Posts Tagged ‘Lancet
From Spirit of 1848 Listserve
Lancet India series “Towards Universal Health Care” was launched in Delhi yesterday. Dr Binayak’s contribution is in it. He was supposed to be on the panel. An empty chair with his name was kept. I attached the poster in front which has pictures of Mandela, Suu Kyi & Binayak. Richard Norton editor Lancet talked about Binayak in his opening address & so did Dr. Srinath Reddy Chair Public Health Foundation & also chair High Level Expert committee on Universal Coverage of Health Care formed by the PM. On 15th the Artists for human Rights are protesting musically & on 30th Jan Mahatama Gandhi’s Matyrdom day protests for Binayak will be held all over the country & outside. Binayak’s case comes up in Bilaspur High Court in Chhattisgarh on 24th Jan Ilina Dr. Binayak’s wife had come to the MFC meeting on 7th evening to share. It has been very painful for the family specially Binayak’s 84 year old mother & his daughters, besides Ilina who is being treated for cancer herself, trying to manage her teaching job, spend hours in the never ending legal battles. Just keeping you all updated.
The conviction of doctor and human-rights activist, Binayak Sen, could have implications for India’s attempts to achieve universal health-care coverage. Patralekha Chatterjee reports.
At a time when India is working towards making access to health-care universal, a 61-year-old medical doctor, nationally and internationally acclaimed for running health clinics for poor tribal communities in remote parts of central India, is fighting a grim battle to prove he is not a threat to the country’s security.
Doctor and civil-rights activist Binayak Sen, the first Indian recipient of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, is in jail. On Dec 24, 2010, a trial court in Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh state in central India, sentenced Sen to life imprisonment for sedition on the charge that he carried a letter between two members of a banned left-wing extremist outfit.
The doctor vehemently denies any wrongdoing and has appealed to the High Court, which will take up the matter on Jan 24. His family and legion of supporters inside and outside India point to the many glaring loopholes in the prosecution’s evidence.
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The Irish Times – Thursday, January 13, 2011
Opinion & Analysis
THE CONVICTION for sedition and the life sentence imposed on renowned Indian paediatrician and human rights activist Binayak Sen is a serious stain on India’s democratic credentials. It also appears to be a flagrant breach of legal precedent established by the country’s own supreme court.
The trial has prompted widespread concern from rights groups, the media, academics, and medical colleagues in India and internationally. The British medical journal, the Lancet , has rightly described the trial as “Kafkaesque”, the sentence, “a travesty”. The latter is “so over the top and outrageous that it calls into question the fundamentals of the Indian justice system,” India’s the Hindu newspaper argued.
Dr Sen, an outspoken critic over three decades of both rebel violence and state repression, particularly against the tribal Adivasi people, was convicted on December 24th by a Chhattisgarh state court under the vague terms of penal code provisions prohibiting words or actions which promote “hatred or contempt, or excite or attempt to excite disaffection” towards the government. A legacy of colonial times, the clause was used to convict Mahatma Gandhi, and Nobel-laureate Arundhati Roy was recently threatened under it for a speech on Kashmir. The offence was ostensibly curtailed, however, when the supreme court ruled in 1962 that, given a constitutional protection of free speech, unless violence was incited sedition could not be found.
Prosecutors produced no evidence of incitement by Dr Sen but instead relied on dubious claims that he acted as a courier between an ailing, jailed Maoist leader he had been visiting and a supporter outside prison. The meetings, which took place in the presence of officials, were undertaken in Dr Sen’s capacity as both medical doctor and local representative of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. Defence lawyers claim a “smoking gun” letter, purportedly from the Maoists and urging Dr Sen to investigate police atrocities in a Maoist stronghold, was forged by police.
Dr Sen’s real “offence”, and that of many others under arrest in the Chhattisgarh region, appears to have been to try to draw attention to brutal government-backed vigilantes, the Salwa Judum, who raided rebel-dominated villages in the mid-2000s, forcing tens of thousands to abandon their homes. The “if you’re not with us you’re against us” paranoia of the state government has produced a serious injustice. Dr Sen must be freed and the role of the authorities investigated.
India: Towards Universal Health Coverage
Published January 11, 2011
This Series of papers on India’s path to full health coverage reveals that a failing health system is perhaps India’s greatest predicament. The papers in this Series reveal the full extent of opportunities and difficulties in Indian healthcare, by examining infectious and chronic diseases, availability of treatments and doctors, and the infrastructure to bring about universal health care by 2020. The Series brings together a rapidly growing body of evidence to show that Indian health is in crisis. As the country with the largest democracy in the world, India is well positioned to put health high on the political agenda.
One notable absentee from the launch of the Series on Jan 11, 2011 is paediatrician and Comment author Binayak Sen. He remains in prison, an appalling situation discussed in an Editorial in the Jan 8-14 issue of The Lancet.
The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 11 January 2011
Securing the right to health for all in India
The debates around securing the right to health for all in India are at a complex and sensitive stage. In India, we have gross inequity in health-care delivery. The huge inequity is evident, on the one hand, in flourishing international medical tourism, and high-technology biomedical interventions done cheaply, and, on the other, minimum levels of health care being unavailable to those unable to pay.1
The health status of people transcends the health-care sector, and the social determinants of health, such as food, water, sewerage, and shelter, still elude large numbers of the poorest citizens in India. Between the early 1990s, when the process of economic reforms began, and now, the yearly per head consumption of food grains in the country has drastically deteriorated.2 The latest National Family Health Survey (2005—06) provided grim evidence of very slow improvement in infant mortality, persistently low rates of child immunisation, and shocking rates of malnutrition.3 Inequity in social determinants of health and health care in a market-based system itself becomes a pathogenic factor that drives the engine of deprivation.
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On Jan 4, the day this issue of The Lancet went to press, Binayak Sen should have been celebrating his 61st birthday. Instead, found guilty of treason and sedition by a court in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, Sen is facing the bleak prospect of a life behind bars. It is an inhumane sentence for a committed humanitarian, whose life before his imprisonment was devoted to improving the health and welfare of some of the most marginalised and poverty-stricken people in India—the Adivasi. This work led to Sen becoming the first Indian recipient of the Jonathan Mann award for Global Health and Human Rights in 2008.
From the outset the charges against Sen reeked of political motivation—a reaction to Sen’s tireless documentation of human rights abuse at the hands of the state. He was accused, on the flimsiest of evidence, of acting as a courier for the imprisoned Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal. The subsequent trial, spanning more than 3 years, was Kafkaesque. Its conclusion is a travesty.
Reaction to the ruling was swift, with the Indian press unanimous in their criticism of the court’s decision. Amnesty International described Sen as a prisoner of conscience, while a statement signed by over 80 prominent academics worldwide decried the sentence as savagery. The Lancet adds its voice to this chorus of condemnation.
In April, 2009, we called for the Indian Government to intervene in the case, and ensure that justice be done. An injustice can still be overturned by India’s supreme court. If it is not, the already profound damage done to India’s credentials as an upholder of human rights will be damaged for years to come. Where the state failed to provide for its poorest citizens, Sen stepped in to give them health care and to champion their rights. His reward: to be convicted under a section of the penal code first introduced by the British to quell political dissent, and later used to convict Mahatma Ghandi. On his conviction, Ghandi argued that the administration of the law had been “prostituted consciously or unconsciously for the benefit of the exploiter”. The conviction of Binayak Sen shows that, in parts of modern India, precious little has changed.