India self-sufficient in vaccination drive
This is in response to 'Vaccine eloquent' (Down To Earth, January 31, 2006). There are certain things I would like to clarify. India established the expanded programme on immunisation (epi) in 1978. The measles vaccine was initially excluded but was introduced in 1985 through the Planning Commission. Objections of the Union health ministry and the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (iap) were overruled. Simultaneously, India also adopted universal immunisation programme (uip ) then.
Besides, the tetanus vaccine is given to children for protection in future. Neonatal tetanus is prevented if mothers are immune. Similarly, children are not at high risk of hepatitis b, but the vaccination is to prevent infection at a later stage. If not prevented, infection may cause chronic carrier state, acute and chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis, at varying frequencies. Liver cancer is uncommon though. The hepatitis b vaccine targets all these, not just liver cancer. Those who oppose its introduction in uip, don't understand public health principles.
Once included in this programme, volumes of sales led to a considerable fall in the price of measles vaccine. iap and other professional specialist associations fully endorse who guidelines to include hbv in uip. uip is a component of public health, which stands for social justice and equity. Paediatricians should be advocates for protection against more diseases, not less. Haemophilus influenza type b (hib) is the most common cause of pyogenic meningitis in young children. Although probability of hib meningitis is low, the outcome is severe. The hib vaccine 'probe studies' are on to measure disease burden data. With studies being expensive, it will take years for the results to come out.
India is no novice and has expert groups. We should overcome the fear that we are helpless victims and foreign forces are pushing us for their profits. Media ought to become partners in the national immunisation efforts and participate in expanding the range of diseases that must be prevented.
T Jacob John
All national health programmes are implemented with the aim of reaching out to the poorest sections. uip is one such programme, initiated with the aim of protecting children from polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus and measles -- the six killer diseases. Available evidence indicates that the coverage of children by uip is either stationary, or gradually coming down due to frequent pulse polio immunisation (ppi) rounds. Health workers are busy with ppi rounds, which is being accorded highest priority. Moreover, there is always the need of strengthening the delivery mechanism in the country.
We should achieve more than 90 per cent when it comes to children. We should also look for additional vaccines that can be added to uip . Recent immunisations, which have been found to be effective in the prevention of specific diseases should be available to the beneficiaries who can afford them. It would help reduce the financial stress on uip.
Efforts should be directed towards creating a national fund for uip . International funding agencies are helpless as they ha.
This is in response to 'Suspect diagnosis' (Down To Earth, May 31, 2006). The World Bank (wb) report emphasises that giving communities more rights over forests to generate livelihoods is not in conflict with the aims of conservation. Further, communities can directly market timber to private buyers without interference from forest department. The forest department should focus on facilitation and technical advisory service.
wb is a funding agency. It should not indulge in matters such as transfer of forestland or forest growing produce from government to joint forest management (jfm) committees. In any case, jfm s are not legally empowered to award penalties to those who are involved in fellings, or those who are ruining the ecosystem balance of forests.
However, there are reports in the media that say irregularities are found, even in forests under jfm. But so far, no jfm committee has been suspended or dismissed on such grounds. wb must correct its stand and committees should be alerted so that jfm continues to protect forests.
Poaching is certainly a menace. Independent trial courts need to be established. Committee members alone cannot stop forest crimes.
S S Chitwadgi
Capitalise on rainfall
This is in response to 'Irrigation sucks' (Down To Earth, May 31, 2006). You have mentioned that out of the estimated 650 thousand million cubic metres (tmc) water used in India, 231 tmc comes from groundwater. Water use by 2010 is estimated between 694 tmc and 710 tmc and between 973 tmc and 1,180 tmc by 2050.
The schematic presentation shows the average annual rainfall in India. While the western regions and the northeast regions get excellent rainfall, the rest of the nation gets relatively lesser amounts, although the rains are fairly widespread.
It is estimated that the total annual precipitation in India is about 3,300 tmc , which is more than double the estimated water needs in the distant 2050.
Scientists, environmentalists, economists, engineers and all nation-builders must recognise this fact and try to take advantage of this wonderful water potential, through proper consensus and unbiased plans of action, instead of getting into mudslinging.
Such concerted and scientific actions would not only help in conserving and utilising the huge water resource but our rural, urban and farm areas also would not be troubled by constant disastrous effects of alternate drought and floods -- happening in the same places at different times.
P V Hariharan
This is in response to 'Fluoride for a metal' (Down To Earth, May 15, 2006). Traditionally, in the fluorosis endemic areas in Andhra Pradesh, tamarind was often used as a dietary ingredient. Experimental studies have established that tamarind binds to fluoride and facilitates its excretion. Though the exact mechanism of effect of tamarind on fluoride retention is yet to be found, the dietary preventive measure is a simpler and cost-effective method to combat fluoride toxicity.
Tezpur study still on
This is in response to 'Off course' ( Down To Earth, May 15, 2006). I would like to point out that the study on Jia Bharali river is an ongoing study and it would be unfair to say that the campus area of Tezpur university and Tezpur town will be washed away.
Moreover, no sponsorship has been received by the institute and there is no obligation on the part of the institute to submit any of its findings to the central water commission and other departments at this point of time.
We should wait for evidence before drawing any specific conclusions.
S C Patra
Make NPM the norm
This is in response to 'No pesticides' (Down To Earth, May 31, 2006). It is very heartening to know that farmers are cultivating crops without using pesticides. This changing trend in agricultural practice will provide sustainable produce for our future generations. Participation of women is also encouraging.
Since non-pesticidal management (npm) has proved its efficacy, agriculturists and concerned ministries should join hands and assist farmers to maintain this practice and ensure a toxic-free environment for all.
In the present scenario of ecological imbalance and environment pollution, it is imperative that npm be implemented with full zest throughout the country.
I am a student of Annamalai University in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. Trees are being felled indiscriminately in our university. The reason that the authorities give is that they want to broaden roads. The fact is that the roads are quite broad already.
There is very little protest against this destruction of the green cover because there is no organised student union through which we can raise our voice. This issue needs publicising.
Down To Earth welcomes letters, responses and other contributions from readers. We particularly welcome you to join issues and share your opinion with others. Send to Sunita Narain, Editor, Down To Earth , 41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110 062. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ...
Pick of the postbag
Wheat import unnecessary
This is in response to 'Wheat and chaff' (Down To Earth, May 15, 2006). Pesticide content in Australian wheat is high; in fact, it is 50 times higher than the permissible limit. Such wheat would be sold via fair price shops, normally purchased by people living below poverty line. Consumption of such wheat may lead to health problems as well. Besides, Indian farmers are being paid much lesser than the import price. It makes sense to pay them the equal price. In addition, the Food Corporation of India had adequate stocks of surplus wheat, with a surplus stock of 50 mt, to meet any emergency needs. Hence, the move by the agriculture minister to import Australian wheat is not justified.
Dinkar O Garg
Yashwant Nagar, Nagpur...
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