People’s Health’ Seminar in Kolkata

Dr. Binayak Sen and Dr. Ilina Sen recently visited Kolkata responding to an initiative taken by People’s Health. They addressed the Calcutta press at Calcutta Press Club on 29th May. Dr. Binayak Sen’s two year long unlawful detention in a Chattisgarh jail ended on 25th May. “I want to resume my unfinished work as early as possible,” he said. “I could finally come out of jail but many colleagues and comrades of mine are still in Chattisgarh jails on fictitious charges – we have a long fight due for their unconditional release.”

Dr. Debasish Dutta, President, People’s Health, initiated the press conference by introducing Dr. Binayak Sen and Dr. Ilina Sen as pioneering figures in the people’s health movement who have been working for the last three decades in different corners of India where the Indian State has been absent completely in providing even the basic medical care. Dr. Sen was arrested on 14 May 2007 by Chattisgarh government on the charges of sedition, accused of being a Maoist conspirator.

People’s Health organised a seminar on 30 May on ‘Whither People’s Health’ and dedicated the seminar to the efforts of Dr. Binayak Sen. Speakers from different parts of India spoke at the seminar. Dr. Kaustav Roy presented an audio-visual documentation to expose the underdevelopment in primary health care services. He shows that some diseases which we assumed nearly extinct from the world are coming back, often in the form of epidemic. The last UPA govt, Dr. Roy says, closed down three public owned factories which were there to produce a few crucial vaccines. The govt offered the tender to private companies and they supply low quality medicine at unusually high prices.

Swati Bhattacharya, researcher and journalist, focused on the poor scenario of primary health care services for women in West Bengal. According to the statistics, 57% of the pregnant women in WB are deprived of primary health care during child-birth. Dr. Sudip Chakrabarty of Medical Service Centre, Mr. Ramkishen of All India Central Health Care Services and Com. Suresh from Jharkhand addressed the audience.

Dr. Ilina Sen remarked that issue of people’s health must be seen from the point of view of equality and social justice. In India, Dr. Sen explains, primary health care progammes are more bureaucratic than participatory. She said that the demand for the primary health care must be framed in the perspective of the people’s rights movement. Dr. Binayak Sen said that anyone having body-mass index less than 18.5 is said to be suffering from malnutrition. And when most of the members of a population have body-mass ratio less than 18.5, the population is said to be affected by famine. He says that most of the tribal villages in Chattisgarh by this parameter are affected by famine.

Dr. Sen also spoke on the human rights conditions in Chattisgarh and said that as Chattisgarh is full of valuable minerals lying under land occupied by adivasis, Salwa Judum is often found deputed by mine barons to snatch the land from the poor villagers. In the name of encounters, police kill innocent poor people in villages. The villagers in Chattisgarh are living in a state of terror. The industrialists, with the direct help of the govt. are robbing the land, water resources and forests from the villagers. The poor people are becoming poorer every day. The issues regarding health, nutrition, education and occupation are entirely neglected.

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