Skip to main content

Public Health Bill amidst powerful interests, MNCs using pandemic for selfish interests

By Bharat Dogra

The Government is in the process of finalizing a new public health bill while repealing the 125 year old Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897. While few will question the need for replacing such an old and outdated law, there is also urgent need for carefully studying the various provisions of the new bill so that it is not coercive and does not violate of basic rights of citizens. There are at least five reasons which prompt the need for such caution.
Firstly, in 2017 a different bill was prepared which was called the Public Health (Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism and Disasters) Bill 2017. In a review of this bill several senior medical experts and health activists had found this to be unduly coercive and some of its provisions almost verged on the draconian, denying basic and fundamental rights to people while arming the authorities with excessive powers. Although this bill did not become an Act, the debate initiated on the basis of its various provisions has emphasized the need for caution.
Secondly, the actual experience of COVID-19 management should also awaken us to the need for caution. Even without the availability of adequate and specific legislative backing, governments of several countries including India imposed unduly stringent, sudden and prolonged lockdowns which caused avoidable mass distress. With stronger legal backing such measures can become even more likely and hence the need for caution.
Thirdly, enough evidence is available that several very powerful and resourceful interests including multinational companies have sought to use the pandemic for their own selfish interests. It is after all during the COVID phase, when most national economies were shrinking and tens of millions of people were being pushed below the poverty line, that the billionaires of the world managed to increase their wealth and income like never before and more numbers were added to the billionaires’ club than ever before. How did this happen? Trying to answer this question will take us to a complex and intriguing world where very high-level efforts are being made to change the conditions in favor of the richest as well in favor of authoritarian forces. Even a pandemic is used by these forces in highly opportunistic ways. While vaccines have an important public health role if these are based on science and science only, havoc can be caused if decisions regarding these are based on the pursuit of unprecedented enormous profits. Even profit is becoming relatively less important to these forces compared to their quest of seeking control of the health sector. This can be compared to the quest of the GM seed companies to gain control of the food sector. The authoritarian trends and the big profit trends are mutually supportive and feed on each other.
It is such contexts that we have to be extremely cautious towards any efforts, legislative or otherwise, which can strengthen these forces and trends by placing excessive powers in the hands of authorities while placing more curbs on basic rights of people. It will be a sad day if a new law is made which further strengthens authoritarian trends further while disempowering people.
Fourthly, we have to be extra cautious as some governments have been behaving in peculiar ways. We are grateful to the Supreme Court for making it clear that COVID vaccines are not mandatory, and while the government readily admitted in the Court to COVID vaccine not being compulsory or being imposed on anyone against her will, in reality various rules at several stages were such that many people would have found living and working very difficult without taking the vaccine. It is not hidden from anyone as to how adverse side-effects were systematically under-reported in India.
Last but not the least, the WHO becomes an important point for pandemic related matters and so it is important to state that WHO policies and decisions are also being increasingly influenced by narrow interests. One billionaire, one of the richest persons in the world, has emerged as one of its top financiers in recent years and this billionaire has faced very frequent criticism for his unethical promotion of several vaccines and GM crops. With this kind of financiers, the WHO has been frequently involved in many unseemly controversies, for example at the time of the highly exaggerated swine flu scare in 2009. Several aspects of the role of the WHO and its top boss have attracted criticism in more recent times too. So we have to be careful that the dictates of WHO are not used to justify any agenda which is harmful for us.
Due to all these factors there is a clear need for caution and what the government proposes by way of a new public health law should be clearly examined in detail for all its implications. The situation just now appears to be, as reported in media, that a draft submitted by the NITI Ayog is going to a seven member committee which will submit its report within a month while also taking the comments of various state governments. This draft needs to be shared with people at an early stage so that enough time is available for independent experts and public interest organizations to look at it carefully and give their informed comments. What ultimately matters is that the new law is genuinely guided by enlightened and well-informed public interest and not by any agenda set by narrow interests.
---
The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘A Day in 2071’, ‘Man over Machine' and ‘Planet in Peril'

Comments

TRENDING

देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

- हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे*  15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

Only 15% businesses provide employees real-time sustainability dashboards: Study

Kyndryl in collaboration with Microsoft has released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm, finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data. A Kyndryl note: *** Kyndryl (NYSE: KD), the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, in collaboration with Microsoft , today released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm , finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data.

Tamil Nadu brahmins are at cross roads, their future scenario remains uncertain

By NS Venkataraman*  For over 70 years now, brahmin community in Tamil Nadu have been abused, insulted and even physically attacked on some occasions by those who claimed that they were part of the so called dravidian movement. However, brahmin community silently and helplessly ducked under pressure and showed no signs of resistance or fight back.

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

Birth of New Communist Party ushers in new epoch in Canada's Left history

By Harsh Thakor  On January 31, 2024, history was made with the formation of the (New) Communist Party of Canada (the (N)CPC), the successful completion of its Founding Congress, and the public release of its Political Program. A most sporadic development in turning course of Communist movement locally, and worldwide. It also pits a challenge to dogmatism or mechanical approach and stagnation. taps the revolutionary creativity of the masses and is major re-orientation towards shaping revolutionary class struggles and  the massline.

Ethiopian ruling classes, political masters in West have their hands soaked in blood

By Harsh Thakor  Over two hundred were killed in recent weeks in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara region. After peace-talks between the Oromo Liberation Army and the Ethiopian government did not materialise tensions are escalating in the Oromia region. Earlier, on November 22, least 25 civilians were massacred in a government aerial drone strike, in Chawaka districts of the Buno Bedelle zone. This incident took place only two days after a fierce battle arose between the OLA and governmental troops in the Sulula Fincha district of the Horro Guduru Wollega zone.

Landslide early warning system: Odisha Govt, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham collaborate

By Divya Saini  In a strategic move to mitigate the impact of landslides during storms, the Odisha government in collaboration with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham is gearing up to establish a user-friendly Landslide Early Warning System (EWS) in Gajapati district. This initiative aims to provide advanced information, especially regarding landslides caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope.

Violent incidents in Haldwani: CPDRS on dubious role of Uttarakhand government

By DN Rath  Center for Democratic Rights and Secularism (CPDRS) unequivocally condemns the dubious role of Uttarakhand Government and its administration in the incidents that happened in Haldwani of Nanital district of the state.

A third view of Islamic paradox: Can Muslim unity defeat Zionist evil regime’s injustice?

By Chandra Vikash*  Could India, as a mirror to the ethno-federal One State solution, play a key role in resolving the Palestinian genocide crisis, that has emerged in the global consciousness as a focal point for injustice of centuries-old settler-colonialism project that continues to spread its hydra-headed tentacles through globalisation of this Old World Order?