NAPM opposes the Indo-US Nuclear deal

NAPM opposes the Indo-US Nuclear deal

NAPM demands immediate closure of the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte in Mizoram

Amidst protests against price rises of essential items throughout the country, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has again started harping on the issue of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. Activists of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) - the largest network of people's struggles in India - opposed the deal.

"The Deal has been pushed forward in India in an anti-democratic manner without approval of the Parliament - in fact in the teeth of opposition by a large majority of parliamentarians" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, who is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and a convener of NAPM.

"The Deal has the potential of disturbing regional stability and further distorting India's relationships with important neighbours like China, Pakistan and Iran. This cannot also but severely undermine the prospects for both vertical and horizontal non-proliferation and thereby the prospects for global nuclear disarmament" remarked Medha Patkar, a firebrand leader of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and also the coordinator of NAPM.

This allurement also has the danger of further propelling India towards becoming a junior military ally of the US and a market to mint profits for its MNCs and also the nuclear industry of other advanced countries --- Russia and France, in particular, said activists.

"Most importantly it will be a set back to the environmentally friendly sustainable ways of meeting our energy requirements. Power from nuclear energy is a failed project in developed countries and the eagerness of the Prime Minister to clinch the Deal fails to generate any enthusiasm among the common people of India. Neither is nuclear energy a solution to global warming as some experts make it out to be. On the contrary the entire nuclear fuel cycle is fraught with danger and exposes human beings to hazardous radiation. The world is yet to find a safe way for disposal of radioactive waste, a factor which is constraining the growth of nuclear power programmes in the developed countries" added Dr Sandeep Pandey, who did his PhD in control theory also applicable in missile technology from University of California, Berkeley in 1980s.

The Indo-US Nuclear Deal is meant to serve the interests of the global nuclear power industry and is a ploy to keep India away from staking claims to shrinking fossil fuel reserves in proportion to its large population so that these reserves may last for some more time for the rich countries, explained the activists.

The undue importance given to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal as opposed to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, even though gas is predicted to be the major source of power globally for the next two to three decades, raises questions about the motives of the Indian government.

"We take strong objection to the joint Indo-US military exercises that have been taking place for the last seven years with the aim of building interoperability and we demand immediate closure of the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte in Mizoram. The increasing militarization of the India State is also being used to crush civil liberties and democratic movements in the country. India must learn a lesson from the history of US military involvement in various parts of the world" demanded Patkar.

"We appreciate the consistent stand taken by the Left Front, a partner in the UPA alliance, in successfully stalling the Indo-US Nuclear Deal up till now and hope that the India specific agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will never be finalized. Even as we note their foresight in foiling the US hegemonic designs in South Asia, we also expect them to take a principled stand against the nuclear power programme. We believe that the IAEA safeguards must be implemented nationally and internationally on all declared and undeclared nuclear activities, including that of Israel and US. The Government of India must also make its nuclear related activities transparent and accountable to the people, especially those who are directly affected by radiation" added Patkar.

Dr Sandeep Pandey also welcomed the government's decision to ask the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to draft umbrella legislation for promotion and growth of renewable energy.

Other activists who endorsed the opposition on behalf of NAPM included: Surendra Mohan, Achin Vanaik, Major General SG Vombatkere (retd), J Sri Raman, Thomas Kocherry, Sukla Sen, Mukta Srivastava, Anand Patwardhan, Ajit Jha, Feroze Mithiborwala, Kishore Jagtap, PTM Hussain, Ashish Ranjan Jha, Kamayani, Sanjay MG and Arundhati Dhuru.

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NAPM reaffirms opposition to the Indo-US Nuclear deal

NAPM reaffirms opposition to the Indo-US Nuclear deal
National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)

[To read this posting in Hindi language, click here]
----------------------------------------


Amidst protests against price rises of essential items throughout the country, the PM Manmohan Singh has again started harping on the issue of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. The Deal has been pushed forward in India in an anti-democratic manner without approval of the Parliament - in fact in the teeth of opposition by a large majority of parliamentarians. The Deal has the potential of disturbing regional stability and further distorting India 's relationships with important neighbours like China , Pakistan and Iran . This cannot also but severely undermine the prospects for both vertical and horizontal non-proliferation and thereby the prospects for global nuclear disarmament. This allurement also has the danger of further propelling India towards becoming a junior military ally of the US and a market to mint profits for its MNCs and also the nuclear industry of other advanced countries -- Russia and France, in particular. Most importantly it will be a set back to the environmentally friendly sustainable ways of meeting our energy requirements. Power from nuclear energy is a failed project in developed countries and the eagerness of the Prime Minister to clinch the Deal fails to generate any enthusiasm among the common people of India . Neither is nuclear energy a solution to global warming as some experts make it out to be. On the contrary the entire nuclear fuel cycle is fraught with danger and exposes human beings to hazardous radiation. The world is yet to find a safe way for disposal of radioactive waste, a factor which is constraining the growth of nuclear power programmes in the developed countries.

The Indo-US Nuclear Deal is meant to serve the interests of the global nuclear power industry and is a ploy to keep India away from staking claims to shrinking fossil fuel reserves in proportion to its large population so that these reserves may last for some more time for the rich countries.

The undue importance given to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal as opposed to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, even though gas is predicted to be the major source of power globally for the next two to three decades, raises questions about the motives of the Indian government.

We take strong objection to the joint Indo-US military exercises that have been taking place for the last seven years with the aim of building interoperability and we demand immediate closure of the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte in Mizoram. The increasing militarization of the India State is also being used to crush civil liberties and democratic movements in the country. India must learn a lesson from the history of US military involvement in various parts of the world.

We appreciate the consistent stand taken by the Left Front, a partner in the UPA alliance, in successfully stalling the Indo-US Nuclear Deal up till now and hope that the India specific agreement with the IAEA will never be finalized. Even as we note their foresight in foiling the US hegemonic designs in South Asia , we also expect them to take a principled stand against the nuclear power programme. We believe that the IAEA safeguards must be implemented nationally and internationally on all declared and undeclared nuclear activities, including that of Israel and US. The Government of India must also make its nuclear related activities transparent and accountable to the people, especially those who are directly affected by radiation.

We welcome the government's decision to ask the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to draft an umbrella legislation for promotion and growth of renewable energy.

Surendra Mohan, Achin Vanaik, Major General S.G. Vombatkere (Retd.), J. Sri Raman, Thomas Kocherry, Sukla Sen, Mukta Srivastava, Anand Patwardhan, Ajit Jha, Feroze Mithiborwala, Kishore Jagtap, P.T.M. Hussain, Ashish Ranjan Jha, Kamayani, Sanjay M.G., Arundhati Dhuru, Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey

On behalf of
National Alliance of People's Movements


N A P M

Bullet can't be tackled with bullet: Sandeep Pandey (Interview)

Bullet can't be tackled with bullet: Sandeep Pandey (Interview)

27 June 2008, by Sujeet Kumar, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS)


RAIPUR: Slamming the government-backed Salwa Judum civil militia movement against Maoists in Chhattisgarh, social activist and Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey says "the bullet can never be tackled with the bullet". "Violence is not the reply to violence. The Maoist problem was a product of the decades-old government neglect of the basic needs of forested people. The only way to overcome the insurgency is to ensure all-round development in trouble-torn areas," Pandey told IANS in an interview here.

Pandey, who lives in Lucknow, observed a 10-day fast here along with three other social activists from June 16 against the detention of Binayak Sen, a physician-cum-rights activist since last year.

Pandey, known for his work in the education sector, said: "India's Maoist movement is a product of poverty, backwardness and neglect of the forested masses by the government. Any socio-economic-political problem should be handled with care and development, this is the best way to get over the problem.

"But surprisingly, the Chhattisgarh government created the Salwa Judum in June 2005 which is largely handled by armed anti-social elements."

Pandey said: "The government has to address people's core issues by reaching the benefit of the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS), the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and a host of development schemes, freed from corruption, to their (Maoist affected people's) land and ensuring that tribals have the right over the natural resources that belong to them traditionally."

"Under no circumstances should they be moved from their original villages into any kind of camps. Meeting their basic needs in camps but denying them self-dignity will also not solve the problem."

The Salwa Judum has uprooted about 50,000 people in Bastar's Dantewada and Bijapur districts, mostly poor tribals, who are living in 23 government-run relief camps under severe hardship.

About Binayak Sen's detention, Pandey said: "He (Sen) has been victimised because he questioned the Salwa Judum and the false encounters of innocent tribals."

Sen has been held by Chhattisgarh police since May 14, 2007, in a Bilaspur jail for his alleged Maoist links under the stringent Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005.

When told that Sen's bail application had been rejected by a lower court, the Chhattisgarh High Court and also the Supreme Court, Pandey said: "Police have no proof against Sen; they have falsely implicated him.

"It was not too far back when we saw how Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani was falsely implicated in the parliament attack case, even given the death sentence by a POTA special court. But ultimately he was acquitted by the high court and the Supreme Court because of lack of evidence."

Pandey questioned the Chhattisgarh government's move of recruiting poor local tribal youths as special police officers (SPOs) to team up with the police force to dismantle Maoist terror infrastructure in the vast mineral rich Bastar region in the state's south.

The government has so far appointed about 4,500 SPOs on a monthly honorary amount of Rs.1,500 in Bastar, the nerve centre of Maoist terrorism in India. As a result, the SPOs have been prime targets of the insurgents in recent years.

"Development schemes are still not reaching the common people of Bastar and the government machinery is mainly responsible," Pandey said.

"Violence is not natural to human beings. People resort to violence and guns only in extreme circumstances and the Maoist movement too is by and large the same. Once the development problems of people are addressed in a sustainable way, such that people feel empowered, the violence will subside naturally." (IANS)

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"Mayawati government's decision will improve medical teaching": Prof Rama Kant

"Mayawati government's decision will improve medical teaching": Prof Rama Kant


The Uttar Pradesh government has taken a cabinet decision to hike the salary of doctors of Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (CSMMU), (formerly King George's Medical College or KGMC) to be at par with Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS). The UP cabinet has also allowed CSMMU doctors to pursue private practice by opting for long term contractual appointment at a fixed salary, UP Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh said. The doctors undertaking private practice would however, not be allowed to hold any administrative post.

CSMMU doctors have faced decades of neglect by being deprived of facilities and being one of the most lowly paid government doctors in the country. Till now, these doctors at CSMMU were not even getting the University Grants Commission (UGC) pay-scale.

However despite of the meagre resources, the institution and its Gandhi Memorial & Associated Hospitals (GM & AH) have been providing healthcare services to one of the largest numbers of patients in India.

"On academic front, CSMMU has seen a commendable rise of 40 per cent in the number of research paper publications. In past year more than 220 medical research publications in various indexed journals of repute took place, which is a landmark in the country" said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, who is the President of the CSMMU Medical Teachers' Association. Professor (Dr) Rama Kant was awarded the World Health Organization (WHO)'s award in 2005.

Professor (Dr) Rama Kant has been spearheading a peaceful non-violent agitation of medical doctors in CSMMU for years to bring government's attention to the issues faced by the faculty. Thankfully owing to the mounting pressure, the government has finally responded.

"One of my major concerns is definitely protecting the integrity of medical teaching" said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant.

He feels that the lure of material and corporate world is undeniably strong and is taking young potential doctors away to corporate hospitals, otherwise who might have been keen to go in medical teaching. It is vital to protect the sanctity of medical university teaching, and make it reasonably lucrative to retain good potential teachers.

Also medical university teachers are often at the forefront of medical research, especially clinical research. So it is vital to expose them to social and public health domains to further their own understanding in making research more sensitive to community's health needs and concerns, said Prof Rama Kant.

Prof Rama Kant who was also elected as President of College of Surgeons (LCS) last year, complemented the UP government's decision and said it will go a long way in improving quality medical teaching and retaining healthcare professionals, and will certainly strengthen healthcare response in the state.

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Non-Resident Indians (NRI) fast to demand release of Dr Binayak Sen

Non-Resident Indians (NRI) fast to demand release of Dr Binayak Sen

Many concerned Indians in the USA, UK, Canada, UK, Australia, Thailand and other countries are fasting from 16 - 25 June 2008 along with hundreds of activists in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, demanding the annulment of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) 2005, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1967, amended in 2004, and the release of Dr Binayak Sen (medical doctor and recipient of the prestigious Jonathan Mann award for Health and Human Rights), Ajay TG (filmmaker) and others.

These draconian laws (CSPSA and UAPA) sanction the violation of due process by the state, and thus contravene internationally accepted norms of jurisprudence as well as democratic governance. As Mr.Kannabiran, National President of PUCL, India, argues in his letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the CSPSA and UAPA operate by criminalizing the very performance of civil liberties activities, and culpability is decided upon not by direct proof, but through guilt by association.

Rashim Singh, a PhD student at University of Houston, USA, a volunteer and an Executive Board member of Association for India's Development (AID) is on the 8th day of her 10-day fast, which started on 16 June 2008.

Speaking on the incarceration of Dr Binayak Sen, Rashim Singh says, "A man who for 30 years has dedicated his life to the service of the poor cannot be branded as a threat to the country". On being asked what made her undertake the 10 day fast, she said, "If Gandhiji could have successfully used satyagraha to make the British listen to us, then we expect our own government in Chhattisgarh and Delhi to listen to the voices of thousands of Indian citizens from all over the world demanding the abrogation of the draconian laws. If every voice raised against the government atrocities is curbed, then what is the use of a democracy?"

AID Houston volunteers Anand Chandolu and Shekhar Gosavi who are fasting along with Rashim said: "We must do more to raise awareness about this cause. We pray for the people in India and USA, from various groups such as Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Asha Parivar, National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM), AID and others that are fasting for the release of Dr Binayak Sen"

Those fasting in Raipur where Dr Sen is imprisoned include Dr Sandeep Pandey (Magsaysay Awardee (2008) and convener of NAPM), Prem Narain Verma (Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha), Prem Prakash, Faizal Khan (Asha Parivar) and several other activists from various organizations in India.

Ms Shalini Gera, an activist from 'Friends of South Asia', points out that the "evidence" presented by the state about Dr.Sen's "Maoist connections" actually refers to Dr Sen's meetings with Narayan Sanyal, (a jailed 70-year-old Maoist leader) that took place with the permission of the jail authorities, and under their close supervision, when Dr. Sen, as the vice-president of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), visited Sanyal in the Raipur Central Jail to provide medical and legal assistance.

As the State Secretary of PUCL of Chhattisgarh, and the national Vice President, Dr.Sen has been amongst the most vocal opponents of "Salwa Judum", a private militia movement armed by the Chhattisgarh Government to combat Maoist insurgency. Dr.Sen earned the ire of the government for opposing Salwa Judum which has contributed to a spiralling increase in violence and displacement of thousands of tribals. The permanent state of war created by Salwa Judum has led to large-scale and apparently voluntary displacement of indigenous communities, thus freeing up for corporate and industrial use, land and natural resources that have historically belonged to local communities.

According to Mr. Somnath Mukherji, an AID activist, "these protests are not only about the violation of the human rights of Dr Sen- they are also about the ongoing assault on the human rights of the people of Chhattisgarh whose lives and lands are being mortgaged to a vision of development that is antithetical to them".

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PARIS 2008: TB vaccine trials announced for Kenya

Photo by el copilotDutch bio-pharma company Crucell NV and the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation have announced the start of a phase 1 clinical trial in Kenya of the jointly developed tuberculosis (TB) vaccine candidate, AERAS-402/Crucell Ad35.

“There are many potential uses of a new TB vaccine. Therefore, it is important to determine a candidate’s safety and immune responses in those who have already been exposed or have had active TB,” Jerald C. Sadoff, MD and President and CEO of Aeras, told delegates at the 39th World Conference on Lung Health in Paris on 17 October after announcing the trials.

“We are pleased to be working with two outstanding organizations in Kenya and South Africa—the Walter Reed Project-Kenya and the University of Cape Town—to move this promising candidate forward in development,” Sadoff said.

The study will be conducted in Kombewa, near Kisumu in Western Kenya with the aim of testing the safety of the candidate in health adults already vaccinated with the Bacille-Calmette Gurin and exposed to TB.

Aeras and Crucell began jointly developing the vaccine candidate in 2004 using Crucell's AdVac vaccine technology and PER.C6 manufacturing technology. A first phase 1 clinical trial launched in October 2006 in Kansas, USA indicated that the vaccine candidate was safe in healthy adults in that country.

The preliminary results of a second study launched in May 2007 were presented at the ‘TB Vaccines for the World' conference in April 2008 and showed both critical arms of the cellular immune system, CD4 and CD8 immune T-cells, were induced and that in those participants who responded, CD8 immune responses were considerably higher than had ever previously been seen in a TB vaccine study.

A third phase 1 study in healthy adults in St. Louis, Missouri was launched in December 2007, focusing on the immunogenicity and safety of two AERAS-402/Crucell Ad35 boost doses administered at three to six month intervals after BCG priming in healthy adults.

“We are very pleased with our continued progress with this next generation TB vaccine,” Dr Jaap Goudsmit, Crucell's Chief Scientific Officer, told delegates at the conference. “The initiation of these two new studies through our fruitful collaboration with Aeras puts us another step closer to our ambition of reducing the global burden of this fatal disease.”

The announcement was met with enthusiasm from some conference delegates, with Lucy Chesire, a Kenyan TB advocate, hailing the companies’ decision to hold the trial in her country.

“I am glad that a high-burdened country like Kenya has been selected in these broader comprehensive efforts in advancing new tools that are urgently required in global TB control efforts, more so in an era where TB-HIV co-infection is a great challenge,” she said.

Crucell and Aeras also announced the start of the first phase 2 study of AERAS-402/Crucell Ad35. The study is being conducted in Cape Town, South Africa by the University of Cape Town Lung Institute in conjunction with the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Institute (SATVI).

The screening of volunteers has started and immunizations are scheduled to start in the next couple weeks. The candidate will be tested in 82 adults who have had active TB.

For further information please contact:

Oya Yavuz
Director Corporate Communications & Investor Relations
Crucell NV
Email: ir@crucell.com
Website: http://www.crucell.com/

Annmarie Leadman
Director of Communications
Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation
Email: aleadman@aeras.org
Website: http://www.aeras.org/

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

Overcoming state suppression, Prof Agarwal continues Save-Ganga fast in Delhi

Overcoming state suppression, Prof Agarwal continues Save-Ganga fast in Delhi

Retired IIT Kanpur Professor (retired) Dr GD Agarwal, 76 years, is sitting on a fast-unto-death since 13 June 2008 to save the Ganga from the aggressive onslaught of strings of dams and hydel projects in Uttarakhand. On 21 June 2008, the Uttarakhand government had to forcibly disrupt the peaceful and non-violent agitation of Prof Agarwal, forcing the unflinching crusader to move to the nation's capital to continue his agitation.

The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, BC Khanduri, had said on 17 June 2008, that he was ready to stop the construction of hydel projects on the Bhagirathi river if the power needs of the state were fulfilled by the Centre. Possibly it was this assurance of Chief Minister Khanduri that had instigated those with vested interest in hydel projects to lobby against the growing influence of Prof Agarwal's non-violent protest.

The Uttarakhand state government had earlier planned a series of hydel projects between Uttar kashi and Gangotri. Khanduri, however, made it clear that the decision on stopping the construction of the 600-MW Lohari Nagpala project would be taken by the Centre since it was being constructed by National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), a central government undertaking and India's largest power generation company. Other major dams being built on the river include Pala Maneri (480 MW), Bhairon Ghati (381 MW) and Jad Ganga (200 MW).

"The contentious issue is 600 MW (4X150) Loharinag - Pala dam being built by National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), a central government undertaking, the country's largest power generation company. Ganga will be put into 26 and 17 km long tunnels leading to its disappearance from its natural course through the stretch. The construction is going on in full steam. The resultant destruction of the fragile and unique ecosystem will have far reaching consequences. Not only this, all this is done in earthquake zone 5 and terrain full of sedimentary rocks. No imagination is required to realize what one earthquake would to the entire region. Siltation is another problem. Ganga and all other Himalayan rivers carry lots of silt along which will now settle in the reservoirs created by the dams reducing the electricity generation capacity. Repeated closing of Nathpa-Jhakri Dam on Satluj in Himachal Pradesh 4 years after its commission is a fine example" explained Environmental scientist Neeraj Doshi, who has moved back from USA recently to strengthen people's movements.

"In the name of 'development' and 'economic growth' in India, rural and urban poor have been the worst hit, facing displacement and dispossession at an unprecedented scale" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). "Not only the state has overlooked the environmental cost of such hydel projects, but also the issues of livelihood and quality of life of those living in areas adjoining the Ganga and those who will be displaced by these projects has been appallingly ignored by the state" added Dr Pandey while strongly endorsing the fast of Dr Agarwal.

The privatization of water, use of agriculture lands as special economic zone for rapid industrialization, heavy displacement of poor people with 'development projects' which put them at grave risk of infectious diseases, are certainly not going to help India in its development goals.

With the fast-unto-death entering 11th day on Monday, 23 June 2008, 76 years old Dr GD Agarwal's commitment to save the Ganga, the environment and the rights of the most under-represented people in the development discourses, hopefully will be able to influence the Indian government to listen to the people, for a change.


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PARIS 2008: Up to 1-in-5 TB deaths attributed to tobacco use

Photo by buoybarrelWith 50% of all deaths from lung disease linked to tobacco use, control of the substance is high on the agenda of the 39th World Conference on Lung Health in Paris, France.

“Up to one in five TB (tuberculosis) deaths could be avoided if TB patients were not smokers,” Dr Nils Billo, Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD), said during the conference.

Smoking is also associated with recurrent TB and people with the disease who smoke have a higher risk of mortality than non-smokers with TB. The scaling-up of tobacco cessation services for people with TB is therefore a clear priority.

Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the Stop TB Department under WHO discussed the Practical Approach to Lung health (PAL) with delegates at the conference. The approach focuses on comprehensive treatment for all respiratory conditions and diseases, not just TB.

About 80% of smokers live in low and middle-income countries and 520 million people will die from tobacco-related illnesses in the next 50 years, according to available data. By 2030 the annual number of deaths from tobacco will increase from five million to more than eight million.

The IUATLD has helped raise awareness of tobacco hazards, encouraging its partners to play an active role in tobacco control and recognize the link between tobacco and TB.

It has also promoted effective tobacco control policies through technical resources, training a new generation of managers and practitioners and supporting effective programs through grants.

WHO and the union published a joint monograph on TB and tobacco control in 2007 and key elements of the policy include the identification and offers of counselling for smokers assessed for TB or other respiratory diseases.

The monograph also called for the operation of smoke-free public health centres and the training of health workers to deliver smoking cessation treatment.

Concerns over the high rates of tobacco use among doctors and healthcare providers in high TB-burdened countries were also raised during discussions at the conference. In some regions more than 50% of healthcare workers use the drug, making it difficult for them to play a genuine role in tobacco cessation programs.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

India can produce more rice through 'SRI': Experts

India can produce more rice through 'SRI': Experts

Rice is the staple food for majority of the population in India. It contributes 65% of the total food grain production of the country.

With the food crisis and inflation wreaking havoc to the most under-served communities in India, researchers are looking for methods of increasing the rice production. Also the growing population and changing food habits are further making it critical to up the rice yield.

System of rice intensification (SRI) technology has immense potential of increasing the rice yield. This method of rice cultivation has become popular in many Indian states. However, still there are several states lacking with even the basic awareness of SRI technique. Needless to say there is a long way to go still to aware and effectively engage farmers in upping the rice cultivation using the SRI technique. The SRI is a new and evolving alternative to conventional methods of rice cultivation; originated in Madagascar.

There is a notion that higher yields in rice come with high investments on seed, irrigation, high doses of fertilizers and pesticides. Contrary to this popular view, SRI method of cultivation produces higher yields with less seed and less water. SRI emphasizes on the need to shift from chemical fertilizers to organic manures.

"Formal experimentation on SRI in India started in 2002-03. So far the method has been adapted and is being scaled up rapidly in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat. This method of cultivation of rice has already helped millions of farmers to at least double their yields", Said Banku Bihari Sarkar, Programme Coordinator, Grameen Development Services (GDS). GDS is also making special tools to be used in farming with SRI technique.

SRI is not a new variety or a hybrid. It is only a new method of cultivation. SRI is showing promising results in all rice varieties - local or improved. SRI method is emerging as a potential alternative to traditional way of flooded rice cultivation and is showing great promise to address the problems of water scarcity.

In the state of Uttar Pradesh, the Kharif crop is cultivated in 90 lakh hectares of land of which 59 lakh hectares is under paddy cultivation. Hence rice is a major crop here. If the SRI method is adapted by farmers for paddy cultivation in UP, not only this will potentially cut water requirement for paddy cultivation by 50% but also boost the rice production by 50%.

"With such far-reaching benefits of SRI, why are we not actively pushing SRI in UP" questioned Mr JL Dwivedi, a senior agriculture scientist of Narendra Dev Agriculture University.

SRI had earlier emerged as a set of six practices:

1) Transplanting young seedlings: Transplanting of very young seedlings between 8 to 12 days old to preserve potential for tailoring and rooting.

2) Planting single seedling: Planting seedlings singly very carefully and gently rather than in clumps of many seedlings.

3) Transplanting at wider spacing: Spacing them widely, at least 25 x 25 cm between plant to plant and as well as row to row; resulting in the spread of roots and acquiring more nutrients from the soil. This enables them to produce more tillers and more grains.

4) Using hand weeder to aerate the soil: Using a simple mechanical hand weeder (Cono weeder) to aerate the soil as well as to control weeds; this helps in vigorous root growth.

5) Keeping soil moist: Keeping the soil moist but not continuously flooded, drain out the surplus water; there is no need to maintain standing water.

6) Use organic manures: Use organic manure or compost to improve soil quality and fertility Organic manures improve soil aeration and also microbial activity.

Particularly in these times of rising food crisis, inflation and water scarcity, it is of utmost significance to use such eco-friendly and effective techniques like SRI to up the rice production. Let us hope the authorities are listening!

Amit Dwivedi

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'Save Ganga' Fast-unto-death of Prof Agarwal enters 9th day

'Save Ganga' Fast-unto-death of Prof Agarwal enters 9th day

Retired IIT Kanpur Professor (retired) Dr GD Agarwal, 76 years, is sitting on a fast-unto-death since 13 June 2008 to save the Ganga from the aggressive onslaught of strings of dams and hydel projects in Uttarakhand. Today the fast entered 9th day.

"The contentious issue is 600 MW (4X150) Loharinag - Pala dam being built by National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), a central government undertaking, the country's largest power generation company. Ganga will be put into 26 and 17 km long tunnels leading to its disappearance from its natural course through the stretch. The construction is going on in full steam. The resultant destruction of the fragile and unique ecosystem will have far reaching consequences. Not only this, all this is done in earthquake zone 5 and terrain full of sedimentary rocks. No imagination is required to realize what one earthquake would to the entire region. Siltation is another problem. Ganga and all other Himalayan rivers carry lots of silt along which will now settle in the reservoirs created by the dams reducing the electricity generation capacity. Repeated closing of Nathpa-Jhakri Dam on Satluj in Himachal Pradesh 4 years after its commission is a fine example" explained Environmental scientist Neeraj Doshi, who has moved back from USA recently to strengthen people's movements.


Few days back, yoga guru Ramdev has launched 'Ganga Raksha Manch' while expressing his support to Professor Agarwal's tirade to save the Ganga.


The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, BC Khanduri, had said on 17 June 2008, that he was ready to stop the construction of hydel projects on the Bhagirathi river if the power needs of the state were fulfilled by the Centre.

The Uttarakhand state government had earlier planned a series of hydel projects between Uttar kashi and Gangotri.
Khanduri, however, made it clear that the decision on stopping the construction of the 600-MW Lohari Nagpala project would be taken by the Centre since it was being constructed by NTPC. Other major dams being built on the river include Pala Maneri (480 MW), Bhairon Ghati (381 MW) and Jad Ganga (200 MW).

"In the name of 'development' and 'economic growth' in India, rural and urban poor have been the worst hit, facing displacement and dispossession at an unprecedented scale" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM).

"Not only the state has overlooked the environmental cost of such hydel projects, but also the issues of livelihood and quality of life of those living in areas adjoining the Ganga and those who will be displaced by these projects has been appallingly ignored by the state" added Dr Pandey while strongly endorsing the fast of Dr Agarwal.


The privatization of water, use of agriculture lands as special economic zone for rapid industrialization, heavy displacement of poor people with 'development projects' which put them at grave risk of life-threatening conditions, are certainly not going to help India in its development goals.

With the fast-unto-death entering 9th day today, 76 years old Dr GD Agarwal's commitment to save the Ganga, the environment and the rights of the most under-represented people in the development discourses, should move the mountainous governments to listen to the people, for a change.

Published in

Media for Freedom, Nepal

Pennsylvania Chronicle, Pennsylvania, USA

Asian Tribune, Thailand/ Sri Lanka

News Blaze, USA

California Chronicle, California, USA

American Chronicle, USA

PARIS 2008: Viet Nam gearing up to respond to MDR-TB

Photo by MastaBabaAfter years of neglect a sense of consensus has finally been reached at the 39th World Conference on Lung Health in Paris over the need for effective broad-based community partnerships to strengthen health systems and improve disease-specific responses.

According to Professor Dinh Ngoc Sy, “building partnerships has contributed to strengthening health systems” in Viet Nam and there is evidence to show that disease-specific partnerships have contributed to improvements in non-HIV and tuberculosis (TB)-related care in low and middle-income countries.

Viet Nam is ranked 13 on a list of 22 high TB-burdened countries and a number of multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases have also been reported. The Institute for Social Development Studies, Bright Future Network, Health & Development Networks and other country-based partners, have helped form the National Partnership Platform Initiative for the promotion of information, dialogue and advocacy on TB and HIV issues at the country level.

“There are partnerships in action to respond effectively to MDR-TB,” Professor Dinh said, that bring together a broad range of professional organizations including governmental departments, WHO and the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention.

Workshops on the management of drug-resistant TB were held in the country in 2005, leading to a program for nation-wide anti-TB drug resistance surveillance. Almost 3% of all new cases of TB were found to involve MDR-TB along with 20% of relapse cases.

These alarming MDR-TB rates reportedly led to checks on the circulation of second-line anti-TB drugs in open-market of big cities and private clinics and WHO and other groups have helped Viet Nam develop its responses to the disease.

National guidelines for responding to MDR-TB are being printed and a procurement contract for an uninterrupted supply of adequate second line anti-TB drugs for the effective treatment of MDR-TB has been signed with the International Dispensary Association, according to Professor Dinh.

But Viet Nam still faces a number of challenges as it attempts to respond to MDR-TB, including the instability of the national MDR-TB task force and delays to the disbursement of anti-TB funds.

The role of communities in strengthening health responses also needs to be addressed and supported by groups working on TB in the country, including home-based care providers, support groups for people living with or affected by the disease as well as faith-based groups.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

PARIS 2008: Mix of clinical and home-based TB approaches pays off in Cambodia

Photo by jonathanb1989A mixture of clinical and home-based care approaches has improved tuberculosis (TB) responses in Cambodia, according to Dr Sok Thim of the Cambodian Health Committee (CHC).

The prognosis for patients treated for TB at home was much better than the prognosis of those treated in hospital and people treated for the disease at home recorded faster rates of recovery, Dr Thim told delegates at the 39th World Conference on Lung Health in Paris.

He also said that people treated for the disease at home reported no supra-bacterial or secondary infections while high numbers of people treated at clinics did contract further health problems.

Cambodia is ranked 21 on a list of 22 high TB-burdened countries and has a TB detection rate of 65.4%. About 85% of those diagnosed with TB in the country are reported successfully cured while according to the CHC, 75% of cases are detected, 95% of which are successfully treated.

Cambodia has also reported more than 100 cases of suspected multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) but the real number of cases could be as much as three time higher. About 1.6% of new TB cases in the country are believed to involve MDR-TB while a number of extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) cases have also been reported.

“It is quite possible that among relapsed TB cases or those who failed TB treatment, the percentage of MDR-TB is 2-3 times higher,” Dr Thim told delegates.

With the support of private donors, the CHC and its partner the National TB Program are treating the confirmed MDR-TB cases but about eight of the 79 people known to have the disease died before their status was confirmed. WHO has now approved an application by the CHC for low-cost high-quality drugs to treat an additional 100 MDR-TB positive people.

The management of MDR-TB is particularly difficult in resource-poor settings such as Cambodia but the CHC is working on infection control measures and the training of medical personnel.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

MEDIA NEST - Kulsum Talha

Media nest
[To read this posting in Hindi language , click here ]

Members of MediaNest cordially invite you on the proud occasion of the Announcement Ceremony of Media Medical Corpus - a MediaNest Initiative and also to share the joy of achievements of three of our fellow journalists.

His Excellency the Governor of Jharkhand Syed Sibtey Razi has kindly consented to grace the occasion.

Mr. Shiva Kumar, Chief General Manager - State Bank of India, will be the Guest-of-Honour.

Day: Saturday, 21 June 2008
Time: 1630 Hours

:: Venue ::
UP Press Club
China Bazaar Gate, Lucknow

background

Media Nest, a forum of concerned journalists was set up on 23rd October 2007 in Lucknow. The need for setting up a body for Media persons and their welfare had been felt since long. MN is an organization, comprising positive thinking media persons who could give a voice to issues and concerns affecting the rights of media and the society it represents, strive for creating a greater interaction between the media fraternity, raising issues that concern both journalists and the society they represent


MN will also provide a voice and platform to those among us who risk our lives to bring out truth. Welfare and safety of media persons are the two core areas where MN would like to work Cutting across borders MN will have members not only from every part of India but also from across the globe. The idea is to create a forum where hands-holding comes to us naturally in times of crisis and where greater interaction is possible between the families of media persons. While MN will stand up against any atrocities committed on any journalist anywhere in the world it will also try to provide an opportunity for enhancing the professional skills of media persons by organizing workshops, mid career trainings.


Working under so many pressures, odds, always championing the cause of other sections in society it has often been seen that that the issues affecting journalists are pushed under the carpet. Media Nest hopes to address all such issues..


MN will step in where others fall back. While addressing the concerns and rights of the media it will also ensure the voice of the common man is not stifled. Media Nest will take up issues concerning society with the same gusto and spirit as that of the media fraternity,” said Sharat Pradhan, president Media Nest.


In time to come will organize workshops, seminars, career trainings. Reflecting the true spirit of journalism- Media Nest will lead “journalists for making difference.”


The first activity of MN was workshop on contempt and media. Patrakarita ki Lakshmanrekha was discussed threadbare on 4th Nov, 2007 at UP Press Club. Present were journalists of Mid Day, Delhi Vitusha Oberai, editor Miday, and city Editor Mid Day, facing contempt.


Chief guest Justice Kameshwar nath, Supreme Court lawyers Prashant Bhushan,
Mr. CB Pandey additional advocate general, Uttranchal, Magsaysay award winner and social activist Sandeep Pandey, Chief Secretary P K Mishra and commissioner Pandey also spoke. The session was chaired by Hindustan editor Naveen Joshi.

For more information, please contact:

Kulsum Talha
Email:
neelofarmustafa@yahoo.co.in

Dr Binayak Sen as I know him

Dr Binayak Sen as I know him

Dr Sandeep Pandey


I first met Binayak, wife Ilina and their two daughters Aparajita and Pranhita at the conclusion of Pokaran to Sarnath 'Global Peace March' on 6th August, 1999 at the Central Tibetan Institute of Higher Learning in Sarnath, near Varanasi .

Sarnath is the place where Gautam Buddha delivered sermon to his first five disciples after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. The peace march was symbolically between the place of destruction - Pokaran, to the place of peace - Sarnath. It began exactly a year after on the day when India tested the nuclear weapons in 1998 and co
ncluded on the Hiroshima Day. The objective of the peace march was total global nuclear disarmament. Ilina had also brought with her drawings made by some children on the theme of nuclear disarmament. While the march was in progress for 88 days and 1500 kms, the Sen family was busy organizing activities in Raipur and their work area in its support.

We also later got a chance to work together for the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament
and Peace (CNDP), a national level platform of organizations and individuals committed towards nuclear disarmament.

Dr. Binayak Sen is currently in Raipur jail. He has been targeted under the draconian Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004, to silence the voices of humanity and justice. He is charged with sedition and conspiracy to wage war against the state, among other things. His trail has begun after a year in jail and his bail has been refused even by the Supreme Court. The six prosecution witnesses, out of a total of 89, who have been presented in court so far have failed to stand the cross examination.

There doesn't seem to be an iota of evidence against him. Yet, he is being illegally detained so that nobody dare question the experiment of Salwa Judum in Chattisgarh which legitimizes extra-constitutional violence and pits adivasis against adivasis.

Binayak, who is the Chattisgarh General Secretary of nationally the most well known human rights organization, People's Union for Civil Liberties, which was founded by none other than Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, exposed the killing of three teachers and one student, all innocent, in Gopapalli, Dist. Dantewad
a on 4th November, 2004, which was being projected as an encounter by the police. In November 2005 Binayak organized an all India team of human rights activists to visit Dantewada and study the systematic decimation, rape, loot, arson of ordinary adivasis and their properties by the police and Special Police Officers in the name of Salwa Judum. Binayak also objected to the brutal oppression by police of adivasis who were opposing the take over of their lands in Bastar for setting up a Tata-Essar industry. How could the Chattisgarh government tolerate Binayak who was out to expose what they claim as their successful experiment of countering the Naxalites through a 'self motivated people's movement,' the Salwa Judum?

Dr. Binayak Sen after completing his M.B.B.S. finished his M.D. in Paediatrics from Christian Medical College , Vellore . That he had a social concern from quite early in his life is obvious from the fact that he chose to do his Masters' thesis on malnutrition. He was a faculty member at the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi from 1976 to' 78. He left his job to join a community based rural health centre in Hoshangabad, M.P. From 1983 to '87 he helped famous trade union leader late Shankar Guha Niyogi build the Shaheed Hospital in Dalli Rajhara for mine labourers. This 100 bed hospital, managed by the labourers' organization, still provides good quality treatment to hundreds of labourers at affordable cost. This was a unique experiment where the community which required medical care for itself made its own hospital. There are some competent and dedicated doctors who provide their services here. Binayak was one of them. Dr. Binayak Sen was also making his services available at Ganiyari, Bilaspur, Dhamtari District and Urla-Birgaon.

Interestingly, the government took his help in designing the community based health worker programme across Chhattisgarh, now known as 'Mitanin.'
Realizing that health care work was closely associated with human rights issues he got involved with the PUCL and is currently its national Vice President too.

He has been continuously raising issues covering the spectrum from fake encounters and custodial deaths to hunger deaths, malnutrition and dysentery epidemics.
Dr. Binayak Sen was awarded the Paul Harrison distinguished alumnus award in 2004 by CMC, Vellore. He was cited as a role model for students and faculty members of the Medical College. After incarceration he was awarded the R.R. Keithan Gold Medal in recognition of his service to the community at the Indian Social Science Congress on 31 December 2007 by B.L. Mungekar, Member, Planning Commission and Chairperson, Indian Academy of Social Sciences. Most recently, the Global Health Council has awarded him the prestigious Jonathan Mann award for global health and human rights. Dr. Sen is the first South Asian to receive this prestigious US award.

Subsequently, 22 Noble prize winners have requested the Government of India to release Dr. Binayak Sen.
Rarely, has a prisoner been honoured, nationally and internationally, so much. It speaks about the man and also the fact that the government has committed a blunder. The soon the government realizes this the better it'll be for it. Binayak's and his family's commitment to peace is redoubtable. They are a family of very sensitive individuals with deep respect for human life.

When a group of us met Binayak in Raipur Jail in January 2008, I was surprised that even after spending over eight months in jail Binayak was more worried for the cause of civil liberties than anything else. He was saying that by targeting him and creating an atmosphere of ter
ror the authorities are doing irreparable damage to the struggle for justice and human rights. The indomitable spirit that Binayak and his family have displayed during this gruelling phase is a source of inspiration for all the people in the world who are fighting to make this world more humane.


Dr Sandeep Pandey

(Author is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) for emergent leadership, and heads National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). He can be contacted at: ashaashram@yahoo.com)



Published in:

The Statesman, India

Central Chronicle, Madhya Pradesh/ Chhattisgarh, India

Assam Times, Assam, India

Media for Freedom, Nepal

The Seoul Times, Seoul, South Korea

Binayak Sen.Net

Chhattisgarh.Net

RAIPUR: Day II of 10-days fast in support of Dr Binayak Sen

RAIPUR: Day II of 10-days fast in support of Dr Binayak Sen

[To read a related posting in Hindi language, click here]

To sign the petition, click here

17 June 2008

Raipur (Chhattisgarh)

The 10-day Group Fast began on 16th June, 2008 at Raipur around 2 pm to express solidarity with Dr. Binayak Sen (Medical Doctor), Ajay T G (Film Maker), both members of the PUCL, and many others detained under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (1967) amended in 2004.

While Dr. Sandeep Pandey (Magsaysay Award Winner & Social Worker), Com. Prem Narain Verma (Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha), Prem Prakash & Faisal Khan (both from Asha Pariwar), began their 10-day fast to ensure that human rights of marginalized people are not trampled upon and human rights defenders continue to work fearlessly, seven social & cultural activists from Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Pithora region of Raipur district joined in solidarity in a relay-hunger strike for 24-hours. They include Naveen Kumar, Leeladhar, Janki, Jugmati, Sandhya, Hemant Giri and Budhyarin.

Today, at the completion of 24 hours of the Fast, 11 social activists and members of the Chhattisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan (CMJS) replaced them for another day of 24-hour relay hunger-strike at 2 pm at the Dharna Sthal at Burha Talab in the capital city of Raipur. These are: Veena Thakur, Lokeshwari Thakur, Beena Vishwas, Durga Dhruv, Saguna Sarthi, Humeshwari Sahu, Emin Kahsyap, Indrani Kahsyap, Kansani Pandey, Ranjana Belekar.

About 75 citizens, activists and intellectuals were present at the inauguration of the Group Fast on 16th June to end arbitrary abuse of state power and protect democratic rights of ordinary citizens. These represented various people's and human rights organisations led by Com. Janak Lal Thakur (President, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha & Former MLA) & Com Sheikh Ansar (Vice-President, CMM), Adv. Gautam Bandopadhya (Nadi Ghati Morcha), Ratneshwar Nath (Ekta Parishad, Kanker), Shashi Sail (Chhattisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan), Adv Sudha Bhardwaj (Pragateesheel Cement Shramik Sangh, Jamul), Com Hemant Tandon (Communist Party of India-ML), Kumud Nandgave (Chhattisgarh Bal Sharamik Sangathan), Jacob N (Richariya Campaign), Com. Bishe Lal Nishad (Pragateesheel Engineering Shramik Sangh & CMM), Nazma (Roopantar), Shiv Kumar Patel (Mukti-Niketan, Pithora), Vijendra (National Centre for Advocacy Study), Com Bishram KK & Pawan Devangan (Rajnandgaon Kapda Milla Mazdoor Sangh), Com Rajim Tandi (Dalit-Adivasi Sangh), Babita Dutta (Shaheed Ansuiya Natya Kala Manch), M K Masih & Surendra Tandi (MLU-RCDRC).

During the occasion, Adv Rajendra K Sail, President (Chhattisgarh PUCL) underlined that these draconian laws sanction the violation of due process by the state, and thus contravene internationally accepted norms of jurisprudence as well as democratic governance. Quoting the Senior Advocate K G Kannabiran, National President of PUCL, India, Sail said that in his letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Kannabirarn argues that the CSPSA and UAPA operated by criminalizing the very performance of civil liberties activities, and culpability was decided upon not by direct proof, but through guilt by association.

Sail also pointed out that the PUCL-Chhattisgarh Unit, with Dr. Binayak Sen's active leadership as its General Secretary, had exposed the government sponsored so-called campaign Salwa-Judum in Chhattisgarh which legitimizes extra-constitutional violence and pits adivasis against adivasis. And, this was the major reason that the State machinery of Chhattisgarh had come out heavily against the human rights defenders.

Addressing the gathering at the inauguration of the Group Fast, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Award Winner said that if the state did not respond to peaceful and democratic means of protest, it was but natural that the people victimized by various development processes being implemented by the Governments at the behest of big business and industrial giants would have no option but to resort to extra-constitutional means. Giving example of Irom Sharmila, a human rights activist from Manipur on Fast-unto- Death for the past 7 years against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Sandeep Pandey said that it was such a shame that the democratically elected governments were going back on their own promises to restore democracy and ensure human rights in the North-East India region, which has been witnessing worst violations of human rights by the hands of the Army.

Others who spoke at the occasion were Com Janak Lal Thakur (CMM), Bharat Bhooshan Pandey (CPI-ML), Ram Prakash (Asha Pariwar), Sudha Bhardwaj (PUCL-CG), Shiv Kumar Patel (Mukti-Niketan). Cultural Activists from Shaheed Ansuiya Natya Kala sang mukti songs, and raised slogans.

At the end, Rajendra Sail announced that the Group Fast would end on 25th June, the day Emergency Rule in India was declared in 1975, followed by a National Convention on Repressive Laws & Human Rights on 25th & 26th June 2008 at Raipur.

Sail also informed that almost that more than 70 organizations from more than 25 states of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, UK, USA, and other nations had endorsed the campaign, and that a signature campaign has been initiated to mobilize support from the Members of Parliament in India. He said that 12 MPs, who were related to medical profession, had already signed the petition for the release of Dr. Binayak Sen.

Rajendra K Sail
President
Mobile: 094242-01288
Dharna Sthal: +91-9752526299

To sign the petition, click here or go to:

http://www.AshaParivar.org/petition/binayaksen


National partnership for TB care and control shapes up in India

Photo by busymommyA national multi-stakeholder partnership for tuberculosis (TB) care and control is shaping up in India.

On 4 November 2008, representatives from a range of TB-focused organizations participated in a meeting at the LRS Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases in New Delhi. The meeting was facilitated by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) India Resource Center.

India is ranked first on a WHO list of 22 high-TB burdened countries and the country is home to about one fifth of the world’s TB cases. According to WHO’s 2008 anti-TB drug resistance report, India and China are responsible for more than 50% of the world’s drug-resistant TB cases and India is home to a number of cases of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).

But India has made considerable strides towards better TB care and control, testing more than 40 million people for TB and rolling out anti-TB treatment to more than nine million people with the disease since 1997.

Every month more than 100,000 people with TB are put on Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) and India has reported a cure rate of 85% among people with TB. However the poor performance of DOTS programs has resulted in increases in the amount of drug-resistant cases.

According to Dr LS Chauhan, Deputy Director General for TB with the Directorate General of Health Services, “Partnerships in TB care and control are not new to India.”

“Since 1995, India has forged partnerships with different sectors to improve TB program performances,” Dr Chauhan said. “Despite the involvement of more than 2500 NGOs, private practitioners, 260 medical colleges and 110 corporate sector hospitals . . . the contribution of the TB programs is not at the desired level.”

“There is a need now for close coordination and clear communication while working together to face the challenge of including those who are currently outside the reach of the public health system.”

Recent reports have identified a number of issues impeding responses to TB in India, including limited community awareness, sub-optimal community participation, issues of TB and HIV co-infection and the emergence of drug-resistant strains of the disease.

“Eight million new TB cases are diagnosed every year and two TB deaths take place every three minutes in India,” Dr D Behera, Director of the LRS Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases in New Dehli, said.

“Just providing anti-TB treatment is not sufficient. Treatment is interrupted due to poverty, unemployment.”

Robin Mardeusz of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said partnerships provide multi-active and innovative solutions to these problems.

“At USAID, partnerships are the way to do business. Partnerships enhance efficiency and effectiveness, rational division of labour, maximize synergy,” Mardeusz said.

A civil-society TB partnership that has been operating in India since March 2007 to complement India’s Revised National TB Control Program is the NGO TB Consortium which includes eight major civil society organizations contributing to TB care and control—the Adventist Development Relief Agency, the Damien Foundation India Trust, the German Leprosy and TB Relief Association, the LEPRA Society, PATH India, Project Concern International India, TB Alert India and World Vision India.

How this partnership will complement other efforts remains to be seen and the goals of strengthening information exchange platforms, genuine dialogue and TB advocacy remain daunting challenges.

Maybe it is time to step out of our organizational entities and join hands for stronger efforts to help communities affected by TB and push India achieve the prevention, treatment and care targets it has set.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

Ten days Fast in support of Dr Binayak Sen begins in 5 countries

Ten days Fast in support of Dr Binayak Sen begins in 5 countries

A 10-days fast (16 - 25 June 2008) demanding the release of Dr Binayak Sen began today in India, Pakistan, Thailand, US and UK. More than 100 organizations have endorsed this fast and campaign demanding justice for Dr Sen worldwide.

Twenty-two Nobel laureates from around the world had earlier appealed to the Indian government to allow Dr Binayak Sen to receive the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights in person at the end of May 2008. But Indian government denied the permission and Dr Sen's wife received the coveted award on his behalf.

Dr Binayak Sen of Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India, who has helped establish a hospital serving poor mine workers in the region, founded a health and human rights organization that supports community health workers in 20 villages, and is the general secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), has been imprisoned in Raipur for more than a year now without trial as a result of allegations that he violated state antiterrorism laws. Not only Dr Sen denies committing any crime, but his lifetime contribution to strengthen democracy and fight for the most underserved communities defies such accusations.

This 10-days fast is being organized at Raipur in Chhattisgarh, where Dr Sen is imprisoned, along with in other Indian states and other countries too, to express solidarity with Dr Binayak Sen, Ajay T G (filmmaker) -- both are members of the PUCL, and many others detained under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) 2005, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1967, amended in 2004.

These draconian laws sanction the violation of due process by the state, and thus contravene internationally accepted norms of jurisprudence as well as democratic governance. As Senior Advocate K G Kannabiran, National President of PUCL, India, argues in his letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the CSPSA and UAPA operate by criminalizing the very performance of civil liberties activities, and culpability is decided upon not by direct proof, but through guilt by association.

The PUCL-Chhattisgarh Unit, with Dr. Binayak Sen's active leadership as its General Secretary, had exposed the government sponsored so-called campaign Salwa-Judum in Chhattisgarh which legitimizes extra-constitutional violence and pits adivasis against adivasis.

The Fast is to ensure that human rights of marginalized people are not trampled upon and human rights defenders continue to work fearlessly. The Fast will end on 25th June, the day Emergency Rule in India was declared in 1975, followed by a National Convention on Repressive Laws & Human Rights on 25th & 26th June 2008 at Raipur.

Published in

Central Chronicle, Madhya Pradesh/ Chhattisgarh, India

Rediff News, India/ USA

India Abroad, USA

Media for Freedom, Nepal

The Seoul Times, Seoul, South Korea

Indian Vanguard

News Blaze, USA

Assam Times, Assam, India

American Chronicle, USA

Two Circles.Net

Web India 123

Thai Indian News

Binayak Sen. Net

My News, India

New Kerala News, India

Kify News, India

Santa Barbara Chronicle, Santa Barbara, USA

World Sentinel, USA


Addressing HIV and IDU issues vital for TB programs in Nepal

Photo by MMMpicturesMore than 90% of people diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) in Nepal successfully complete treatment, according to Dr Dirgh Singh Bam, Secretary of the Ministry of Health and former Vice-President of Nepal’s Anti-Tuberculosis Association (NATA).

But Dr Bam also says that the poor performance of Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) programs has resulted in the development of drug-resistant forms of TB, including multi-drug-resistant strains of the disease.

About 1.8% of all new TB infections in Nepal involve multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), which is resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin. These drugs are part of ‘first-line’ TB treatments and resistance can occur when they are misused or mismanaged.

People with TB who do not complete a full course of treatment run the risk of developing MDR-TB, which also results from the prescription of the wrong medication, incorrect dosages, and the provision of low-quality treatment.

Dr Bam says that 29% of all TB cases in Nepal involve HIV co-infection, particularly among injection drug users (IDUs). “Without addressing HIV and IDU issues, it will be very difficult to effectively respond to TB,” Dr Bam says.

IDUs and people with both HIV and TB are also at a risk of contracting hepatitis C (HCV) in Nepal. HCV is an infectious blood-borne viral disease, which can cause liver inflammation. Chronic HCV can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.

HCV transmission rates are higher than that of HIV, and the condition is often more severe in IDUs. People who share injection equipment are vulnerable to HCV and HIV infection, says Dr Bam, and in Nepal, there is a separate health program to respond to HCV.

“Community participation is very essential for effective TB and HIV care in Nepal,” Dr Bam said. The Patients’ Charter for Tuberculosis Care, outlines the rights and responsibilities of people with TB and it empowers those with the disease and their communities.

Dr Bam said the Patients’ Charter for Tuberculosis Care could be used as a tool to empower people with TB to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, which would also improve the performance of TB-related programs.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

Will the global recession impede TB care and control?

Photo by James CridlandGovernments all over the world are struggling to cope with the economic recession and millions more people are expected to lose their jobs.

In most countries, leaders are resorting to extreme cost-cutting measures that threaten funding for tuberculosis (TB) treatment and control measures across the globe.

While the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) continues its search for the US$ 5 billion in funding still needed for 2009-2010, Wall Street corporations have given themselves $18 billion in holiday bonuses (read more).

The money for these bonuses came from US tax payers but would tax payers rather fund holidays for bankers, or save lives in countries hit hard by the three diseases? The Merrill Lynch bonuses alone would have paid off GFATM’s funding short-fall in full (read more).

Jeffery Sachs, Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and a Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General, has called on the US government to take back the $18 billion and use the money to help buy antiretroviral drugs and mosquito nets.

Calling the bonuses, “unbelievably egregious” Sachs said, “Those bonuses are being paid out of our bailout funds . . . I suggest the US government reclaim that funding and put the money into the Global Fund immediately.” (read more)

According to articles published last week (read more), GFATM provides a quarter of all international funding for the response to HIV, two-thirds of all the money that goes to tackling TB and three quarters of all money spent on stopping malaria.

But GFATM has only collected $3 billion of the $8 billion needed to fund projects around the world in 2009 and 2010. Sachs says the $5 billion funding short-fall faced by GFTAM is less than half a percent of the money G8 countries have spent on bailing out failed banks in the past three months (read more).

Sachs also says that the US has failed to keep its promises to GFATM and has not handed over 0.7% to 1% of its annual gross national product as agreed. “We’re at 0.16 of 1% of our income for development assistance. It’s the lowest level of all 22 donor countries,” Sachs said.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

Finally, anti-HIV microbicide research provides hope

Photo by bobbyramakantResearch into anti-HIV microbicides has finally produced a positive outcome—the microbicide gel PRO2000 achieved a 30% reduction in HIV transmission among women during recent clinical trials.

Women offered PRO2000 and condoms experienced 30% fewer HIV infections than women offered only condoms or condoms and a placebo gel, according to trial results presented by Protocol Chair Dr Salim S Abdool Karim, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.

Dr Karim presented the results at the 2009 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). This multi-site clinical trial was known as HPTN 035, and was responsible for testing two candidate microbicides (PRO2000 and Buffer Gel). It was conducted by the US National Institute of Health (NIH) and was funded by the Microbicides Trial Network (MTN) in South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the US.

The PRO2000 microbicide gel showed anti-HIV activity by reducing the HIV transmission risk among women by 30%, but the Buffer Gel was found to be ineffective.

The news of PRO2000's success is particularly encouraging to health advocates because microbicide research has faced so much disappointing news in the past decade, with different microbicide-candidate-products under research showing no positive anti-HIV effect in human trials.

According to WHO, microbicides are compounds that can be topically applied inside the vagina or rectum to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. They can be formulated as gels, creams, films, or suppositories. Microbicides may or may not have spermicidal activity (a contraceptive effect). At present, an effective microbicide is not available, and different candidate-microbicides are in various stages of research.

The Global Campaign for Microbicides (GCM), an advocacy organization that has been campaigning to expand women's HIV prevention options for over a decade, said in a press statement that adherence to the PRO2000 gel during the trials was as high as 81%. In another analysis that accounted for the time that women did not use contraceptives because they were pregnant, the study found PRO2000 to be 36% protective against HIV compared to the control arms.

"The results on PRO2000 are a ray of hope for women," observed Lori Heise, Director of the Global Campaign for Microbicides (GCM). "This is the first time that we have had human data actually showing that a vaginal gel can work to reduce infection. It's not a home run, but this "proof of concept" should invigorate the field"

Another effectiveness trial of PRO2000, conducted by the UK-funded Microbicide Development Programme (MDP), is currently in its final stages in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. This trial—known as MDP 301—has enrolled over 9000 women, three times the number enrolled in HPTN 035.

“This second trial should help us refine our estimate of how effective PRO2000 actually is,” noted Dr. Samu Dube, GCM’s Africa Program Leader in the GCM press statement. “With three times the number of women, the MDP trial will yield an even more precise estimate of effectiveness. We will need such data before deciding whether it makes sense to move this product forward toward licensing and distribution.”

The development of microbicides is seen as a key to empowering women to protect themselves against HIV. Women are biologically more vulnerable to the transmission of STIs and many cultural and economic factors compound this vulnerability.

Millions of women live in societies that permit them no role in sexual decision-making, that condone male infidelity and assign the burden of shame and stigma associated with infectious diseases to women. Existing preventative strategies have largely failed to address this vulnerability, focusing on abstinence, mutual monogamy and male condom use, none of which are easily controlled by women.

Vaginal microbicides are also likely to fail until men understand and respect the need for women to protect themselves against HIV and other STIs. Not only do women need preventative options that they can choose to use freely but the gender inequalities that make it harder for women to insist on safer sex must be addressed.

For more information about microbicide development and trials, go to:
Global Campaign for Microbicides (GCM)
International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM)

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

Evidence is key in improving health responses during financial crisis

Photo by Nick J WebbEvidence is key in improving health responses during financial crisis

The study of causes, distribution, spread and control of diseases in populations, epidemiology, is a fundamental science and an integral part of public health. Epidemiology has helped address old public health challenges and continues to be a tool to investigate new challenges by providing evidence required for sound public health action.

Efforts to strengthen epidemiology should remain a priority of Member States even when plagued by the challenge of climate change, an energy crisis or a global financial crisis.

"To address each of these challenges, what we need is the information or the evidence or data not only for developing of our strategies and policies, but also for advocacy," said Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, Regional Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia at the inauguration of a "Regional Meeting on Application of Epidemiological Principles for Public Health Action" in New Delhi.

The two-day meeting is aimed at formulating an agreed framework for action, both within WHO and in Member States. This would help to strengthen epidemiological capacities in the Region and to apply this know-how and skills to overcome current public health challenges such as those arising from the current financial downturn, climate change and from emergence of new pathogens.

"The main idea behind this meeting is to ascertain how we can together strengthen and focus our attention on the application of epidemiological concepts and principles in national health programme development and management of health problems," said Dr Jai P. Narain, Director, Communicable Diseases, WHO SEARO.

More than 50 eminent epidemiologists are attending this two-day regional meeting.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS