The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy
On the evening of 10 August 2017, liquid oxygen ran out at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College’s Nehru Hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Reportedly, over the next two days, more than eighty patients—sixty-three children and eighteen adults—lost their lives. In the intervening hours, Dr Kafeel Khan, the junior-most lecturer at the college’s pediatrics department, went to extraordinary lengths to secure oxygen cylinders, perform emergency treatment and rally the staff in order to prevent as many deaths as possible.

As the news of the tragedy grabbed national attention, Khan was called a hero for working ceaselessly to control the crisis and drawing attention to a healthcare system in dire need of repair. But a few days later, he found himself suspended and that an FIR had been filed against nine individuals, including him, for corruption and medical negligence, among other grave charges. Soon after he was summarily carted off to jail.

‘The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy’ is Kafeel Khan’s first-hand chronicle of the events of that fateful night in August 2017 and the gut-wrenching turmoil that followed —a suspension without end, an eight-month-long incarceration and a relentless fight for justice in the face of extreme apathy and persecution.
Adeel Khan

Danger of GM Food
The whole world is standing against Genetically Modified (GM) food, due to its hazardous impact on health and environmental impacts. Even in the countries where Commercial production of GM food is allowed, people are shunning GM, and are ready to pay a much higher price for non-GM food to safeguard their health.

Thanks to the opposition by Swadeshi Jagran Manch and many others like -minded organisations, Bt brinjal and genetically modified mustard was stopped from entering the food chain, as no permission has been granted for commercial production of GM food crops, and rather a moratorium has been imposed on the same.

However, the citizens are faced with a new threat, from no less than the regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) itself. It’s notable that FSSAI is supposed to lay down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

As of now there are no genetically modified ingredients or foods approved for human consumption in India by FSSAI.

New draft regulations proposed by FSSAI will allow GM foods onto citizens’ plates. The new regulations drafted by FSSAI are weak in their scope to effectively regulate GMOs and do not protect citizens in any sound way.

The regulations have not envisaged regular independent testing, or a stringent threshold limit for labelling. No testing or collection of data or review of approved GM ingredients means that adverse health effects will not be traced back to these GMOs.

If this FSSAI regulation comes into effect, people will face the situation where a plethora of GM foods will become part of daily consumption, leaving people with no choice of avoiding it as most large food importers will be able to import their foods with GM ingredients into India.
Dr Ashwani Mahajan

Mob Lynching
As more cases of lynching are coming fore, it seems the very process is speaking how dangerous it is and if not controlled, what catastrophe it could bring.  Initially when it began, people thought it’s primarily against the Muslims and the rest 80-85% are safe from this. Then it slowly gulped scheduled castes and scheduled tribes but how could a society which was never sympathetic to their fellow outcaste brethren speak for them . As the process continued, this too became a new “normal” in an already morally-scarce society. Then people heard the news of inspector Subodh Kumar killed by a violent mob, three sadhus lynched in Maharashtra’s Palghar, on duty doctors' lynching and these days, lynching by Sikhs for alleged desecration bid is a symptom of the disease that although was being ignored for quite a long time but for past few years, it was in fact encouraged. Very recently, on 4th of January, a 34-year-old man was killed by a mob of over 500 people for allegedly cutting a tree which is considered sacred according to the tribal custom. Besides, here and there, one keeps on listening to group violence against outsiders, women and people of minority status and against the weak and vulnerable. In a wholesome manner, lynching now has taken a national character and everyone including the state should fear this.

The question is no more about when it started and who started it but anyhow to put an end to these extra-judicial killings in particular and anarchical behaviour of the group in general. It not only undermines the role of the judiciary but also rejects the legitimate right of the state to use violence by taking law in its own hands. Lynching as a form of mob or collective violence is not endemic to India. It happens elsewhere, across continents, nationalities and cultures. In a world where more than 50% of the population live under some form of democracy to which ‘right to life and personal liberty’ is its foundational principle, an act of such barbarity must be deterred in all its forms and manifestations. Alongside, countries, whether democratic or non-democratic must remember their obligation to the Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR; 1948) to which they are a signatory.

On many occasions, the honourable Supreme Court expressing their concern over this “sweeping phenomenon with a far-reaching impact” recommended the legislature to “create a separate offence for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same”. However, a law alone cannot exterminate this entirely. People would also need a robust and responsive criminal justice system, an unprovocative media along with a rational and humane citizenry.

It is very encouraging to see that some Indian states namely West Bengal, Rajasthan and Jharkhand have brought a model legislation intending to prevent mob lynching incidents in their states. This spirit should flow elsewhere too and must not die down for petty political rivalries. Acknowledging the gravity of the problem, a central legislation followed by a similar legislation at the state level is urgently needed.
Shivam Kumar, Delhi

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Vol 54, No. 30, Jan 23 - 29, 2022