Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tax Men Raids Top IVF Doctor Selling Hope To Infertile Couples And Finds Stacks Of Unaccounted Money

In another shocking development underscoring corruption and accumulation of black money by the hitherto “untouchable” doctors and medical specialists, Income Tax officers raided RSV Hospital, a premier private nursing home in Kolkata that specialized in in vitro fertilization (IVF) with hope for children to the infertile couples at a hefty price. 
The hospital owner and self-proclaimed top IVF specialist, Dr. Bani Kumar Mitra was enticing a new childless couple in his chamber when the Tax Men raided his nursing home on Saturday (September 16) and reportedly collected about Rs. 4 crore in cash that were stacked in unimpressive boxes.
Ironically, several families of alleged victims who died in the hands of Dr. Mitra recently came to PBT seeking justice after both the child and mother died following treatment by Dr. Mitra at the IVF Hospital after they collected lakhs of rupees in the name of IVF therapy. 
PBT is in the process of filing new compensation lawsuits to help these alleged victims of Dr. Mitra at this very moment. In fact, during recent visit to Kolkata by PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha, a mass public demonstration was held in front of the RSV Hospital in demand of expedited investigation and cancellation of Dr. Mitra’s medical registration because of his reckless and unethical treatment of several hapless patients. PBT is planning to appeal to the medical council for immediate and summarily suspension of Dr. Mitra’s license on the ground of “moral turpitude” under Section 7.5 of MCI Code of Ethics and Regulations, 2002.

Monday, September 18, 2017

When fear rules: How journalists are at receiving end for speaking out against the State

By Sachin Kalbag
On May 17, 2011, Tarakant Dwivedi, a crime reporter working for the city tabloid Mid-Day, was arrested by the Government Railway Police under the Official Secrets Act. It was for a story he wrote for his previous newspaper in which he exposed how arms and ammunition acquired after the 26/11 terror attack were lying in a leaky storage area at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, and how that could have compromised the weapons, making them unusable in an emergency.

The Official Secrets Act is a draconian piece of legislation meant to be invoked for an act of treason, including spying for an enemy country. It was clear that Mr. Dwivedi was merely doing his duty as a journalist to highlight the rot in the system, and how, even after 164 deaths in a terror siege that lasted three days, the State had not taken the matter of security seriously. But instead of the state thanking him for writing an important story that impacted millions of lives, he was charged with criminal trespass and sent to prison. It took a fierce legal battle involving some of the city’s senior lawyers to get him out of jail, where his company for the night were cockroaches and vermin.


‘I don’t set out to practise dissent’
Journalists marched in peace to the then home minister R.R. Patil’s office to impress upon him how the case was manufactured to keep a free press under control. The minister did not withdraw the case; instead, he asked the newspaper and the journalists to take the legal route. The lower court, rightfully, quashed the case, and the government, realising it was a lost battle, did not pursue the matter in a higher court.

The question then, as it is now, is not just why a police inspector invoked an anti-treason Act to imprison a journalist, but also why the entire State government machinery, led by the home minister, sat mute in what was a clear case of overreach. After all, some of the State’s most senior police officers were present at the meeting between journalists and the home minister, and could have easily advised him to exercise restraint to uphold the fundamental principles of democracy.

Though Mumbai has prided itself on being a welcoming place for free spirits of all persuasions, it has historically been a battleground for free speech. There was a time when journalists, artists, filmmakers, writers, and cartoonists won in the skirmishes, and were looked up to for their victories. Blitz, a fiery weekly tabloid owned and edited by R.K. Karanjia, frequently took on the high and mighty, and won. His favourite targets of ire were the Congress party, corporations, a corrupt bureaucracy, and the underworld. Mr. Karanjia, who established the newspaper with two other journalists in 1941, ran the enterprise for four decades, and was applauded for his courage and resilience in the face of danger.


‘Art succeeds because it is non-confrontational’

That was not the case with another journalist, Nikhil Wagle, whose newsrooms have been ransacked on several occasions by leading political parties such as Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party.

In 2012, in September, Aseem Trivedi was arrested under the sedition law in Mumbai. Best known for his ‘Cartoons Against Corruption’ campaign, Mr. Trivedi was arrested and jailed for the cartoons he displayed at the MMRDA Ground during the India Against Corruption movement led by activist Anna Hazare. A nationwide agitation followed, leading to a debate in Parliament. Soon, the Maharashtra government withdrew the sedition circular under which Mr Trivedi was arrested.

It seems hard to believe that this is the same country where Jawaharlal Nehru once told a cartoonist who regularly lampooned him, “Don’t spare me, Shankar.” (It is another matter that it is under the same Mr. Nehru that ‘reasonable restrictions’ were placed on free speech in the first amendment to the Consitution.)

The trouble with the phrase ‘free speech’ or ‘freedom of expression’ is that, on almost every occasion its definition is restricted to what we speak or write. In a manner of speaking this is correct, but the larger more significant impact is on our way of life.

In the simplest terms, free expression is the liberty to express your thoughts in a public or private forum without fearing for your safety or the safety of your loved ones. (It does not mean that anyone must agree with you. After all ideas can be countered with other ideas, with debate to convince one another or reach a middle ground.) It is the duty of the State to protect its citizens at all costs; indeed, it is the first duty of any democratic government. It is in this duty that governments have consistently failed. Not just that, governments have either remained mute spectators to — in effect abetting — violent expressions of dissent by self-righteous rampaging ‘activists’ or worse, governments themselves have targeted dissenters.

For example, in 2005, Mid-Day’s offices were ransacked by workers of the Congress party for a story that called the then chief minister ‘silly’ for redirecting relief material to areas not affected by the July 26 cloudburst. The State did not do much to protect the journalists who had questioned the CM for his administration’s bungling.

More recently, in 2012, Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan, two young women from Palghar district on the outskirts of Mumbai, were arrested for writing a Facebook post following the death of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. Their crime? Asking why the entire State should be shut down following the death of one person. Once again, it took a nationwide agitation and international ridicule for the State to withdraw the case against them.

In recent years, artists have had shows vandalised or cancelled, filmmakers have had to bow to communities vociferously ‘offended’ by movie scripts or to a Central Board of Film Certification’s readiness to be offended on their behalf, writers’ books have been burned or banned; so much so that an environment of self-censorship gets created. As a consequence, there is no public discourse without threats, there is no argument without the fear of being physically assaulted or mentally broken on social media, and the State continues in its ways without an active watchdog.

In the social media era, the looming threat of physical assault is supplemented with what is nothing less than mental torture. Armies of ‘trolls,’ both affiliated and unaffiliated to political parties, have made it their mission to break down people who have views that oppose theirs. Women face rape threats, journalists face death threats, film personalities are routinely targeted and stand-up comics have imposed a sort of self-censorship on making jokes about the government. It is not just about fear, but the fear of fear itself.

It need not even be fear. In a with-us-or-against-us world where being critical of, say, the Prime Minister’s choice of pocket square is seen as being anti-national, anti-Hindu, anti-sanskar, and automatically pro his political opponents — never mind that you have been scornful of the opponents’ sartorial choices too — there is no room for nuance, for reasoned argument, for thoughtful debate. It is a toxic, hate-filled world which some of us have chosen to leave, or to at least engage in far less because it is depressing. (Disclosure: this writer is one of them.) Perhaps that is the point then, to shut down discourse. The late great Behram Contractor, writing about the Emergency, said that the only safe topics left were cricket and mangoes. On Twitter today, only mangoes can be discussed with good humour. Maybe.

In both the new-age battlefield and the traditional, Mumbai seems to be losing. But, to be honest, Mumbai is not alone. Journalists across the country, especially those in the regional language media operating from small towns where rule of law is a misnomer, have been targeted for exposing politicians, self-styled godmen, oil pilferage scams, road scams, just about anything you can think of. In the most recent news cycle, we have heard of how the editor who first exposed the rape convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was killed. Not surprisingly, in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, India ranks an alarming 136th, down three places from 2016 and back to the same rank it was in 2015.

Those of us who are journalists in the traditional sense know that our job is to report facts. C.P. Scott, the former editor of the UK newspaper The Guardian, once wrote, “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” To be targeted for bringing facts to light erodes the strength of free press.

There is no way to win this battle but to fight back without fear. Freedom of expression is one of the pillars upon which the edifice of democracy stands. Demolish this pillar, and the edifice crumbles along with other institutions. And no authoritarian government would want this pillar to be a strong one. Naturally, this conflict is a continuous one and it won’t end anytime soon.

How a chance conversation at a tea shop busted the kidney scam

DEHRADUN: It was a policeman overhearing a random conversation at a tea shop between two drivers who were tasked to ferry kidney donors to Gangotri Charitable Hospital on the outskirts of Dehradun (from where the recently busted kidney racket was being run) that eventually led to the whole affair coming out in the open.

Almost a month back, constable Pankaj Sharma, posted in the Ranipur police station in Haridwar, was sitting in a tea shop in plain clothes when he overheard two persons discussing the “illegal things” happening in the hospital. Recalling the sequence of events, Sharma told TOI, “It was early August and I was having morning tea at a roadside tea shop, when I heard two persons sitting adjacent to me talking about the goings-on in their hospital. They mentioned an organ racket running there although they did not mention the name of the hospital.”

Since Sharma's suspicions were aroused, he informed his superiors—sub-inspector Abhinav Sharma and inspector Pradeep Bisht—who in turn informed Haridwar senior superintendent of police (SSP) Krishna Kumar VK about the matter. Speaking to TOI, Krishna Kumar said, “I was informed that there were some leads that a possible organ racket was running in our area. However, the leads were not specific, since we did not know the name of the hospital or the persons suspected to be involved in it. Nevertheless, I formed a team to work on whatever clues we had,” Kumar said.

The cops used their informers’ network and eventually zeroed in on Gangotri Charitable Hospital located in the Lattappar area of Doiwala on the outskirts of Dehradun. However, as Pradeep Bisht, in-charge of Ranipur police station recalls, they still did not have enough evidence to inform Dehradun police or go on an offensive against the syndicate.

Finally, after an almost month long exercise during which the police developed sources within and outside the hospital, they got specific inputs about donors being taken to the hospital by a middleman in a SUV on the night of September 10. Acting on the inputs, a team of Haridwar police subsequently apprehended the vehicle leading to the arrest of five persons including kingpin Amit Kumar's key henchman Javed Khan who was tasked with arranging kidney donors.

Recognising the key role that Sharma played in sniffing out the scam, Haridwar police has recommended his name for a medal while state police headquarters has decided to award the constable during the January 26 parade next year.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

At 9L in 2016, India’s under-5 toll world’s worst

NEW DELHI: India still accounts for the highest number of deaths of children aged below five years, data from the Global Burden of Disease-2016 report, published in the medical journal ‘Lancet’, show.

Globally, mortality rates have decreased across all age groups over the past five decades, with the largest improvements occurring among children younger than five years. In absolute terms, India recorded the largest number of under-5 deaths in 2016 at 0.9 million, followed by Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which recorded 0.7 million and 0.3 million deaths, respectively.

The data show deaths among children aged below five decreased globally to fewer than 5 million in 2016 for the first time, down from 16.4 million in 1970. Regionally, 24.8% of under-5 deaths in 2016 occurred in south Asia, 1.2 million. Overall, mortality rates declined across age groups, resulting in an increased life expectancy, the study said. The average global life expectancy for women is 75.3 years, and 69.8 years for men. Japan has the highest life expectancy (83.9 years for both sexes), and the Central African Republic the lowest (50.2).

However, with the increased life expectancy, the years lived with ill health or disability have also increased. The proportion of total life spent with ill health is higher for lower-income countries. Non-communicable diseases accounted for 72.3% of all deaths (39.5 million) in 2016. Ischaemic heart disease — decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle — was the leading cause of premature mortality in all regions, apart from in low-income countries, where the leading cause was lower respiratory infections.

Globally, ischaemic heart disease caused 9.48 million deaths in 2016 — an increase of 19% globally since 2006. Diabetes caused 1.43 million deaths, an increase of 31.1% since 2006. Overall, deaths from infectious diseases have decreased. Exceptions included dengue, which saw a significant increase at 37,800 deaths in 2016 (81.8% increase since 2006), and drug -resistant tuberculosis, which caused 10,900 deaths in 2016 (67.6% increase since 2006)

Friday, September 15, 2017

BJP men 'raids' Bareilly dist hosp, misbehaves with staff

Bareilly: In a bizarre incident that highlights total disregard of the rules, a large number of BJP workers, led by city unit president Umesh Katheriya, on Thursday stormed the premises of the district hospital here on the pretext of conducting a raid and later claimed to have recovered expired medicines and injections from the wards. The BJP team, which did not have any authorised permission to conduct such a raid, also manhandled some hospital staffers and disrupted medical services, alleged doctors and other staff at the hospital.

Following the raid, the hospital staff went on a flash strike, bringing medical services to a halt. Members from both the sides later went to the Kotwali police station in the evening to file their complaints against each other. "A mob of 150-200 BJP workers entered the children's ward and started checking patients' records and other documents. When we resisted, a BJP leader claimed that they were authorised to conduct such raids," said nurse Daisy Aster Lal.

"Apart from disrupting work at the wards, some unidentified people also sexually assaulted one of the nurses. There was utter chaos and patient suffered as a result of the illegal raid by BJP workers," said another staff member at the hospital.

Several senior administrative officials, including city superintendent of police (SP) Rohit Singh Sajwan, city magistrate U P Singh and several circle officers of police reached the Kotwali police station to take stock of the situation. "Both the sides have given written complaints, pinning blame on each other. We are finding out if such an action (by BJP members) was justified, given that there was no official permission for conducting such a raid," said SP Rohit Singh Sajwan.

Given the gravity of the allegations and involvement of members of the ruling party, police claimed that district magistrate R V Singh, who had been out of station and was expected to reach the city late in the evening, would intervene and take necessary action.

Talking about the raid, BJP city president Umesh Katheriya said, "When we complained to the chief medical superintendent (CMS) about expired medicines being used in the hospital, he started creating a ruckus to cover up the lapses on his part."

The CMS's antics went on for nearly 30 minutes even as hundreds of patients and their family members were present in the hospital premises. Operation in several wards, including the children's ward, was severely affected, with many nurses on duty claiming that BJP workers terrorised them for alleged irregularities.

Justifying the raid, the BJP team claimed that stocks of expired medicines were stealthily removed. "Even as hundreds of children are dying across the state, this district hospital continues to be negligent and is using expired medicines. When we were at the hospital premises, huge stocks of expired medicines were removed from the wards," said senior BJP worker Devendra Joshi.

"The team of BJP members had no official permission to conduct checks in the hospital. We will look into the allegations of using expired medicines, but the way the raid was was conducted needs to be probed," said K S Gupta, chief medical superintendent.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Gorakhpur’s infants still dying in droves, but UP govt in denial mode

Hundred-and-ten infant deaths due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) have been recorded in the first eight days of this month in the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College Hospital, even as the Uttar Pradesh government has claimed an 8 per cent drop in fatalities due to this infection this year.
The hospital is the only one catering to a staggering six crore population who are exposed to Japanese Encephalitis and Scrub Typhus, the viral and bacterial strains that lead to AES, which is endemic in 19 districts of eastern UP and Bihar. The hospital has been the focus of media attention following the spurt in deaths owing to deficient oxygen supply on August 10-11.
The State government is claiming a drop in infection-related deaths and is de-linking 52 deaths — including 34 infants — from the discontinuation of oxygen supply on August 10. But the real tragedy here is the continuing fatalities due to infections that can be prevented and cured. According to hospital records, 110 deaths were recorded in BRD hospital during September 1-8. This includes 13 infants who died on September 1; 10 on September 2; 15 on September 3; 10 on September 4; 16 on September 5; 13 on September 6; 12 on September 7; and as many as 21 cases within 24 hours on September 8.
UP Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh asserted that AES cases have registered a “remarkable drop” this year because of the efforts of the government.
“There is an 8 per cent drop in AES cases coming to BRD Medical College. This is a phenomenal drop. In August, there were 325 deaths. It is unfortunate, but last year and the year before, there were 600-plus deaths in the same period,” the Minister told BusinessLine.
“The reason it has come down is that we have focussed on this issue because of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has been fighting it,” he added.
While the primary health centres (PHCs) and the community health centres (CHCs) here continue to face shortage of doctors, trained staff and nurses, the administration’s priority seems to be on denying any link between oxygen supply that was stopped to the BRD hospital at 7.30 pm on August 10 and the 52 deaths that occurred in the next 48 hours.
“The two are completely separate things. Yes, there was a lapse, for which people have gone to jail, but it has no link with the deaths that happened,” said the Minister.
(This article was published on September 12, 2017)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Gauri Lankesh murder is an act of terrorism: N. Ram

Paying homage: N. Ram, Chairman, Kasturi and Sons Ltd., second from right, unveils a portrait of Gauri Lankesh. From right, Dravidar Kazhagam president K. Veeramani, former State Planning Commission vice-chairman M. Naganathan and Nakeeran editor R.R. Gopal are in the picture.   | Photo Credit: B_JOTHI RAMALINGAM
The murder of veteran journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru is an act of terrorism and cannot be seen as an individual assassination, said N. Ram, Chairman,Kasturi & Sons Ltd., on Sunday. He called for a fair investigation.

Unveiling a portrait of Gauri Lankesh at a condolence meeting organised by the Dravidar Kazhagam here, Mr. Ram cited a report by the  Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which showed that at least 27 journalists were killed since 1992 and there had not been a single conviction.

“Can’t a journalist have a rationalist and secular view which is guided by reason? If they have those views, they are termed activists,” he said.

The motive behind the murder was to suppress alternative views and threaten people. There was a pattern in the murder of Gauri Lankesh, Narendra Dabholkar, CPI leader Govind Pansare and scholar M.M. Kalburgi. “The pattern should be broken through a detailed investigation of the tragic murder of Gauri Lankesh and punishing the organisations and people behind it,” Mr. Ram said.

One of the answers would be to provide security to journalists, but it had a lot of issues such as causing hindrance to their independence. “The larger answers should be found in politics, in upholding the principles of rationalism, progressive ideas, principles of free speech, independent and bold journalism, and that cannot be intimidated by terrorist acts like this,” he added.

Dravidar Kazhagam president K. Veeramani demanded a thorough investigation into the murder.