)

Infochange News & Features, September 2011


#India- Appeal to PM -launch a national scheme of ‘free essential medicines to all’


November 05th 202


Dr. Manmohan Singh,

Prime Minister of India,

South Block, Raisina Hills,

New Delhi 110 011


Appeal to launch a national scheme of ‘free essential medicines to all’


Dear Prime Minister:


As you may well be aware, citizens of India spend exorbitant amount of money out of their pocket to seek health care, pushing every year more than 30 million citizens below poverty line.  An expense on a single hospitalization is an enough ground for 40% patients to sell assets or be indebted. About 70% of this expense is on medicines.   According to the CES 2009, about 29% patients cannot afford to seek any kind of medical care and expenses on a single hospitalization is an enough ground for 40% patients to sell assets or be indebted. Cost of medicines is the biggest slice in out of pocket health spending more for ambulatory but significantly to hospitalized patients. In addition, spiraling rise of prices of medicines is keeping away vast number of people out of reach to essential medicines. About 65% countrymen do not have access to essential medicines while India exports drugs to about 200 countries.

In the Independence Day speech of 2011, you had mentioned that the 12th Five Year Plan will be the ”Health plan” and you mentioned “A scheme to provide free medicines to all in public hospitals is being formulated” in your address to the nation on Independence Day 2012. But, unfortunately both of your announcements have yet to see the light of day even when the 12th Five Year Plan period has begun from 1st April 2012. Notwithstanding the fact that the ultimate solution to burgeoning health problems of the majority of India’s citizens


lies in “Universal health coverage through state funding” as recommended by the Planning Commission instituted High Level Expert Group (HLEG) and various working groups constituted to formulate 12th FYP, but even the implementation of any national scheme for free medicines to all is uncertain. Statements of many senior officials of the Union Ministry of Health & FW at various platforms imply that the Central Government has no plans to initiate a scheme of free medicines to patients but will promote this concept by persuading state governments to carry it out by seeking additional funds and incentives under the NRHM from the Centre. The Central Government has released a budget of Rs. 1300 crores for it which is grossly insufficient in contrast to the recommendation of the Working Group on Drugs and Food Safety of the Planning Commission for the 12th FYP. This group has suggested an annual budgetary contribution from the Centre of Rs. 5500 crores to ensure free medicines to all the patients accessing health care in the Public Health Facilities. It may be noted that this is much less than Rs. 30,000 crores suggested by the HLEG. Yet, even this smaller amount is not being budgeted!


In the absence of any national scheme, the objective of universal access to essential medicines is lost. At the moment, barring the states of Tamilnadu, Rajasthan and Kerala, all other states have very truncated schemes in which either some medicines are provided free from limited categories of health facilities or families of certain socio-economic categories are eligible for all kinds of free medicines. This has resulted into no qualitative or quantitative improvement from the previous state of affairs. In fact, previous experiences convince us that till universality of access is not ensured, patients who require free medicines will be deprived the most.


We the undersigned, therefore, appeal to you that a national scheme of ‘free essential medicines to all ‘ is immediately initiated with an annual budget of Rs. 5500 crores  & allocation  of required human resource & facilities without any further delay. If it is not launched  throughout India,  ‘free essential medicines to all ‘ which is the easiest of the components of UHC (Universal Health Care), then citizens would legitimately question any official talk about  UHC. We hope, the Government of India will abide by your pronouncements and send a message to all citizens.


It is important that while launching a national scheme, elements of transparent methods of procurement, quality assurance, promotion of essential drugs and rational drug concept as adopted by Tamilnadu and Rajasthan would be followed.


Best regards.


Yours sincerely,



(Dr. Narendra Gupta)

On behalf of all National Organisers , Jan Swasthya  Abhiyan

Prayas, 8, Vijay Colony, Chittorgarh 312 001

Convenor: JSA

B. Ekbal

­­Jt.Convenors/National Organisers

Ab­hay Shukla

Ajay Khare

Amit Sen Gupta

Amitava Guha

Joe Varghese

N.B Sarojini

Narendra Gupta

Renu Khanna

T. Sundararaman

Thelma Narayan

Vandana Prasad



National Co-ordination Committee:


All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN)

All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN)

Asian Community Health Action Network (ACHAN)

All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)

Association for India’s Development (AID)

Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS)

Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI)

Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI)

Centre for Community Health and Soc. Medicine, JNU

Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI)

Community Health Cell (CHC)

Forum for Creche and Child Care Services (FORCES)

Fedn. of Medical Representative Assns. of India (FMRAI)

Health Watch Forum

Joint Women’s Programme (JWP)

Medico Friends Circle (MFC)

National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)

National Association of Women’s Organisations (NAWO)



Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI)


Participating Organisations:


Over 1000 organisations concerned with health careand health policy from both within and outside

the above networks.




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