Why We Should Fight the Move to Introduce Fortified Rice into PDS
- Jagannath Chatterjee
The first thing is about the organisations involved PATH and ABBOTT. PATH is an organisation that puts vaccination over the needs for factors like ending poverty, ensuring livelihood, access to nutritious food, better housing conditions, clean water, sanitation and hygiene for poor children in developing countries. It has garnered billions of dollars from developed countries and other international donors for its vaccination goal.
It was intsrumental in introducing the OPV into India. Subsequently doctors of the IMA found out that OPV was causing polio, has circulated a vaccine strain virus capable of causing polio, a monovalent OPV was illegally and unethically experimented on Indian children. That the OPV is causing cases of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) to skyrocket in India, currently causing 40,000 + cases every year. When the doctors wrote to PATH about this and questioned its motives, PATH replied that it was concentrating only on 3 polio enterovirus strains and was thus not interested in any other issue.
PATH has also been a party in various unethical clinical trials, the one in India recently on the HPV vaccine which resulted in deaths of 9 tribal girls in Andhra Pradesh & Gujarat and had to be hurriedly stopped. PATH refused to take responsibility, pay compensation and even denied the fact that it was a clinical trial. It also emerged that prior to the trial PATH had insured itself from liability, whereas ethics says that the subjects of the trials should be prior informed of the risks involved and their or their guardians consent has to be taken which was not, and an insurance be made for compensation in case of death/disease/disability. PATH influenced the Govt of India Health Ministry so that no action was taken against the agency.
ABBOTT is a pharmaceutical giant, and acts like one. Recently it is trying to have a grip on the growing pharmaceutical market of India and emerge as the no 1 platyer. It started illegally advertising its drugs violating Indian laws of ethics. But the Indian authorities did not take note till doctors of the USA slammed ABBOTT and brought the incidence to public notice and stopped the advertisements. ABBOTT is set to establish its presence in India. It deals with various pharmaceutical drugs and ALSO neutraceuticals.
So allowing these two trouble makers to operate in unison in rural India will invite "innovative ideas" that will cater to their avowed interests in vaccines and pharmaceuticals. The fortified rice will only be the beginning. We do not really know their plans for the future. PATH is also very close to BMGF which has concentrated on vaccines and GM crops to "empower and benefit the poor" in developing countries.
So this is my own assessment of the situation. We do not have any kind of monitoring plans on the activities of such organisations. This "fortified rice" will open the doors for them to involve themselves with the Health Ministry officials and thus have their say on both agriculture and NRHM activities.
With many governments, including Orissa, declaring that PHCs would be handed over to the private sector under the PPP move we may well see giants like ABBOTT, who is now busy acquiring the big pharmaceutical companies like Piramal etc, will take charge of our emerging rural health market. I shudder to think of the consequences.
With the new National Draft Vaccine Policy of the Government of India openly and unabashedly declaring that the vaccine industry should have a say on what vaccines Indian children should receive, even members of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), which is supposed to play an advisory role to the GOI, are aghast at what is happening.
Fighting this organised racket will take all our resources and network