ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Much-Needed Reversal


I am impelled to write this to you as I felt devastated on reading the editorial note ‘Public Policy: Hasty Reversal’ (May 27) castigating the government of India for daring to think in terms of “future withdrawal of compulsory iodisation of salt”. You say there has been considerable debate before the compulsion was imposed during the Indira Gandhi government days in 1982. As a public health worker, I have not come across any convincing scientific data which called for such compulsion. I had witnessed a massive propaganda drive, backed up with fierce lobbying and media onslaught to push through this compulsion on all the people of India. In fact KSSP, Kerala, had got together considerable information in monograph form which tended to point out ill-effects of nationwide use of compulsory iodisation. You also do not seem to be aware that this compulsion led to a sharp rise in the price of salt and penetration of big business like Tata Salt and Captain Cook into the salt market and utter pauperisation of thousands of small salt producers throughout the country. You are also perhaps unaware that the government of India subsidised the big businesses by supplying them potassium iodate free of cost. Let me also mention I am not aware of any data which have shown reduction of iodine deficiency mental illness due to 18 years of compulsion. You also seem to overlook the fact that the ruling class has a tendency to manipulate science to brand the poor as mentally retarded. The classic case has been the hype built up to ‘claim’ that malnutrition in infants causes permanent brain damage; so the rich alone are mentally fit (like the dynasty!) to rule this country; the poor are branded as mentally retarded so that they serve as ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ for the rich. The bogey of mental health and iodine deficiency is a part of this move. Obviously unwittingly, you seem to have crossed into the British side of the Dandi March in condemning the ‘hasty reversal’ of an Indira Gandhi gift to the big business at the cost of the wretchedly poor of this country.

Debabar Banerji
New Delhi

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