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In Defence of Taslima Nasreen

Taslima Nasreen has exercised unprecedented courage in exposing patriarchy and demanding human/democratic rights for women. In her writings, she identifies the elements of patriarchy oppressing and exploiting women and shows haw patriarchy derives its authority from religion. It is the clarity of her vision, the sharpness of her pen and l\er straightforward colloquial idiom which is yet poetic that has generated the furore.

WEST BENGAL-Private Practice and Medicare

WEST BENGAL Private Practice and Medicare Sujit K Das PHYSICIANS are supposed to belong to a noble profession and hence a preferential devotion to the commercial aspects of medical practice has never failed to raise eyebrows. Private practice by doctors under regular government employment is a particularly sensitive issue. Fleecing of patients with spurious treatment, neglect of emergency patients, lack of attention to poor hospital patients due to doctors' busy private practice, etc, are favourite stories for the media. The recent controversy on medical malpractice cases under the operation of Consumer Protection Act have increased public concern on the issue Privatisation of medical practice, however, is on the increase and in such a situation, the legislation passed in West Bengal banning private practice of medical teachers in the government medical colleges has raised much expectation in all quarters, along with intense controversy.

Public Health A Question of Entitlements

Entitlements Sujit K Das In a society with such sharp socio-economic differences, is it possible to provide equitably free medicare services to all? If not, who is entitled to this subsidised care? The recent decision to enhance charges in hospitals ignores this crucial issue.

Academic Definitions, Pointless Prescriptions

Academic Definitions, Pointless Prescriptions Sujit K Das IT is disappointing to see that academic exercises on health issues are mostly based on theories and concepts relevant to Western societies and irrelevant to Indian reality. 'Social Medicine for Holistic Health: An Alternative Response to Present Crisis' by Rudolf C Heredia (EPW, December 1-8, 1990) appears to be an example of such an exercise. It is not possible, in this limited space, to take issue with all the observations and conclusions made in Heredia's article; but we will instead examine certain definitions (or concepts) used by Heredia in the said article.

Humbling the Mighty A Small Beginning

Beginning Sujit K Das Due to pressure from various national and international campaigns, the government of India banned 25 categories of drugs in 1983. Affected companies obtained stay-orders from different high courts and continued to market their harmful drugs.

Empty Promises, No Action

Sujit K Das After four years of waiting vainly for the authorities to act, the women gas victims of Bhopal have filed a writ petition charging the government of India with the responsibility of helping them stay alive until such a time as the compensation money becomes available.

Rapeseed Oil Tragedy-Cause for Concern

through these various tanks, and then it is sent to the drying machine. This is a huge drum on which many lengths of cloth are wound around. It slowly unwinds and travels along a 50 or 60 foot long belt to be wound up on another drum again. During this journey, it is stretched tight along the belt and passes over a bed of coal-embers. A wheel with teeth was attached by a handle to the big drum and a young boy was turning it by throwing his entire weight on it. He looked like someone turning the sugar-cane juice machine but a machine much heavier than that, demanding his utmost strength and more. More like a bullock. Caught between the heat of the live coals and the mountain of unending work. One such who had left that job after some time told me: "No one lasts more than a couple of weeks at the drum. The latest arrival who can't get any other work take this on and then runs away in a few days. You get 10 minutes off every half an hour and may be a bit more if there are two of you. That's ally THE OWNERS 1 was visiting the homes of every loom- owner in the settlement, accompanied by Maruti Shinde, a CPI(M) worker One of his acquaintances stopped us at the entrance of one home and asked what I was doing. Maruti introduced us. His name was Karajge Diwanji. About fifty, plump, in a crumpled dhoti and shirt, grey stubble on his chin. He seemed eager to talk. Maruti told me he owned some looms. "Hah, Own!", he laughed bitterly. "How many looms do you own?" "Four". "Where did you get the capital to start them?" "Don't ask! I was a school teacher, then became a diwanji in a firm, then I hocked my little bit of land, sold my wife's 'mangalsutra' and bought this trouble!' "Trouble?" "Yes. Trouble. Horror. Mess. I do nothing but pimp all day long and for what? For nothing. I told my workers: don't call me master any more. Even my wife doesn't!" All the listeners, including the women, laughed at this and this seemed to egg him on because he raised his voice and said, "Yes! which women will call a penniless man a master? I can't bring home the bread. She says

Meaningful Drug Policy

Meaningful Drug Policy Sujit K Das ARUN GHOSH's exercise, 'From the Ivory Tower', to formulate a meaningful drug policy for India (EPW, April 16) has somehow missed the mark. I am inclined to guess, that Ghosh has not cared to descend from the ivory tower to get a feel of the actual scene. The basic elements of a national drug policy may be pinpointed to only two essential issues: first, the presence of unscientific drugs and next, inequitable distribution. All other elements are either subsidiary or complementary.

Left Front s Health Circus

Sujit K Das West Bengal's health administration is in dismal shape. The Left Front government is unresponsive to people's demands and has dealt with agitations quite brutally.

Left Front s Scheme for Modernising Health Care Ill-Conceived

cent respectively. The rupee-dollar rate declined fractionally by 0.2 per cent. In February 1987 the rupee had been allowed to depreciate against all the currencies, particularly against the pound, yen, and DM. The Reserve Bank altered the rupee sterling parity 12 times during this February as compared with 10 times in the preceding month.

WEST BENGAL-Trouble on the Health Front

Trouble on the Health Front Sujit K Das TROUBLE has once again erupted on the health front in West Bengal. It was not unexpected. In November 1986 the junior doctors submitted a charter of demands to the government of West Bengal asking for in-service status for their jobs (which involves pay-hike), better emergency care in the hospitals, stoppage of ad hoc recruitment of doctors in government service, restoration of fair practice in post-graduate medical education and abolition of the chief minister's quota in admission to MBBS course. The government as usual ignored them when they went through the conventional agitaiive programmes. From January 1987, the junior doctors resorted to a novel way of registering protest. Refusing to sign on the pay roll, they put their left thumb impression (LTI) at the time of receiving their monthly stipends, claiming that their emoluments are worse than what the mostly illiterate (group D) government employees draw with LTI. A commotion ensued. To and fro telephone calls were exchanged between hospital authorities and the headquarters. Though the government asked the superintendents not to disburse stipend on LTI, the latter however, took stock of the situation and disbursed the stipends. The episode caught the imagination of the reporters and the newspapers featured it prominently. Surprisingly, the government reaction was very sharp. The hospital authorities were admonished and LTI was forbidden. On January 31, 1987, when the junior doctors again insisted on LTI for the next month's stipend at SSKM Hospital, Calcutta, they were refused. The young doctors squatted in front of the cashier's counter and chanted slogans. Suddenly a large police party led by two deputy commissioners entered swinging sticks and made indis- criminaie lathi-charge without warning. A score of junior doctors including a lady were injured, lour of them seriously, needing hospital admission and 10 doctors were arrested on charges of illegal assembly, rioting, resisting government officers from performing duty and so on. The news spread like wild fire and all junior doctors in the government hospitals under the leadership of All Bengal Junior Doctors Federation (ABJDF) ceased work, maintaining only emergency services. On February 2, 1987, Health Services Association (HSA, the organisation of the medical officers in government service) called a one-day's cease- work to protest against the police action, closing all services except the emergency. Jyoti Basu, the chief minister, returning from Bangladesh on that day, added fuel to the fire by his characteristic casual remarks. Basu made a remark against the junior doctors and, asserting that they insulted and manhandled the lady superintendent, he warned about stern disciplinary measures. At the same time, in spite of the demands from all quarters, the chief minister ruled out any sort of enquiry into the incident and refused to disclose the contents of the superintendent's own report. Since then services in all big hospitals in the state where junior doctors are appointed, remain virtually paralysed.

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