Experiments with untruth
Sir — With Narendra Modi ruling the roost in Gujarat, could the Best Bakery case have taken any other turn (“Gujarat riot case charred” (June 28)' Since the riots sparked off in early March a year back, there has never been any doubt about the collusion of the state machinery in the pogrom. During the riots which saw thousands killed, raped and maimed, independent investigations have severally found that the police not only sometimes actively led the rioters, withdrew protection from vulnerable groups, but also made sure that the assailants got away through the distortion of first information reports. The Best Bakery case was the only one that reached the corridors of law because of the persistent efforts of its chief witness. But the long arm of the Modi government reached there also. Quite expectedly, Zahira Sheikh has turned hostile and several others have made a U-turn under pressure from the killers of their families. These people know they are losing their only chance to avenge the bloodbath, but they also want to live. And they will be allowed that chance only if they assist Modi to make his Gujarat “experiment” a success.
J. Acharya, Calcutta
Where’s the healing touch'
Sir — The editorial, “A touch of flu” (June 24), on the recent deaths in Murshidabad from influenza has rightly drawn attention to the rotten state of healthcare in the state. There is no denying that the claim of the health minister, Surjya Kanta Mishra, that there had been no neglect on his part is a pathetic attempt to cover up his failures. The suspension of two doctors is another example of the government’s lopsided response to the problem. However, the editorial overlooked another major cause of the hellish medical system in the state — the immoral medical fraternity in Bengal. It will be naïve to accept the argument of the Indian Medical Association that the failure of the government to provide adequate infrastructure is solely responsible for the abysmal healthcare in the state. Granted that there is absolutely no accountability on the part of the high-ranking government officials in the health department. But is there any accountability among the doctors on whom the lives of patients depend'
Like the government itself, the medical fraternity in India is also susceptible to political influences. It has become common knowledge that doctors try to shield other errant doctors. Between the bungling government and a mendacious medical lobby, the hapless Bengal patients have no choice.
The IMA has claimed that many government hospitals fail to supply even the basic drugs like paracetamol. But how could the lack of paracetamol have led to the eventual death of a child' Is it believable that parents would hesitate to buy paracetamol that costs only a few rupees had they known its absence would kill their children' All know that a large section of doctors at the government hospitals virtually force the families of ailing patients to seek help at laboratories and institutions designated by them. Incidence of frantic relatives of a dying patient being rushed by the doctor to buy blood from a specific blood bank miles away is not uncommon. The IMA calls such doctors “black sheep” of the fraternity. But has it ever tried to discipline its delinquent members' There is no doubt that the deaths have been “politicized”, but that argument alone cannot absolve doctors of the charge of negligence.
Kunal Saha, Columbus, US
Sir — Most of the doctors working in Murshidabad overlook the environment — the temperature changes and the humidity of the region — while treating patients. During the period of the child deaths, the temperature soared between 46 and 48 degrees celsius, together with excessive humidity. Given the situation, the ill-fated children could not have maintained the normal body temperature. As we know, our body temperature is controlled by the thermoregulatory mechanism of the hypothalmus. Excess body heat is lost through sweat, urine and faeces. When the temperature in the atmosphere crosses permissible limits, heat illness occurs and there is every possibility of it causing extensive damage to the central nervous system if the thermoregulatory function of the body is somehow impaired.
The Murshidabad deaths have been tragic, but there are lessons to be learnt from the experience. Mothers and family members need to be educated about the right way to protect their children from excessive heat and humidity. Children have to be made to drink a lot of water, which in turn will promote the release of body heat through sweating. Dehydration may occur otherwise, leading to complications.
G.M. Hazra, Calcutta
Sir — It is distressing, if nonetheless expected given the appallingly levels of public awareness and sensitivity, to note the kind of misplaced curiosity that the hapless child suffering from a rare disease like myasis is being exposed to in the state hospital. It must have been a nerve wracking experience for the child who has become an exhibit for the curious onlookers and relations of his co-patients, often masquerading as sympathizers. Even after the child recovers, we cannot be sure if he would receive the right kind of psycho-social counselling that would be required to restore his confidence. It is here that our collective qualms are once again violently shaken when we find a nationally acclaimed daily like The Telegraph, routinely updating the progress of the child, referring him as the “insect boy” (“Insect boy on way to SSKM”, June 26). This perhaps underscores the callous unconcern and sanctimony that drape all our loud and righteous protestations, including those of the venerable fourth estate.
Kaushik Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — The Murshidabad deaths, together with the plight of Chandan Goswami, underscore the pathetic plight of healthcare in the state. While around 45 children were allowed to die for the want of a drug as essential as paracetamol, Goswami was made undergo unthinkable pain and trauma because a team of doctors could not figure out what could be done about a boy who had a disease which is common in other parts of the world but rare in West Bengal’s suburbs. Goswami, who is apparently passing blood in his urine thanks to the cystoscopy done to confirm his disease, cannot hope for better treatment in the Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital, which is one of the many government hospitals that laughingly send 17-year old cricketers with broken thigh bones to death.
Jay Mehta, Calcutta
Let it pass
Sir — It is strange that despite the consensus among all major parties on the women’s reservation bill, it has not been passed by Parliament. Since Shiv Sena, the party of the Lok Sabha speaker, Manohar Joshi, is opposed to the bill, neutrality demands that the deputy speaker or some woman member of Parliament be made to preside over the Lok Sabha proceedings when the bill is presented in the house.
A solution can be found in the initial acceptance of the Election Commission’s suggestion to make it compulsory for political parties to nominate 33 per cent women. If the step fails to swell the number of women MPs, then Constitution may be amended. In no case should the percentage of reservations in the bill be brought down since women constitute 50 per cent of the population.
Subhash C. Agrawal, Delhi
Sir— The National Council of Churches in India regrets the inability of Parliament to adopt the women’s reservation (amendment) bill again. The all-parties meeting convened by the speaker also tried to evolve a consensus on the matter, but without much success. Although Manohar Joshi thinks the meeting has made a breakthrough of sorts, the left has branded the meet as a complete flop.
The speaker intends to call a similar meet before the monsoon session of Parliament. This can be a forum to reconsider serious concerns like “quota within the women’s quota”, rotation of constituencies and the recommendation to allow political parties the right to nominate women, although the NCCI has serious objections to the last. The NCCI strongly recommends that the government uses its majority to pass the bill in the monsoon session without abdicating responsibility.
general secretary, NCCI, New Delhi
Sir — The article, “Crowning glory” (June 13), about the preliminary rounds of the Godrej Colour Soft Sananda Tilottama, 2003, wrongly mentions that one of the judges in the rounds was the Manipuri exponent, Poushali Mukherjee. The name is Poushali Chatterjee. Mukherjee is a famous exponent of Odissi, not of Manipuri.
Krishnakali DasGupta, Calcutta