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june 14, 2014 vol xlix no 24 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

4
LETTERS
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As editor for thirty-ve years (1969-2004)
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gave EPW the reputation it now enjoys.
editor
C Rammanohar Reddy
EXECUTIVE Editor
aniket Alam
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Issn 0012-9976
Wither on the Vine?
T
his is with reference to your editorial
entitled Fall of the Left (EPW, 7 June
2014). The debate over secularisation
was a Congress ploy and left parties of any
strand (the Communist Party of India or
the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
CPI or CPI-M) should not have joined
ranks with Congress in its efforts to destroy
the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Over
the years, it was becoming more and more
evident that secularism, as envisioned
by the framers of our Constitution, had
lost its primacy and become a vestigial
remnant. It suited the Congress, especially
the Palace, to harp on it as it considered it
to be the most emotive issue for campaign-
ing. They were mistaken in this assump-
tion. They did not take note that they
themselves had covertly imbibed Hindutva
even as the BJP led by Narendra Modi
showed signs of moving away from the
earlier agenda like the mandir, Ram, etc.
Regrettably, the left parties were trapped
into the Congress trail. Instead, they
should have stuck to their economic ideo-
logy and attacked the United Progressive
Alliance II (UPA-II) over its failure to
full the aspirations of the people, lack
of governance, corruption, etc.
Unfortunately, much earlier, they had
lost their bastion in West Bengal due to
lack of ideology and internecine quarrels
and debates within leading to their dis-
astrous performance during their last
term in ofce. They had even failed to
stand by their own land reform (owner-
ship to the poor) policy while dealing
with Tatas car project. The economic
slowdown, depressed conditions in West
Bengal, growing unemployment, etc,
added to their misery. Mamata Banerjee
rode to power on this wave of anger
against the left.
In Tripura, their record of pro-poor
policy helped them a great deal unlike in
West Bengal. In Kerala it is a cyclical swing
that has saved the left parties (saved
their face is a better description!). The two
factions could have done better if they
had fought in a united manner. There
were scandals and court cases galore
which dismayed the public. And yet they
have scraped through.
The bane of left parties in India is that
they have moved away from their larger
economic programmes. In retrospect, their
role in UPA-I seems to have made them
smug or complacent. The left did provide
the necessary counterbalance to the
reforms package of Manmohan Singh
and Chidambaram. Sadly, in the process,
they have lost the earlier vigour and ideo-
logy and got weakened. They are willing
to bargain with ruling parties like the All
India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
in Tamil Nadu to get the crumbs of ofce.
Members of Parliament so elected cannot
stand up in Parliament and advocate radi-
cal policies. They have to look back to those
who helped them to get into Parliament.
It may be difcult and also take a long
time, but left parties should reinvent their
policies and programmes if they have to
be respected by voters in future. Other-
wise, like the Congress Party in many
states, they will wither on the vine.
K Subramanian
Comment on Website
Polio Elimination:
A Response
I
n Manoj Grovers letter Polio Elimina-
tion (EPW, 17 May 2014) on two points
in my article Can the Polio Elimination
Success Story Breed More Successes in
India? (EPW, 5 April 2014), the writer
seems to answer the question in the
negative, saying: I cannot imagine any
internal [read Indian] agency matching
NPSP [National Polio Surveillance Project]
on any [of these] fronts.
Polio elimination was managed by NPSP,
an agency created by the World Health
Organisation (WHO) specically for the
purpose since the Universal Immunisa-
tion Programme (UIP), the natural Indian
agency that should have been assigned
the task, was found inadequate for the
purpose. The indictment that no govern-
mental agency can match NPSP, coming
from a functionary of the Planning Com-
mission, deserves urgent attention by the
Ministry of Health (MoH). All departments
under MoH must be reviewed thoroughly
and re-engineered where necessary.
One advantage of inactivated poliovirus
vaccine (IPV) is that no child given three
Economic & Political Weekly EPW june 14, 2014 vol xlix no 24
5
LETTERS
Web Exclusives
The following article has been published in the past week in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website.
It has not been published in the print edition.
Making Sense of Indias Democratic Choice Sayori Ghoshal
Articles posted before 7 June 2014 remain available in the Web Exclusives section.
doses will get polio. Large numbers of
children were developing polio in India,
in spite of ve, seven or even 10 doses of
oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV). Children
in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar required over
15 doses therefore OPV had to be given in
repetitive pulses delinked from UIP. IPV on
the other hand is UIP-schedule-friendly.
Using both vaccines would have detracted
nothing from UIP. The incidence of polio
would have declined to third dose IPV
coverage. With OPV added in pulses, polio
could have been eliminated faster, allow-
ing the risk-free withdrawal of OPV, while
IPV remains in UIP. According to the WHO,
OPV is incompatible with polio eradication
and has to be withdrawn everywhere. In
India OPV causes vaccine-associated para-
lytic polio (VAPP) in about 100 children
annually; they are neither recognised nor
compensated. A single dose of IPV prevents
VAPP. Early introduction of IPV was not
only epidemiologically necessary but also
ethically essential. A reluctant India is
now being forced by WHO to introduce
IPV and prevent VAPP and vaccine-derived
viruses threatening polio outbreaks.
The second point is about the poor
functional efciency of UIP. The Govern-
ment of India does not provide UIP with
sufcient funding, human resources, well-
manned and managed ofces for state and
district functionaries, electronic data and
connectivity support, autonomy for course
correction, ongoing internal and external
auditing and outcome-oriented direction
all that were given liberally to NPSP jointly
by WHO and the government. Except for
the expatriate head of NPSP, all technical
personnel were Indians. Ironically UIP is
not in a position today even to absorb the
trained NPSP medical ofcers.
The reason for NPSPs success is the
design NPSP is result-oriented but UIP is
process-oriented. For example, the effec-
tiveness of UIP is assessed by immunisa-
tion coverage, a measure of inputs and
not by outcome or result. In spite of UIPs
desire to control vaccine-targeted diseases,
MoH is neither monitoring them (primary
tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus
and measles) by case-based disease sur-
veillance, nor enabling and empowering
UIP to do so. The current methods of
disease monitoring through a sample
reporting scheme or integrated disease
surveillance are incomplete, unreliable and
no match to polio surveillance. Obviously,
UIP is in need of re-engineering with a
clear road map and adequate budget.
T Jacob John
vellore, tamil nadu
Brutal Sexual Assault
and Murder
B
arely have the voices of protests
against the sexual assault of four
minor girls in Hisar district of Haryana
been subdued when another horric dis-
play of sexual violence has occurred in
Budaun district of Uttar Pradesh (UP).
Two dalit cousins both minors were
brutally gang-raped, murdered and hung
from a tree on 27 May 2014. The hang-
ing of the bodies from a tree, in full dis-
play, by the dominant communities, which
is reminiscent of the dark ages, is most
condemnable. This is one among a grow-
ing number of incidents of sexual and
caste violence. This increasing sexual
violence against women calls upon each
one of us to ght for a society that ensures
both safety and dignity to its citizens.
On 27 May, the two cousins had
stepped out of their house at night in Katra
village of Budaun district to relieve them-
selves. They were raped and murdered
allegedly by three brothers of the Yadav
community and hung from a tree. The
local police was approached in the frantic
search that ensued. The bodies were dis-
covered at 4 am the next morning on a
tree. Although the police was informed
immediately after the girls went missing,
they did not act promptly and turned
away the family. This is a clear dereliction
of duty. It is only after the protest against
the rapist-killers at the police chowki
grew that the police reached the spot.
The chief minister has nally ordered a
CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation)
probe into the incident. Five accused have
been arrested, including two policemen
who have been dismissed from service.
The failure of the government along with
its administration and police is not new,
but the sheer indifference and lack of
accountability have touched a new low
as the chief minister of the state publicly
retorted that at least you are not hurt.
This incident is yet another example
of using sexual violence as a tool of
caste oppression and communal violence
to subjugate dalits and other sections
lower in the caste hierarchy. The fact
that the state is negligent, lackadaisical,
and sometimes complicit in such inci-
dents increases the problem manifold.
After a series of incidents in Bhagana in
Hisar district of Haryana, where Jats,
the dominant caste, have forced dalits
to leave villages with continued atroci-
ties culminating in sexual violence on
dalit women, Budaun is a poster display-
ing the worst manifestation of casteism
prevalent in the state of UP.
Even though in this incident dalit girls
were raped and murdered, the Scheduled
Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention
of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (in brief, the Atro-
cities Act) has not been invoked. This
raises doubts over the seriousness of the
government in protecting the interests of
the dalit community. While the Atrocities
Act is there as a token, it is never fully
used to quell the rise of caste violence.
The blatant disregard of human rights,
civil rights, and basic decency has created
a protective shield for perpetrators of
the crime and at the same time dispelled
all illusions of equality, social justice,
and protection of law as gloried by the
Constitution. The incident also calls our
attention to the sore reality that even after
more than 60 years of Independence, the
country has not been able to provide toilets
and sanitation facilities to its people. It
is the poorest and most marginalised
people in rural India as well as in urban
slums, especially women, who are sub-
jected to such humiliating conditions
that further deepen their vulnerabilities.
Asish Gupta, D Manjit
Secretaries, PUDR,
DELHI
LETTERS
june 14, 2014 vol xlix no 24 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
6
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