Published: Tuesday 15 June 2010

Suspend cancer vaccine licences

Women and child rights groups as well as health networks are deeply concerned with the manner in which the two vaccines for cervical cancer— Gardasil and Cervarix—have been approved for marketing in India (see ‘Half a cervical cancer vaccine’, May 1-15).

The two trials for human papilloma virus vaccines (110 girls with Gardasil and 350 women with Cervarix) were conducted in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat for seven months; the researchers ascertained only the immediate immune response and sideeffects.

We have learnt that now a trial involving 20,000 girls, aged 10-18, would begin soon (for determining dosage). The government should answer why the trial is being conducted on such a large scale, especially when the package insert on Gardasil used in India does not indicate the eligible age group. Besides, the packaging insert omits death from the list of adverse effects unlike the inserts carried by vaccines sold in the US. What’s more, the trials should have preceded grant of licence.

In view of these and other serious violations, the Drug Controller General of India should suspend the licence of the two vaccines in India till all mandatory trials are completed and their results are posted in the public domain. Data on these vaccines are lacking on several aspects like duration of efficacy, its effect on immune-compromised persons (not just HIV/AIDS patients), its effect on pregnant and lactating women and the carcinogenic and mutagenic potential of the two vaccines.

The Government of India claims these vaccines are licensed in more than 100 countries as if that alone could be the ground to establish their safety or efficacy in the Indian population. The requirement of Indian trials and studies cannot be waived in deference to licensing practices of other countries.


Why import urinals?

Delhi may plan to install 4,000 waterless and odourless urinals by June 2010 (‘Break the odour’, March 16-31, 2010). But importing them from China does not make sense. We must be able to produce it domestically and then promote them.


Missing in action

The editorial ‘All is not well: climate negotiations in a new avatar’ (May 1-15, 2010) exposes the inherent hypocrisy of developed nations regarding reduction of pollution levels. Civil societies across the globe have become tired of politicians and their doublespeak and are looking up to pioneering leaders to guide them to an environmentally secure future.


-- It is true that all is not well. Countries are compromising climate threat for other benefits that are selfdestructive.


MPs need lessons on CDM

Many of our parliamentarians are not aware of the clean development mechanism (CDM) regime. It is in the news that the CFLs will be sold in the market at Rs 15 apiece under the government’s Bachat Lamp Yojana; the manufacturers will recover the balance cost of the lamp from carbon credits. The scheme is aimed to help citizens replace fluorescent and ordinary lamps with CFLs. This is good news, but when would it get implemented? Our parliamentarians are busy squabbling and installing statues and getting involved in meaningless debates, futile cut motions and confidence votes that induce more corrupt practices. They are not at all interested in CDM regime.


Nail land grabbers

The real estate boom in the country in the beginning of this decade, mostly stimulated by the IT sector, helped millions of middle class Indians fulfill their dream of owning a house. But the sleaze behind the US $12 billion sector is becoming evident in recent years (‘Slumdog Sleuths Unearth Scam’, May 1-15, 2010).

In a bid to build world-class cities, the authorities acquire prime locations occupied by slums. They call it inclusive development, which means better resettlement to slum dwellers in low-cost houses. Private developers become stakeholders in such schemes through public-private partnership. They use every trick in the bag to gain access to every inch of the land and gain from the transfer of development rights allowed under the slum rehabilitation schemes.

Weak regulations and high rate of returns are the major attractions for the builders. But scams of this nature and magnitude cannot happen without active involvement of the authorities concerned, whom the builders reward adequately.

Such irregularities have been reported several times, but unless the government is serious about preventing land grabbing, the dream of housingfor- all may never be realized.


Need to popularize bicycles

The article ‘Bicycles pave the way’ (March 1 -15, 2010) is an interesting account culled from the evolutionary history of the bicycle.

The growth of automobiles has eclipsed this simplest means of transport and the bicycle remains a poor man’s choice. With automobile pollution posing a serious threat to the globe, it is high time we gave the bicycle a second look. It should not only be popularized but developed to suit the present needs of society.

Possibilities of designing variants of bicycle, such as tandem pedal bicycles, side-car bicycles, babycarriages and grocery bicycles, need to be explored. There has not been any worthwhile design improvement in this machine except for a sports cycle and a geared cycle. The government should set up a research and development centre to improve and popularize this eco-friendly mode of transport.

Universities should voluntarily switch to the use of bicycles within their campuses. Similarly organizations that have residential colonies near their offices should mandate the use of bicycles.


How to control pulse prices The cover story ‘Low pulse’ (February 16-28, 2010) was timely and helps understand the multi-dimensional problems of pulse production and distribution.

Steps like distribution of high-yielding varieties to farmers, application of adequate amounts of phosphorus, sulphur and zinc in deficient soils, water harvesting in rainfed areas, timely plant protection measures and price-incentives by the government will definitely accelerate the production of pulses in the country. This may help to bring down pulse prices.

Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal

Pick of the postbag

Tata on a destruction spree

Your article ‘Scorching salt’ (June 1- 15, 2008) resulted in Tata Chemicals Limited discontinuing lifting water from the wells of village Vasai to meet the daily requirement of its salt-andsoda ash unit in Okha taluka of Jamnagar district. Tata also stopped extracting groundwater from village Gadhechi and Tupani.

Consequently the water table in the area has improved resulting in increased availability of water for irrigation. But the industrial activities of Tata Chemicals Limited has damaged and destroyed agricultural land and water quality in 11 villages. The causes are the salt pans and the factory’s irresponsible practice of dumping saline waste.

Now another danger is impending. In south of village Padli, the company first damaged the land and is now buying the plots to dump the effluents. This will cause leaching from the waste, more so in monsoon, making the groundwater of the adjoining villages of Vasai and Gadhechi saline.

These two villages have a large number of sweet water wells and we are afraid that the resources of these villages would be destroyed.

Chairman, Gramya Vikas Trust,
Dwarka, Gujarat

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