Failed defence mechanisms
Sir — Why does George Fernandes need so often to don a pilot’s gear and get up on a MiG-21 or put on the fatigues and go for a little chat with the jawans in Siachen' Is it because he is desperately trying to wrench the public’s attention away from his less heroic activities (“Secret deal slur on George”, August 14)' It is impossible to resist the suggestion, since nearly all Fernandes’s heroic and magnanimous gestures come in the wake of, or are followed by, revelations about his involvement in some scandal or the other. The latest being the Public Accounts Committee’s allegations that our defence minister had tried to trade the Central Vigilance Committee’s “secret” report on defence buys in exchange for the opposition’s withdrawal of the decision to boycott him in Parliament. But even if the trade-off had remained a secret, would Fernandes really have gained much by being “accepted” again' Wouldn’t it be a matter of days before another defence-scandal popped up'
Goutam Mahapatra, Calcutta
Sir — Nowhere else other than India could drug manufacturing licences be issued by a different authority (states in this case) when one has been denied by the Drug Controller of India (“Sushma push to death law for spurious drug makers”, August 13). It is so convenient to put the blame squarely on the inadequate drug control infrastructure, the lack of testing facilities, the shortage of inspectors, the absence of accurate information and lax enforcement of the law. But there is one essential reason for the perpetuation of this evil. The many loopholes in the system are exploited the hilt by corrupt bureaucrats. An entire industry could not have managed to flourish for such a long time without political support. Besides making punishment for spurious drugs manufacture more severe, it is also essential to tighten the noose around the corrupt people in the establishment who abet such activities.
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta
Sir — For a country which has miles to go to put its medical infrastructure in place, the news that “1 in 4 tablet strips spurious: Industry” (August 5) is both shocking and disconcerting. It is also a startling revelation from the World Health Organization that 35 per cent of the world’s spurious drugs are produced in India. These statistics are enough to assess the magnitude of the problem. How can we afford not to have a law that can take care of this serious issue' How can dealing in spurious drugs not be recognized as a criminal offence in this country' Life-saving drugs continue to be out of the reach of a considerable fraction of the Indian population. Worse, one cannot be sure the medicine is genuine even if one manages to lay hands on it.
Pabitra Kumar Bhaumik, Calcutta
Sir — It is a good thing that the government has at last admitted that the 56 year-old Drugs and Cosmetics Act on manufacture and sale of medicines has failed to prevent the production of substandard and fake medicines. In this connection, the WHO estimate that 35 per cent of the world’s spurious drugs are manufactured in India needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Numerous drugs produced outside the country are being continually dumped in India. To make matters worse, these drugs, which are sometimes banned abroad, are sold here at substantially reduced prices. The multinational companies selling these drugs have given the impression that they are doing the developing countries a favour by subsidizing the medicines. This holds true especially in the case of different brands of contraceptives which have found its way into rural India, where the unsuspecting often bear the horrible consequences of medication. The World Trade Organization’s stringent norms for drugs manufacture and sale seem to have left this problem in developing countries out of its gamut.
Santonu Mukherjee, Calcutta
Sir — It is heartening that the Union health minister, Sushma Swaraj, is taking concrete steps towards dealing with the spurious drugs manufacture in India. The Raghunath Mashelkar committee has recommended a death penalty for manufacturers of spurious drugs which cause grievous harm or death, besides a substantial fine on those caught with spurious drugs. But how does it propose to handle those international drug manufacturers who have been constantly dumping many harmful medicines in India'
Jayanta Datta, Chinsurah
Trial by fire
Sir — Sandhya Chouhan may have broken the rules laid down by the Hindu shastras, but she has managed to show the world that she has truly learnt to stand shoulder-to-shoulder beside men in her society (“Daughter turns torchbearer of change, lights father’s pyre”, July 27). She might just have made it easier for girls to follow in her footsteps without caring about social repercussions.
Tanushree Mukherjee, Chandannagar
Sir — The fanatics in most religions are becoming more vocal than the sensible ones. It is good that Sandhya Chauhan has listened to the voice of her conscience rather than pay heed to the warnings of the religious heads of her community. Her action should teach the pundits that there is no harm in bending the rules of the scriptures if the end result is a noble one.
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge