Saturday, October 22, 2016


In a shocking development exposing the pervasive nature of medical corruption beyond India, disgraced ex-Medical Council of India (MCI) president, Dr. Ketan Desai, was selected as the new WMA president yesterday (see news below). 
Dr. Desai was caught red-handed for taking huge bribe from a private medical college (when he was still MCI president) in a sting operation by the CBI in April, 2010. After spending more than 6 months in jail, Dr. Desai was released on bail as his medical license was also suspended for indefinite period by the MCI after PBT president, 
Dr. Kunal Saha, lodged a complaint for “professional misconduct” under the provisions of MCI Code of Ethics & Regulations, 2002. While Dr. Desai is still waiting for his criminal trial to begin and his medical registration remains suspended, he and his medical cronies in the MCI and IMA managed to make him president of the largest international medical organization using their political influence and evil power of corruption.
While imposing an indefinite suspension of Dr. Desai’s license, members of the newly formed MCI in 2010 (after MCI was dissolved and all members of Desai’s MCI were removed under mounting public pressure following Desai’s arrest) also directed that Dr. Desai is debarred from representing any medical group or association. With a sinister motive to repair Desai’s grossly tainted public image and to influence the outcome of his criminal prosecution, senior members of MCI/IMA including Dr. Ajay Kumar, Dr. Sudipto Roy, Dr. Vinay Aggarwal (all IMA and MCI Ethics Committee members) and long-term Desai supporter and newly elected IMA president, Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, went before the WMA and made a false claim that all charges against Dr. Desai have been dropped by the Indian authority based on which WMA decided to make Dr. Desai president of the world medical body in the most blatant and corrupt manner. Even the MCI Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) categorically found that the senior MCI/IMA members lied before the WMA to help Dr. Desai and directed the health department to take disciplinary measures against these sitting members of MCI/IMA in a scathing report in October, 2014 (see below). 
Almost two years have passed, MCI and Health Ministry have remained in a deep slumber and refused to take any steps to stop the biggest medical mafia of Indian medicine and a criminally-indicted Dr. Ketan Desai from assuming the prestigious post of WMA president. 
PBT has sent a legal notice to the MCI president and a well-known Ketan Desai crony, Dr. Jayshree Mehta, asking her to take immediate measures, as directed by the MCI in their order of Dr. Desai’s license suspension of 2010, to remove Dr. Desai from this unlawfully acquired post of WMA president. If the MCI and Health Ministry fail to take any action, PBT will move the appropriate court of law to bring an end to this sheer atrocity that has shaken the core of Indian and world medical community.

A Small Thought Experiment on Made in China

In the recent past there have been calls for boycotting Chinese goods. The question is: Whether this can be executed? Or to put it more specifically, whether it can be executed by a middle class Indian? 

Consider my personal situation. I am writing this column on a Lenovo laptop, which is Made in China. 

The Kindle book reader which I use to refer to many books that I quote in my regular columns, was assembled in China. 

My internet connection is provided by Reliance 4G Wi-Pod. The device has been made by the ZTE Corporation, which is based out of Shenzhen in China. 

I use the Moto g4 PLUS mobile phone, which is Made in China. 

I own the most basic model of a Hewlett Packard printer, which is Made in China. 

I own a Toshiba television, which also happens to be Made in China. 

This shouldn't be so surprising. In 2015-2016, 36.6 per cent of Indian imports from China constituted of electronic products. Engineering goods came in second at 28.9 per cent and chemicals came in third at 18.4 per cent. 

So, basically if we want to hurt China, then these are the goods which we should not be importing from them. In total, they formed close to 84 per cent of Indian imports from China. 

So far so good. 

How realistic is this? Here's a thought experiment I did in order to figure this out. So let's say you want to go out somewhere. You decide to call an Ola or an Uber taxi. There is a very good chance that you do this using a Made in China phone. In 2015-2016, 16.3 per cent of Indian imports from China were telecom instruments. 

Even if you manage to avoid that, chances are that some component of the phone would be Made in China. You have no way of knowing. Why do I say this? This is primarily because MNCs these days manufacture products using global supply chains. 

As the World Trade Report for 2013 points out: "A central feature of this... age of globalisation is the rise of multinational corporations and the explosion of foreign direct investment (FDI)... Upwards of two-thirds of world trade now takes place within multinational companies or their suppliers - underlining the growing importance of global supply chains." This is something that India has clearly missed out on due to a whole host of reasons, which are beyond the scope of this column. 

Further, the battery of the phone used to call the taxi, is charged through electricity. Chances are the electricity that you are using has been produced using equipment imported from China, using loans provided by the Chinese banks. Electrical machinery formed 4.4 per cent of Indian imports from China in 2015-2016. 

You avoid thinking about this rather esoteric point and get back to calling for the cab. You need to go out after all. And in order to do that, you need to call an Ola or an Uber taxi. If you call Ola, you need to know that Ola is in alliance with Didi Chuxing, a Chinese taxi-company. They have entered into a non-compete clause. If you call Uber you are going to use Paytm to pay the taxi driver. The Chinese company Alibaba is the major investor in Paytm. So that rules out paying electronically. 

So you need cash. You go to withdraw cash from an ATM. Chances are the ATM will be in Made in China. So what do you do now? You go to a bank branch and withdraw money. Chances are the computer used by the teller to give you cash is also Made in China. So what do you do? You think chuck it, let's not go out anywhere because we don't want to encourage Made in China. Let's order a Pizza. Ah, a perfectly American Pizza. Uncle Sam can have my money but I am not going to give it to China. 

What do you think Uncle Sam will do with that money? Order goods from China. 

But that is a second-order effect. So you ignore that and curse that MBA degree that makes you think so much. 

Nevertheless, Pizza has cheese. And cheese is made from milk. In 2015-2016, industrial machinery for dairies formed 4.7 per cent of Indian imports from China. Oh then, it's quite possible that cheese also has Made in China inputs. 

What is a Pizza without cheese? But you compromise and decide to go get Pizza bases from the market and make one for yourself at home with tomato ketchup. 

Wait, wait, wait! What is a Pizza base made of? Wheat. And farmers use a lot of fertilizer to grow wheat and other food grains. In 2015-2016, fertilizers formed 5.25 per cent of Indian imports from China. 

India is dependent on imports in the case of phosphatic and potassic fertilizers. As far as phosphatic fertilizers are concerned, almost 90 per cent of it is imported. With no known commercially exploitable source of potash in India, the country is totally dependent on imports for potassic fertilizers. 

You decide not to think so much and just to order and eat the Pizza. After eating the Pizza you feel a little queasy. You decide to pop a tablet. Wait, wait, wait. Medicinal and pharmaceuticals formed 3.8 per cent of Indian imports from China in 2015-2016. Bulk drugs and formulations formed a major part of this. In 2015-2016, bulk drugs and formulations formed around 3.7 per cent of Indian imports from China. 

So chances are that the drugs that have gone into the making of the tablet have been imported from China. Even if they haven't, there is no way for you to figure out. 

How do we go we genuinely go about avoiding Made in China? Let's say we boycott Chinese brands. You don't buy a Moto G phone but an Apple iPhone. While iPhones are also assembled in China, a large part of the money will go to Apple, which basically seems like an American company. 

Interesting. But the moment you buy Apple, you pay more. This leaves you with lesser money to buy everything else and in the process Indian manufacturers lose out. 

Hence, Apple is not worth the trouble. 

Okay, so you buy a Samsung phone. Samsung is a Korean brand. But they also make stuff in China. If more and more people buy Samsung phones (and not Moto G) that in turn will also benefit Chinese companies. What they lose out on Moto G they will possibly make up from Samsung. 

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with crackers. Yes. Diwali crackers. Make sure you buy Indian brands this year. Made in Sivakasi. And not Made in China. And in the process keep encouraging regular fires in Sivakasi. 

And forget about the fact that there have been cases of Sivakasi fire cracker entrepreneurs also getting their stuff Made in China. You will only know once you open the packet. 

And how much will a boycott of crackers hurt the Chinese? Perhaps a little. But not something that they can't manage. Fire crackers are low value products at the end of the day. 

So how is it possible to really hurt China? The way out is to ensure that the government creates an environment where Indian manufacturers can compete with the Chinese ones. And that is easier said than done.

The above is from Vivek Kaul's Diary, a newsletter I receive from Equitymaster.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Modi’s many failures

Amulya Ganguli

Narendra Modi’s responses to questions from Saudi Arabian businessmen during his recent visit to the country showed that, uncertainties still remained about the economic reforms. “GST (goods and services tax) will happen,” he assured his listeners, but could not say when. Similarly, he said that the retrospective taxes were a thing of the past so far as the government was concerned, but it could not do anything about the pending cases because they were sub judice. While banking sector reforms were on the anvil, there was a need to “explore” with investors the areas of technology transfer and investment.

Clearly, the promised achhe din (good days) with all the catchy jingles which dominated the airwaves in 2014 are still very much in the future. For the present, all one can do is to wait. The “prudent gradualism”, noted by the US-based pro-Modi economist, Jagdish Bhagwati, has become even more gradual.

Arguably, the investors might not have been too worried about the slow pace of development if they believed that the government was moving in the right direction in both the economic and social fields. But doubts are being caused by the fear that economic advancement can be scuttled by social tension.

It is not only the violence threatened and unleashed against beef-eaters and those who do not chant Bharat Mata ki Jai, the new litmus test for nationalism, which can have an adverse impact on the economy, but also the disturbing signs of authoritarianism displayed by the government.

One of them is the directive to Urdu authors to give an undertaking that they will not write anything against government policies. Even if it is meant for those who seek monetary support from the government, extracting such a pledge from writers is unheard of in a democracy, as Zafar Mohiuddin, convener of the Forum of Urdu Writers and Artists, has said.

Art cannot be formalized by official diktat. Yet, this has been a longstanding pattern of saffron behaviour as the hounding of the celebrated painter, MF Husain, into exile (where he died), the ban on James Laine’s biography of Shivaji and the withdrawal of Rohinton Mistry’s work of fiction, Such A Long Journey, from the Mumbai University syllabus show. True, the Congress is guilty of the same sin. It banned Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses under pressure from the Muslim fundamentalists. But, at the moment, it is the conduct of the BJP and its allies which is under the scanner.

If writers are being harassed, can journalists be far behind. As it is, Union minister of state VK Singh, who was involved in a controversy over his date of birth when he was the army chief, has proudly coined the term, ‘presstitudes’ , for media personnel to show off his innovative use of the English language. The word is frequently used by the saffron netizens.

Against this background of abuse, an Editors’ Guild team found evidence of intimidation during a visit to BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, where they came to know of arbitrary arrests of journalists, physical attacks and the resultant pervasive fear. It is no secret that the scribes in out-of-the-way mofussil towns live a lonely life unlike their brethren in Delhi and other metropolises who can use their links with the powers-that-be to fend off the political thugs. This kind of safety is not available in the districts from either the goons or the police, especially if the state government decides to teach the media a lesson for writing against it.

Far from being an “avatar of modernity and progress”, as Congress M.P, Shashi Tharoor, once called Modi, the Prime Minister appears helpless in the matter of pushing ahead with economic reforms or keeping the anti-social elements in check as when they forced the cancellation of a programme by a Pakistani singer in Delhi. The saffron hoods had done the same earlier in Mumbai.

To make matters worse, or perhaps to cover up the failures on these counts, the government’s keenness to suppress dissent by using the colonial-era sedition law is worrisome. The BJP’s senior citizen, LK Advani, may have had to clarify his remark that he did not have the “confidence that it (the Emergency of 1975-77) cannot happen again” by saying that it was not aimed at any leader. But as the Shiv Sena said, his disquiet cannot be brushed aside.

It is not without reason, therefore, that the Vice-President, Hamid Ansari, recently asked “whether a more complete separation of religion and politics might not better serve Indian democracy”. The hint that the present government was blurring the line between religion and politics made Subramanian Swamy, the Sangh Parivar’s in-house gadfly, accuse the Vice-President of making an “undignified comment” against the government.

But the uneasiness about the government’s intention will remain if only because it is known that it cannot ignore the pro-Hindu agenda of the RSS and its affiliates like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and associates like the Sri Ram Sene, the Hindu Sena, the Hindu Mahasabha and others.

With the decline in the investment rate from 33.4 per cent in 2013-14 to an anticipated 29.4 per cent this year, and the “deceleration” in tourist arrivals to “Incredible India”, noted by the Economic Survey, the scene is not what Modi had promised in 2014.

The writer is a former Assistant Editor, The Statesman.

Dubious parallel

Political belligerence may have a positive impact on limited audiences, but can also backfire in a larger context. The “chest thumping” over the 29 September surgical strikes had one kind of fall-out: now there is need to monitor the wider “reach” of the Prime Minister’s likening those strikes to what had once been hailed as flashes of military brilliance and audacity of the Israeli Defence Forces. It was to a gathering which included a number of Army veterans that Narendra Modi declared “earlier one heard about Israel doing such a thing, now the country has seen that the Indian Army is no less”. The observation would have drawn the expected applause, though military experts would contend those “strikes” did not match up with the operations in the Eastern Theatre in 1971 as the Army’s “showpiece essay” - on the ground those strikes have had only limited success.

The more important evaluation of Modi’s admittedly one-off comment would be how “Arab Street” reacts to a seemingly one-sided suggestion. There is a sizeable Indian population in the Arab world, their foreign-exchange remittances still count, and whether they will continue to be welcome by the local populace remains to be seen. And in the midst of some trying times, India’s diplomatic ties with the Gulf/Arab states have proved rewarding. India has struggled to maintain a fair balance between its old allies in Arab Street and new-found friend in Israel - that balance could now “tilt”. Despite Israel now having become a major supplier of advanced defence equipment, it must also be noted that the IDF has lost some of its “edge” in recent times - the raid at Entebbe and air operations in the Bekkaa Valley are of historic rather than contemporary military significance.

Of particular relevance to prevailing realities is the extent to which the unrest in Kashmir is influenced by the Prime Minister’s observation. For if the Indian forces can be bracketed with the Israelis, the stone-pelters would be prone to see themselves as conducting another Intifada, and the sustained effort to slam them as Pakistan-sponsored trouble-makers might not “stick”. The difference between terrorist/militant and “freedom-fighter” has always been nebulous in Kashmir.

It will become more complicated now to project the Indian Army as “secular” - the IDF was never required to maintain that kind of profile. India’s vast “minority” community was never thrilled when India warmed up to Israel, and Modi’s line could easily be interpreted as further evidence of the NDA government pursuing a “saffron” agenda. That will only fuel further doubts about the compatibility of the BJP-PDP tie-up in the state. The Hurriyat could well be chuckling in delight at Modi’s over-simplistic parallel.

The above is from the Editorial in The Statesman.

Rocky bail bares police probe gaps

Rocky, the son of suspended JDU MLC Manorama Devi and RJD strongman Bindi Yadav, is accused of killing Class XII student Aditya Sachdeva in a burst of rage triggered by the denial of right of way on the Bodhgaya-Gaya road on May 7 this year.

The most incriminating evidence against Rocky was the report of the forensic science laboratory, which established that the bullet that hit the slain boy was fired from the Beretta pistol owned by Rocky. Gaya senior superintendent of police Garima Malik had also confirmed it at her news meet soon after the arrest of Rocky from Gaya on May 10.

But inexplicably, the prosecution failed to bring the fact before the high court during hearing of Rocky's bail application.

Rocky's counsel, senior advocate Y.V. Giri, told the court that nobody saw Rocky open fire. The other glaring lapse on part of the investigation team was that the bloodstained clothes of Aditya were thrown outside the post-mortem room, leading to destruction of vital evidence.

The clothes were also not produced in the court. Instead, they were collected from the spot by Aditya's family members.

Despite admission of Rocky's father Bindi Yadav that his son had fired in self-defence, the prosecution again failed to put forth this fact before the court. Surprisingly, the police had seized the murder weapon barehanded and thus tampered with evidence.

The police, sources in know of the investigation said, didn't check the veracity of Rocky's claim that he was in Delhi when the incident took place. The police, the sources added, also didn't verify his travel ticket and other details, which could have helped the prosecution in tightening the noose around the accused.

Gaya city superintendent of police Awakash Kumar, who was part of the special investigation team formed to crack the case, however, claimed that the police gathered clinching evidence to substantiate the charges levelled against Rocky. "I can't say what went wrong in the court," he said, adding that he hoped the state government would move the Supreme Court against the high court order.

The order has come as a rude shock for Aditya's parents. "This is a very bad day for Bihar, I appeal to the government to save Bihar from jungle raj," said father Shyam Sunder Sachdeva. "We have all the evidence but still justice is denied. Money and power have again silenced the truth."

Earlier this month, RJD MLA from Nawada Raj Ballabh Prasad was granted bail by the high court in a rape case. Reliable sources say that the forensic report suggested that the rape survivor's clothes sent by the police had been washed, leading to destruction of evidence.

A PTI report said the government would file an appeal in the apex court.

"The state government is going to file an appeal in the Supreme Court challenging the bail granted to Rocky Yadav by the Patna High Court," principal additional advocate general Lalit Kishore told PTI.

Is the World Medical Association Also Corrupt?

The World Medical Association (WMA), the top medical-ethics body, on Friday installed an Indian doctor facing corruption charges as its president, despite controversy surrounding his appointment while legal cases are pending. A statement released by the WMA said Dr. Ketan Desai delivered his inaugural speech as president on Friday at the association’s annual assembly in Taiwan. He will serve in the position for 2016/17. Desai has faced conspiracy and corruption allegations since he was first selected in 2009 as a future president of the WMA. Desai has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the pending cases. He did not respond to questions from Reuters sent via email. When Reuters asked the WMA this week for an update on Desai’s legal situation, spokesman Nigel Duncan said the association had nothing more to say.
“I don’t think there’s anything we want to add to what we have already said,” Duncan said. He did not answer questions about Desai’s legal cases or what the ethics body had been told about them in recent months. In one case filed in New Delhi in 2010, Desai faces charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy for allegedly being involved in a conspiracy to obtain a bribe of 20 million rupees ($450,000 at the time) from a medical college. In return, investigators allege Desai helped the school get permission from the Medical Council to add more students. When contacted last year, the college, which is not a defendant in the case, declined to comment.

Desai was jailed that year and his inauguration as the WMA president was suspended. He was later released on bail. In 2013, the WMA decided to lift the suspension after receiving assurances from the Indian Medical Association, which Desai once headed. The Indian Medical Association did not respond to queries from Reuters this week. A Reuters investigation published in July last year showed that the Indian Medical Association had incorrectly told the WMA that charges against Desai had been withdrawn. Representatives of major doctors organizations accepted the information as fact. The Indian Medical Association said last year that it never misled the WMA.

The WMA had said it took questions raised in the Reuters article “very seriously” and would look into them. Later, in October 2015, the WMA upheld its decision to appoint Desai as president, without giving reasons. A source at India’s Central Bureau of Investigation said this week that the New Delhi case was still active though it was on hold due to a pending appeal in the Supreme Court. The source said Desai still needs to appear before the district court judge during hearings. A court document dated Aug. 3 shows Desai, a urologist by training, submitted an application to seek an exemption from a personal appearance in court that day due to an illness. The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Proceedings in a separate case, alleging Desai was involved in a conspiracy to have the Medical Council of India allow a private medical school to add more students, were put on hold last year by a district court in northern Uttar Pradesh state until investigators obtain government permission to prosecute. Desai’s counsel in the case, Purnendu Chakravarti, said this week there was no change in the status of the case. Based in France, the WMA sets ethical standards for physicians worldwide and represents millions of doctors. Known for its pioneering work in ethics, its members include the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association.

This smarphone app may replace contraceptive pills

LONDON: A new smartphone app, which can accurately tell women when they are fertile, may prove to be an effective alternative to give the female body a break from contraceptive pills, researchers have claimed.

Input your daily temperature into the app, and by comparing the readings with those in its data set, it lets you know when you can have unprotected sex (shown as a green day in its calendar) and when to use contraception (shown as red).

"I wanted to give my body a break from the pill, but I could not find any good forms of natural birth control, so I wrote an algorithm for myself," said Elina Berglund, co-founder and CTO at Natural Cycles.

Based on advanced statistical methods from Berglund's time at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, the algorithm uses body temperature to determine fertility.

After ovulation, increased levels of progesterone make women's bodies up to 0.45 degree Celsius warmer.

Natural Cycles has conducted two clinical trials, the second of which analysed the data of more than 4,000 women aged 20-35, 'Wired' reported.

Over the course of one year, there were 143 unplanned pregnancies, ten of which occurred on green days, giving the app a 99.5% efficacy rating - the same as the pill.

It is currently the only app of its kind to be regulated as an approved medical device, putting it in the same category as condoms and IUDs - albeit in a different class.

"We are a natural alternative to the pill - with no side effects," said Berglund.

"Natural Cycles is not recommended to those who are very young or very keen to avoid a pregnancy, since there are other more effective methods," said lead author Kristina Gemzell Danielsson, from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

"The efficacy is far below that of intrauterine contraception or implants, but similar to that of the pill when used in real life," said Danielsson.