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IMA Asks Govt, Why Are We Hiding the Actual Death Count? Demands Health Ministry to Wake Up from Slumber

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Indian medical Association to Health ministry

New Delhi: Indian Medical Association has come out criticizing the lackadaisical attitude of the Ministry of Health in combating the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The Association has demanded that the Health Ministry should wake up from slumber and respond to mitigate the growing challenges in the pandemic.

The Association came heavily upon the Ministry over several issues including shortage of oxygen and needed drugs and their rising prices, reluctance in imposing proper lockdown, failure to deliver the vaccine to all above 18-years in age, violence against doctors, and indifference of the ministry to the suggestions and inputs of the health professionals and experts.

The IMA, in a statement released today, said that it is astonished to see the extreme lethargy and inappropriate actions from the Ministry of health in combating the agonizing crisis born out of the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The IMA alleges that the government isn’t even considering their requests.

“The collective consciousness, proactive cognizance, and requests made by IMA and other professional learned colleagues are put into the dust bin, and often without realizing the ground realities the decisions are taken,” IMA said in the statement.

Why We Are Trying to Hide Actual Deaths? Asks IMA

The IMA alleged that the transparency in reporting and making registry is not carried out.

“’ We have lost 756 doctors in the first wave and in the second wave, more than 146 doctors have died within a short period. Hundreds of deaths happening in big hospitals are shown as non-COVID deaths and crematoriums are showing houseful boards. RTPCR negative, but CT positive cases are not counted. Why we are trying to hide actual deaths?” the IMA asked.  

The Association further said that if the public comes to know about the actual deaths, their seriousness to adopt COVID-appropriate behaviours will rise.

Further, the benefits of insurance are also denied to the victims of this pandemic when the death is not officially certified, the Association said.

Need for Complete, Planned Lockdown to Break the Chain

Further, the Association said that in the last 20 days it had been insisting on the need for complete, well-planned preannounced national lockdown rather than few states declaring complete lockdown ranging for 10 days to 15 days to getting breathing time for the health care infrastructure to recoup and replenish both the material and manpower. The Association said that lockdown will break the chain of devastating spread.

“However, the Central government had refused to head to implement lockdown resulting in the mounting of new patients beyond 4 lakhs every day and the number of moderate to severe cases is increasing to nearly 40 percent. Sporadic night curfews have not done any good. Life is precious than the economy,” the Association said.

Despite Oxygen Crisis, The Government is Not Seen at the Forefront to Solve It

The Association also took up the oxygen crisis India is facing. The crisis of oxygen is deepening every day and scores of people are succumbing to the 02 mismatch supply and it is creating panic both among patients and fraternity, the Association said.  Though there is enough production it is often the distribution is not proper. Most of the private hospitals are not getting oxygen and in every public health care place patients are crowding and suffering to get oxygen in the needed amount. The Association further added that even after 15 days of the crisis, the government is not seen at the forefront to solve these issues and resulting in people knocking at the doors of courts to get justice, resulting in judicial activism.

“Health care professional organizations are neither consulted nor the Health minister in this whole pandemic had time to interact with modern medicine professional organizations to solve this issue. Imported oxygen concentrators and oxygen plants are yet to reach the beneficiaries, the IMA said.

“IMA appeal, as the time is running out with the impending crisis lest, we deepen the crisis, solve it on a war footing,” the statement said.

Ministry Failed to Ensure Vaccination for All Above 18 Years

The Association said that the equitable, accessible, and affordable vaccination for all above at least 18 years was demanded by the IMA based on scientific facts from April 6th onwards and after persistent call. It said that the prime minister assured the nation, the vaccination drive will be started from May 1st.

“It is unfortunate the ministry has failed to make the necessarily required road map and ensure vaccine stock, resulting in the majority of the places vaccination could not be rolled out for people above 18 years,” the statement said.

The Association said that with the un humanistic differential pricing system proposed, the 15-45 age group people are forbidden to get the free vaccination from the central share of 50% and they are placed under the mercy of state governments.

The jeopardy of private practitioners and states to negotiate with manufacturers for pricing and stock resulted in exorbitant price rise and vaccine shortage, the statement said.

“In 1997 and 2014 India could declare eradication of smallpox and polio, only by adopting the universal free vaccination and not by differential pricing system When 35,000 Crore Rs were allotted in the budget, with which the maximum required 200 crore vaccine dozes are purchasable, why the central government is shedding its responsibility?” the Association asked.  

The Association said that unless the government comes out and implements with willingness and steadfastness for equitable distribution, the nation will not be able the achieve the goal. The Association pointed out that for the last 7 days no vaccine is available in small and medium private hospitals

Real Hazard Not explained in Actual Terms, Testing Decreasing Instead of Increasing

The IMA said that the mutation is a norm for RNA viruses and understanding this needs proper gene sequencing and risk assessment.

“Unless we make our self-prepared to face this by enhancing testing, we will miss the boat. Tough various mutants are identified yet the real hazard is not explained in actual terms. Dedicate experts shall be designated to study this and propose mitigation measures at the earliest. The IMA suggested for enhancing testing and tracing, but it is decreasing,” the statement said. 

Shortage of Needed Drugs Mounting, Govt Not Capping Price and Removing GST

The IMA said that the shortage of needed drugs for treating COVID including steroids is mounting in many places. Though exporting is stopped off late, production is not enhanced to the level of need, resulting in black marketing and hoarding, it said.

“More painfully spurious drugs are on the road. Price capping and systematic tracking with surveillance were suggested as a means, but the government is not interested in capping the price and remove the GST. Masks, PPE Kits, and lifesaving drugs are under GST, and rampant price rise is happening a every day,” the IMA said.

Suggestions to Augment Manpower Ignored by Govt

The Association also said that manpower shortage is dealt with knee jerk reactions than with progressive inclusive planning and consultation with suffering junior doctors.

“Most of the inputs offered to augment manpower were not adopted by the Government,” the IMA said.

Control Violence Against Doctors

The Association highlighted that violence against doctors and health care professionals is increasing. When a death occurs not due to disease but lack of infrastructure, the affected people are expressing their anger by vandalizing hospitals and health care professionals, the Association said.

“Who is going to control this? Our demand to bring in Central law against hospital violence tagged with IPC provisions and declare hospitals as protective shown couldn’t evoke any palpable response from Government,” the IMA said.

“We once again reiterate, if the violence is not controlled and a safe environment is not created for doctors to work with peace, it is going to be a disastrous situation on the health care outcome,” it said.

The IMA has also demanded that the entire health care administration should be revamped with Indian Medical Service (IMS) cadets who are well versed with the technical and administrative skill for effective execution of health care.

The Association also demanded that to establish a new integrated Ministry to serve in this pandemic with a dedicated, proactive, vibrant, innovative, and altruistic Minister and alleviate the fear of people by leading from the front.

“We propose for augmentation of infrastructure, materials, and manpower by enhancing health care budget to be rabed from 1% of GDP to minimum 8-10% OF GDP and judiciously use the earmarked budget amount for ensuring equitable and affordable Universal vaccination,” the IMA said.

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Himachal Kisan Sabha Condemns Alleged Mowing Down of Protesting Farmers by Minister’s Son, Calls it “Ghastly” and “Inhuman”

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Himachak Kisan Sabha

Shimla-Himachal Kisan Sabha has condemned the incident where four farmers were allegedly run over by vehicles in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, terming it a “ghastly” and “inhuman” act. The Sabha paid tribute to the martyred farmers and demanded immediate arrest of Ashish Mishra – son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra – and other accused and book them under Section 302 (murder).

The farmers have alleged that three SUVs that mowed down protesting farmers were part of the convoy of the Union Minister of State. The farmers alleged that Minister’s son was behind the wheel in one of these SUVs. Following this incident, violence broke out that killed four more persons. The Minister, however, denied the allegations. 

Kisan Sabha also demanded that an inquiry should be conducted into the incident by a Supreme Court Judge. The Sabha also demanded that the Union Minister of State should be suspended with immediate effect.

Sabha said that it’s extremely shameful that the Centre government is attempting to end farmers protest against three Farm Laws in a dictatorial way by means of violence.

“On September 25, 2021, Union Minister of State, Ajay Mishra, had threatened to end the farmers protest within two minutes in a public meeting, and now his son has been alleged of mowing down farmers,” said State President of Himachal Kisan Sabha, Dr Kuldeep Singh Tanwar.

“The execution of this ghastly act merely one day after the non-violence day clearly reflects that the current Centre Government has no belief in democracy. The government wants to suppress dissenting voices rising against it at any cost,” Tanwar added.

Dr Tanwar further added that protests would be staged against this “barbaric” act in Himachal Pradesh too. The sacrifice of martyred farmers won’t go in vain, and it would only strengthen the farmers’ protest, he added.  

Meanwhile, following this incident, Priyanka Gandhi, who was on her way to Lakhimpur to meet the affected families, was detained by police, while Akhilesh Yadav – former Chief Minister of UP and president of Samajwadi Party- was put under house arrest ahead of his scheduled visit.

 

 

 

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Covid-19 Needs a Regional Response, Say Physicians and Activists at SAPAN Meeting

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Poster

Peace activists under the SAPAN platform conducted an event on Sunday which included prominent physicians like Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Dr Anup Subedee, Dr Vandana Prasad, and Dr Hamid Jafari of Pakistan (led the team that eradicated polio in India). Speakers included Salima Hashmi, Khushi Kabir, Kanak Dixit, Lalita Ramdas, besides journalists Beena Sarwar, Mandira Nayar and others. Activist Priyanka Singh conducted the event.

South Asian countries cannot go it alone, that’s irrational,’’ said Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, renowned public health activist and Ramon Magsaysay awardee from Bangladesh.

The hard lockdown in his country will lead to furthering the inequalities in society, he warned, emphasizing that it is irresponsible to impose lockdowns without providing food. “Poverty has increased. There are 25 million more poor without food.”

Dr Chowdhury was among the physicians and health right activists across countries who came together on Sunday 27 June at a webinar organised by the South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN) to emphasize that the coronavirus pandemic must be fought collectively.

The third in the series of SAPAN’s monthly public webinars themed ‘Imagine: Neighbours in Peace’, the meeting focused on health as an entry point to talk about South Asian regionalism and Healthcare for all. Three main aspects deliberated included:

  How the pandemic is affecting rural areas of South Asian countries, hurdles in treatment, and access — or lack thereof — to vaccinations.

  How COVID-19 has affected mental health, women and particularly women in rural areas of all the countries of the region

  How the challenges are similar in all countries of the region and require similar solutions.

The meeting took place at a time when South Asia is reeling from the devastating second wave of Covid-19, especially in India. With Delta plus virus mutation now detected in parts of the region, the possibility of another wave looms large.

Journalist Mandira Nayar in Delhi moderated the physicians’ panel with Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury in Dhaka; infectious diseases specialist Dr Anup Subedee in Kathmandu and public health activist Dr Vandana Prasad also in Delhi. Dr Hamid Jafari of Pakistan, who led the WHO team that eradicated polio in India, joined from his current posting in Jordan. 

Dr Chowdhury advocated challenging vaccine-producing countries and pushing South Asian governments to invest more in public health.

Participants also noted that the pandemic has particularly hit women hard.

“Domestic violence has increased,” noted Dr Prasad. Women often lack control over finances, are primary caregivers and shoulder the responsibility of caring for the ill. The pandemic has pushed women further into the margins, she said, adding that there is also a “gender dimension to the access of vaccines”.

She urged doctors to enter the peace activism domain, because the poor all over are at the brink of disaster.

Dr Prasad drew attention to the gendered nature of pandemic and frontline workers, as well as Dalits, indigenous people, other minorities. “Telemedicine is important, but we must not lose focus on need for ground-based public health to begin with”.

Frontline workers in India, the accredited social health activist (ASHA) workers often lack training, safety equipment and often doesn’t get her wages for months.

While highlighting that a public health system is meant to be a great equaliser, Dr Anup Subedee noted how the pandemic exposed systematic failures in many aspects of life in Nepal, referring not only to the grievous impact on non-Covid healthcare – like child immunization and maternity care – but also the painful ordeals of healthcare community itself. 

He shared how the healthcare community in Nepal has been compelled to deal with threats of violence, lack of access to personal protection equipment, prospects of income loss without any social security system support, and an unaddressed mental health crisis among healthcare workers. 

Doctors at the meeting endorsed the need for greater cooperation and collaboration across borders. Participants called on the governments to allow free flow of critical equipment and medical personnel across borders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had floated the idea of a SAARC medical visas for patients and for medical teams to assist during the pandemic – something that must be followed up.

The doctors also urged the international fraternity to push for a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, waiver so that the Covid-19 vaccine production can be ramped up. “It is the way forward for vaccines for all,’’ asserted Dr Prasad.

Activist Khushi Kabir in Dhaka introduced the event. She talked about connections, sharing her memory of how Dr Haroon Ahmed, one of the event’s speakers, was her physician when she was a child and he was starting work at a government clinic in Karachi. Dr Haroon was unable to join at the last moment due to ill health. 

Wishing him a speedy recovery, Khushi commented, “Each time we meet, there are more losses people who have been part of our journey”. As at the previous SAPAN meeting there was a commemoration of mentors and leaders whose vision SAPAN is taking forward, like Asma Jahangir and Dr Mubashir Hasan, and Nirmala Despande and others. 

There was also a moment of silence to express condolences and share the grief of the families and friends of those lost to Covid and other causes over the past month. “Since we were unable to memorialise everyone, the presentation could only be symbolic,” noted Khushi Kabir.

The In Memoriam slideshow includes journalist Ghazi Salahuddin’s three siblings taken by Covid in as many weeks, including Dr Aquila Islam, Pakistan’s first woman nuclear physicist. It also included the legendary runner Milkha Singh and his wife, volleyball champ Nirmal Saini who died within days of each other, and radiologist Chinna Dua, 56, wife of journalist Vinod Dua. She had endeared herself to music and poetry lovers across the region when she joined Tina Sani some years back at the Faiz Festival in Karachi – on Facebook at this link.

Ghazi Salahuddin has written about his family tragedy in a brave and heartbreaking oped for The News, Partings without goodbyes (20 June 2021), noting: “my struggle to cope with this terrible bereavement was eased a bit when I reminded myself that this pandemic has devastated so many families across the world…”

Several well known activists and experts also joined from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and elsewhere, including Hina Jillani, Urvashi Butalia, Jean Dreze, Kavita Srivastava, Shireen Huq, Kanak Mani Dixit and others.

The South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN) is primarily a coalition of individuals and organisations aiming to take forward a peace agenda for the region, building on the work done by mentors and leaders over the last few decades. 

SAPAN founder and curator Beena Sarwar shared the story of this network and her vision for an inter-generational, multi-sectoral, inter- and intra-regional coalition of individuals and organisations coming together in broad consensus for a one-point agenda.

Facebook live recording is online at this link

Source: SAPAN,  Beena Sarwar, Kanak Mani Dixit, Mandira Nayar, Rida Anwaar, Rehmat Merchant, Priyanka Singh and some other peace activists present in the virtual session

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Editors Guild of India Condemns FIR Against Journalists, Calls it Destructive of Freedom of Speech

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ghaziabad incident
Image Credit: The Cognate

Shimla-The Editors Guild of India on Thursday condemned the filing of First Information Reports (FIRs) by the Uttar Pradesh Police against The Wire and several other journalists for their tweets on an assault on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad on June 5th.

“The Guild is deeply concerned by the UP Police’s track record of filing FIRs against journalists to deter them from reporting serious incidents without fear of reprisals”, it said.

It further added that it is the duty of the journalists to report on the basis of sources and in case facts become contested later on, to report the emerging versions and facets.

The guild called such actions by the police destructive of freedom of speech. It also claimed that the police has been discriminatory in targeting those media organizations and journalists when thousands had tweeted the video- that have been critical of the government and its policies.

“The Guild condemns this wanton misuse of laws to criminalize reporting and dissent to harass independent media and demands that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately,” it demanded.

Several media organizations and journalists had posted the video on their social media feeds. The UP police has filled FIR’s against The Wire, Twitter, journalist Mohammed Zubair, Rana Ayyub and Sana Naqvi and some Congress leaders under IPC Sections 153(provocation for rioting), 153A(promoting enmity between different groups), 295A(acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505(mischief), 120B(criminal conspiracy) and 34(common intention) against them.

In the video that was posted by those charged, the man is seen alleging that he was beaten up by some people and was forced to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’.

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