September 14, 2005


And the forward said....

A recent forward comparing Mumbai rains to Katrina, with very little insightful info, but lots of catchy and selective statements, landed on multiple discussion forums I am subscribed to. (Thanks to all my friends who thought it was not worth forwarding.) Some people even debated that stupid piece. It mindlessly boasted how Mumbai situation was handled better than Katrina. At the end it remarked,'s most developed nation
India...third world country..

oopss...did i get the last fact wrong???
Of course, not. We are, indeed, a third world country. Some 700 children died of a deadly virus outbreak in UP with the State responding with criminal apathy. Washington Post reports,
The toll is all the more heartbreaking because the disease can be prevented by several vaccines, including one made in India and another, more effective version developed in the 1970s in China, where mass vaccinations have largely contained the virus.

In that regard, the latest outbreak shows how bureaucratic inertia, skewed priorities and what some health experts say is a nationalistic aversion to importing medicines are undercutting efforts to improve India's shaky public health system, to the detriment of its poorest citizens.

Last week in its annual human development report, the United Nations faulted India for falling behind on key public health goals, noting that its infant mortality rate is now higher than that of Bangladesh. One in 11 Indian children dies before the age of 5.
Another report by Reuters concurs.
It could have been prevented, or at least minimised, with an early and thorough vaccination campaign for children, more susceptible to infection because their immunity levels are low.

But Uttar Pradesh neglected vaccination drives despite smaller outbreaks nearly every year for more than two decades, experts said. Thousands of vaccine doses are now arriving but they are of little use for the hundreds already infected.

And Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, CM, UP is busy in handling the land scam issue.

Déjà Vu? When Mumbai was drowned, Mr Deshmukh, CM was busy awarding the newly-inducted-defected-from-Sena leader, Mr Rane.

The Washington Post article goes on to point the irony and the inertia, which can only ignite rage.
In some respects, India should be well-equipped to contain the threat. Its cutting-edge pharmaceutical industry supplies life-saving medicines -- including measles vaccine and anti-retroviral drugs used to fight AIDS -- to much of the developing world; a government research institute has made a Japanese encephalitis vaccine for years.

But the Indian vaccine is expensive, time-consuming to produce and relatively short-lived in its effectiveness. Because the government has resisted importing better versions from China and elsewhere, or licensing their production at home, India has adopted what Julie Jacobson, a virologist, calls a "firefighting approach" to Japanese encephalitis, ramping up domestic vaccine production in response to each outbreak, by which time it is often too late.

"It's just amazing that with that kind of technical capability, the problem of Japanese encephalitis has not been solved" in India, Jacobson said in a telephone interview from Seattle, where she directs a $27 million Japanese encephalitis initiative for the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, a nongovernmental group. The effort is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Yes. With such politicians ruling, we will be a third world country.

Where are the NHRC folks, who are so vocal when terrorists are shot down? Where is the Journalism of Courage (TM), which devotes pages and pages on unemployment of bar dancers? Where is our imaginative Union Health Minister who wants to control cancer by banning smoking on silver screen?

PS: Yeah, you can accuse me of arm-chair activism.

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