Cheap Medicines
Making availabile good quality medicines at a fair and just price has emerged as a huge challenge in the country. For this a rational and just drug policy including proper pricing of medicines is badly needed. In addition regulation of the medicines sector is no less important so that good policies can also be implemented properly. These extensive, national level reforms are badly needed. However till such time that such steps are actually taken (overcoming the strong resistance of powerful vested interests) people face another challenge at more local levels that within the present-day constraints (when a rational medicines policy has not even been enacted yet, let alone implemented) whatever best can be achieved in terms of the goal of 'quality medicines at a fair price' should be realised. At the same time the efforts for wider policy change should continue.

In this context, the efforts of Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS), a widely respected health initiative in Bilaspur district of Chattisgarh, have been inspiring and useful. JSS has taken special care to create a pharmacy which is a model for providing low-cost, essential and generic drugs. The entire experience shows how rational pharmacy can reduce costs of therapy in a big way.

This practical experience has provided a strong base for the wider advocacy campaign and public interest litigation of the JSS for low-cost, rational medicines. As Dr Yogesh Jain says, "The overarching role of cheap and effective drugs for all important illnesses came out very clearly for us. We could cut down health expenses that people spend largely by using quality generics, and by avoiding rampant commercialization of health. Simple documentation revealed that deregulated price regime would result in further impoverishment of already poor people. This led us to file litigation against the proposed price deregulation part of the Pharmaceutical Policy 2002, which was stayed subsequently. This would not have been possible had we not tried to develop a rational pharmacy."

At present almost all medicines listed as essential medicines are available in their generic forms in the pharmacy of JSS. Overall about 434 generic medicines are available here. Only about 5% of the medicines have to be procured here in their branded form.

This has helped to considerably reduce the price of medicines. While in some cases the price has been reduced by 5 to 6 times compared to the price of branded medicines sold in the local market, overall it has been possible to reduce prices by about 80% or so.

In addition other additional efforts are made to subsidise further the supply of medicines to poorest patients, or even provide medicines free to them in some cases.

Another effort of JSS is to try to provide medicines to patients in easy to understand ways so that it is easier for them to maintain the regularity of medicines. For example in the prescription slips the morning dose can be shown with a rising sun, the afternoon by a full sun and the night dose by a moon, or other easy to understand ways. Another innovation has been to provide various medicines for one day in a separate packet. This can be particularly useful when medicines are being given at a time for relatively longer period. This helps to ensure that no medicine is left out by the patient.

The efforts to obtain medicines at a fair price are greatly helped by the existence of various generic drug producers as well as special initiatives such as Varodra based 'Locost' dedicated to the supply of rational and fair priced medicines. Such initiatives should be encouraged, and in addition patents law should be reformed so as to pave the way for cheaper medicines.
Bharat Dogra, New Delhi

‘‘The communal Crisis’’
In response to the editorial, "The Communal Crisis" [Frontier, May 18-24, 2014] I would like to say that though the immigration of thousands or lakhs of people from East Bengal (Bangladesh) to India (Assam region, also to W Bengal) is ostensibly an 'economically motivated' migration, it cannot just be confined to that. The influx of large number of Muslims from East Bengal to Assam in particular and also to West Bengal to considerable extent, changes the demographical pattern of the different communities in those states and generates untold friction between the communities. More so, because self-interested politicians and others want to use them as a vote bank and also communal supporters do all in their power to quickly 'naturalize' them by issuing false residence certificates, ration cards and even voter identity cards, etc. That way Bangladesh can easily send another 2 crore Muslims into both provinces and that would virtually end in making Assam and West Bengal both Muslim majority areas and in the due course strengthen the demand for resurrection of East Pakistan in an amplified form so to mean, Sonar Muslim Bangla! It is pertinent to note that Muslim League under Jinnah wanted to make the entire Bengal, Assam and North East as East Pakistan which was only thwarted by the stubborn opposition of the Congress leaders including Gandhi and also the Hindu masses of Bengal and Assam. Now the same will be rather easily achieved due to the nefarious self-interested corrupt politicians of the day mouthing secularism fluently to hide their profiteering schemes and power-crazy politics. So, I suggest that all the immigrants from East Bengal, especially from 1990s onwards, be identified and declared stateless citizens and refugees with work permits only with no citizenship rights at all. Gradually as many as possible should be deported and only those who face or faced harassment or oppression on communal or political grounds in Bangladesh should be naturalized and others relegated to the care and maintenance of UN Commission for Refugees to unburden our state exchequers.
I Mallikarjuna Sharma

The Irani Controversy
Union Minister for Human Resource Development (HRD) Smriti Irani deserves all praise for her being modest by ensuring that Delhi University officials alleged to have leaked documents relating to her admission/study at the university might not be sacked.

Questions have been raised amongst members of public for a 'defeated' person being made a Union Minister that too with a ministry related to education despite her not being even a graduate. Technically speaking both aspects have some weight. But practically speaking her marginal defeat against rival party's chief contestant is by all accounts a practical victory, because every analyst considered Smriti Irani's challenge to Rahul Gandhi as a symbolic one. Secondly her debating skill both in Hindi and English with command on language never made any one felt that she did not complete her graduation. Bharat Ratna K Kamraj who once ruled Indian politics by being President of the ruling party did not have any formal education.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi

Sukumari Bhattacharya
Mrs Sukumari Bhattacharya, probably the foremost contemporary Bengali woman scholar in humanities, passed away at the SSKM hospital, Kolkata on 24 May at the age of 93. Her husband, Amal Bhattacharya, a celebrated professor of English literature, had died in 1970 when only 53. She is survived by her daughter Tanika Sarkar and son-in-law Sumit Sarkar, both distinguished students and teachers of history.

Prof Sukumari Bhattacharya started her career as a teacher of English language and literature at Lady Brabourne College, Kolkata, and then joined the department of Comparative Literature of Jadavpur University. Subsequently she shifted to the Sanskrit department of the same university. She had powerful command of several Indian and European languages, and produced a large number of books.

A modern liberal humanist in outlook, Prof Bhattacharya, in her writings, combined profound scholarship with strong analytical insight. Those who have even a casual acquaintance with her works must be impressed by the way she tore asunder the veil of orthodoxy that invariably acts as a barrier to scientific reasoning.

A partial list of her books is given below.
In Those Days : Essays Vedic and Classical, Thoughts on Tagore, Indian Theogony, The Ramayana and the Mahabharata : A Study in Comparative Popularity (published in Bengali and in English Translation), Niyatibad: Udbhab O Bikash (Rise and Growth of the Doctrine of Fate), Veder Yuge Kshudha O Khadya (Hunger and Food in the Era of the Vedas), Bibaha Prasange (On the Institution of Marriage), Gita Keno? (Why the Gita).
Anirban Biswas, Birbhum

Employment claim of Gujarat
The Gujarat Government claims that it has generated vast numbers of jobs. Activists of the Gujarat based Jyoti Karmachari Mandal, an independent militant trade union, Amrish Brahmbhatt and Rohit Prajapati, in collaboration with the Documentation and Study Centre for Action chose a close scrutiny of Government of Gujarat's latest "Employment Effort", the "Swami Vivekanand Youth Employment Week" in February/March 2012 as an instance. In response to an RTI application, the Gujarat Government said that spread over months, 489 melas were organised, and 65,000 youth were given employment through the 'Rojgar Melas'.

Instead of 65,000 beneficiaries, the number of jobs provided based on information given by the authorities in 23 districts, totals only to 51,587. Out of that 11,172 are apprentices (30.4%). i.e. the actual figure is 40,415 and not even 51,587. But, the names of only 32,372 were provided to RTI applicants.
A Reader,

Vol. 46, No. 49, Jun 15 - 21, 2014