The irony of it all is that the whole world knows and worries about AIDS whose total universal load is only about 30 to 33 million in all in contrast to the Indian load alone of NIDS of 67 million—it is on the rise!
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”— Martin Luther King, Jr
Immune system is the one that keeps us alive in this complicated world, dominated by human greed as the driving force. That is our inbuilt doctor that could correct any deviation from the normal if we look after the immune system well. Good nutrition is an essential part of immune system health. Poverty, with the associated hypoproteinaemia, is at the root of all immune deficiency. India, unfortunately, has the highest load of childhood immune deficiency resulting in all kinds of illnesses in our children sending them to meet their maker in heaven prematurely in thousands almost daily. I had labelled this as Nutritional Immune Deficiency Syndrome (NIDS) ten years ago in a paper in a leading journal to attract the attention of the powers that be and the well-meaning general public. Since then I have been talking and writing about it on innumerable occasions. Except for two thinking chief ministers of Indian states, no one could care less. Those two states, which took my advice seriously, are on the way to improving their children’s immune status whose efforts, unfortunately, begin almost from the time the child is made in the mother’s womb!
The irony of it all is that the whole world knows and worries about AIDS whose total universal load is only about 30 to 33 million in all in contrast to the Indian load alone of NIDS of 67 million—it is on the rise! The whole of sub-Saharan Africa has a load of 42 million. There is a reason for this anomaly. While drug companies are pushing their costly drugs to treat the evanescent AIDS costing millions of dollars and billions of dollars are available for people who claim to be AIDS researchers, the poor NIDS has no sponsor at all. The man who reported the first case of AIDS in 1981 got the Nobel Prize recently for just an ordinary case report where his group showed a virus in the bone marrow of that young man who died due to the disease in Paris. There is no proof that the said virus is the cause of that syndrome as immune deficient patients could harbour all kinds of germs in their body. One would now realise as to how disease mongering goes on in this era of prospering sickness industry.
Poverty, with its consequent nutritional deficiency, does not seem to be easing in the near future, either. Economist Utsa Patnaik in her lecture recently in Chennai testified that between 1991 and 2001, the first post-liberalisation decade, the per capita consumption of foodgrain had gone down by at least 25 to 30 kgs. 75% of protein and calorie energy come from foodgrain for the rural poor; the fall in consumption will have serious impact on their nutritional status. This, as explained later, will impact the childhood malnutrition load seriously. The liberalization policy has reversed the trend of improvement of per capita consumption achieved in the first 40 years post-independence. The National Sample Survey showed that while official records were used for the published nutrition norms of 2004-2005, the actual poverty lines were almost double the official ones. The situation for the rural poor is very bleak indeed what with official inflation rates in double digits! The poor, even today, pay for their poverty with their own lives! Please be warned that our rich kids are having a new epidemic of malnutrition due to junk food habits which could be our next problem in the years to come. While the poor suffer from protein sub-nutrition the rich kids suffer from protein malnutrition. In the latter case liver damage will be a curse in addition.
To compound this we have an exclusive education system that makes the successful students that manage to fill our administrative posts as also those that go to make our thought leaders oblivious to the needs of their peers who are denied even primary education for want of food, clothing and shelter. Adult malnutrition as depicted above seriously impacts the lives of young children. When a lady becomes pregnant, if she falls into the malnutrition class, the growing foetus in her womb suffers irreparable life-long damage, especially in the first trimester. All the human organs are made before the 20th week of gestation. If at that time the mother is impoverished, most children die in the womb (stillbirth). Many a time nature tries to keep these children alive at the cost of their development by enlarging the size of the placenta which could supply some extra blood to the child from the mother. Such a child, when born alive, will be too small and would have all the organs less well developed. The vital organs here are the hippocampus major in the brain needed for learning, creativity, memory etc, and the heart and vascular tree and the pancreas. When these children grow up they are liable to die young of heart disease, diabetes and more than all that, they will not be able to achieve any academic goals as their hippocampus major is very small to begin with. These are called prenatal causes of adult diseases. Feeding these kids after birth will be of not much use in changing that position as shown by the governmental efforts through ICDS for decades.
Very good news for all Indians and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is that India has been officially declared free from Wild Polio for one long year and hope that Wild Polio will join history books for ever. I am not that enthusiastic about it as we have to keep vaccinating our children for some more years to come. Even today in India we have vaccine-related serious polio disease and deaths recorded. While the official figures are not alarming they have to be taken seriously. The target is the poor child that is malnourished. Even the textbooks of medicine proclaim from house-tops that a malnourished child SHOULD NEVER be given attenuated live polio virus by mouth (that is exactly what we are doing) we have given more than 30 such doses to the children majority of whom are malnourished. In such children the virus, instead of enhancing immunity, will only make the virus mutate in the child’s gut into the serious P1 and P3 variety to be excreted in their faeces. Our sanitation being what it is in the slums and villages, other malnourished children could be easy prey for those deadly viruses. If I remember right, Dr Pushpa Bhargava had written some years ago that we had several thousand such cases even then. Much more must have been added to the list. I was told that we had seven such cases recently. Let me make an earnest appeal to the powers that be that at least now let us spend a little extra money to give our poor children dead virus vaccines by injection so that India will be free of all kinds of polio. After all, for the hapless patient and the family it does not matter what virus causes the disease. It is sad for them in any case. Let us save some money that our people in power are supposed to eat instead to save a few lives.
In conclusion, one could say that malnutrition and the attendant NIDS are our major problems in the healthcare arena. India needs clean drinking water, three square meals for every one which are free from human and/or animal excreta, a roof on top at night, in place of the star-lit sky (which could save poor from the ravages of bitter cold), proper sanitation to avoid deadly hookworm infestation and many other water-borne infections, opportunity for everyone for good primary education, avoiding cooking smoke with carbon monoxide from coming into the house (which kills children below five of pneumonia and women of heart attacks), and finally economic empowerment of village women with job opportunities for all. Curiously, even the deadly chronic diseases are more prevalent among the poor. We need not have such expensive hospitals in such large numbers if we had the above-mentioned facilities in all villages. Healthcare is not synonymous with disease care. Our present efforts are all aimed at disease care and we do not even think of healthcare.
“He is ever manifest as Love in all beings. What other God — the creation of your mind — are you then going to worship! Let the Vedas, the Koran, the Puranas, and all scriptural lumber rest now for some time—let there be worship of the visible God of Love and Compassion in the country. All idea of separation is bondage, that of non-differentiation is Mukti. Let not the words of people dead-drunk with worldliness terrify you. Be fearless; ignore the ordinary critics as worms!”— Swami Vivekananda
(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former vice-chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nifty may move sideways between 4,845 and 4,930
The market, which opened lower following the nine-nation sovereign downgrade by S&P over the weekend, settled in the green on late buying amid a great deal of volatility. The Nifty is presently in an indecisive zone. However, a major event may help the market find direction. The index may see a sideways move in the range of 4,845 and 4,930. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a volume of 62.69 crore shares.
The market witnessed a gap-down opening tracking the Asian markets which trading with cuts of around 1% in morning trade following the S&P downgrade of nine Eurozone countries, including France, over the weekend. The Nifty opened 22 points lower at 4,844 and the Sensex lost 68 points at the opening bell to start the day at 16,087. Metal, capital goods and banking stocks pulled the indices lower in early trade.
Volatility kept the market range-bound in morning trade with the benchmarks touching their day’s lows around 10.30am. At the lows, the Nifty fell to 4,827 and the Sensex went back to 16,038. Reports of a sharp drop in headline inflation for December resulted in select buying by institutional investors, which pushed the indices higher in noon trade.
While the lower opening of the key European indices saw the domestic market pare some of its gains, an improvement in the European markets in subsequent trade induced risk appetite among Indian investors. Select buying enabled the market hit its intraday high in the last hour. At the highs, the Nifty touched 4,881 and the Sensex rose to 16,214.
The market closed off the highs of the day, but in the positive for the second day in a row. The Nifty settled eight points higher at 4,874 and the Sensex gained 35 points to end the day at 16,189.
The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was in favour of the decliners at 874:906.
Among the broader indices, the BSE Mid-cap index lost 0.03% while the BSE Small-cap index gained 0.33%.
BSE Capital Goods (up 2.07%); BSE IT (up 1.80%); BSE TECk (up 1.59%); BSE Auto (up 0.78%) and BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 0.69%) were the top sectoral gainers. On the other hand, BSE Oil & Gas (down 1.71%); BSE Healthcare (down 0.62%); BSE PSU (down 0.57%); BSE Realty (down 0.52%) and BSE Bankex (down 0.30%) settled at the bottom.
The top performers in the Sensex list were BHEL (up 3.67%), Maruti Suzuki (up 2.89%); Larsen & Toubro, Sterlite Industries (up 2.56% each) and State Bank of India (up 2.22%). The laggards were led by Reliance Industries (down 2.55%); NTPC (down 2.35%); HDFC Bank (down 1.74%); Hindustan Unilever (down 1.56%) and DLF (down 1.55%).
The top five stocks on the Nifty were Maruti Suzuki (up 4.38%); BHEL (up 3.64%); SBI, L&T (up 3.03% each) and IDFC (up 2.90%). The major losers were Reliance Power (down 3.30%); NTPC (down 2.68%); Kotak Bank (down 2.45%); RIL (down 2.26%) and HDFC Bank (down 2.03%).
Markets in Asia settled lower as the S&P’s ratings downgrades over the weekend ignited fresh concerns about the unending Eurozone debt crisis. Even the sharp rise in core machinery orders in Japan failed to boost investor sentiment. Japanese machinery orders jumped 14.8% in November, beating analysts’ expectations for a 6% rise.
The Shanghai Composite tumbled 1.71%; the Hang Seng declined 1%; The Jakarta Composite dropped 0.65%; the KLSE Composite declined 0.92%; the Nikkei 225 tanked 1.43%; the Straits Times fell by 1.26%; the Seoul Composite was down 0.87% and the Taiwan Weighted settled 1.09% lower. At the time of writing, the major European indices were trading weak and the US stock futures were in the red.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of shares amounting to Rs293.51 crore on Friday. On the other hand, domestic institutional investors were net sellers of shares totalling Rs177.26 crore.
Sloppy market conditions have forced Development Credit Bank (DCB) to defer its QIP issue to next fiscal and the small private lender is now hoping to raise up to Rs120 crore in the first quarter of FY12-13. In January, last year, the bank had announced plans to raise up to Rs150 crore through a QIP issue by August. The stock declined 2.22% to close at Rs9.65 on the NSE.
Pharma major Ind-Swift has entered into an agreement with Roche Diagnostics India to promote a test for detecting heart attack, ‘TROP T rapid assay’, in India. Roche Diagnostics’ TROP T rapid assay is a point of care test which can detect whether a patient is having a heart attack through a simple whole blood test. Ind-Swift fell 2.21% to settle at Rs110.60 on the NSE.
GAIL Gas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of GAIL India has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish Rs5,000 crore liquefied natural gas (LNG) import facility at Kakinada or Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The floating storage and re-gasification unit (FSRU)/ LNG terminal of 3.5 to 5 million tonnes per annum is likely to be the first such facility on the east coast of the country with an estimated investment of Rs5,000 crore. GAIL added 0.13% to close at Rs373.95 on the NSE.
According to activists the government can seek help of consumer organisations and together should file suo moto complaints in larger public interest
The Union government, especially the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, is seeking proper guidelines for suo moto complaints in consumer affairs to ensure that genuine complaints having larger public interest are taken and are not picked up arbitrarily. However consumer activist and lawyers believe there is no need for separate guideline as the Consumer Protection Act itself clearly defines who can be the complainant or the nature of complaints.
In the absence of guidelines governing suo moto complaints, the Ministry is reluctant to file complaints on behalf of consumers against misleading advertisements or grossly deficient products or services. Experts say that the government need a political will and if it takes such action it can be as good as a class action.
Shirish Deshpande, advocate and chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, says, “There is a locus standi to take suo moto action. The definition of complainant, as per the Act, includes government. So they can take a suo moto action. Secondly, in Section 12, the Act clearly lays down basis for the kind of complaint that can be considered and complaint which would have larger public interest. Hence there is no need for separate rules by the Ministry. It only requires political will.”
Although the Consumer Protection Act provides provision for suo moto complaints; there are no guidelines. Therefore, officials are hesitant to act. So there are few such cases where both- the union and state governments have acted.
According to sources, the Ministry is seeking help from consumer organisations to frame guideline for taking suo moto action. This is to ensure that complaints which are full filling quantitative and qualitative criteria such as large complaints of similar nature and or where there is huge monetary loss to the consumer, is taken up. This will also ensure that complaints are also not arbitrarily picked up.
“In case of misleading or false advertisements or any gross deficiency, product recall or unfair trade practise, if government files a complaint, it could be a class action in the interest of the consumers,” Mr Deshpande added.
In May 2010, Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filed a charge sheet, in local court against advertisement of health drink Complan for claiming that the drink adds two inches to children’s height.
Pritee Shah, chief general manger, Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) and Editor of Insight , a consumer magazine, believes that the government should have a mechanism to initiate such action. “In the US and UK, there are separate commissions which are empowered to take suo moto action. If such mechanism is developed, here as well it would yield much better results.
“During a CERC event on misleading advertisement, it was discussed that if the government take suo moto action, then who has to give the evidence. Is it the government, who is also the complainant or the advertisers to substantiate their claims? After much deliberation, it was held that advertisers should prove their claims,” Ms Shah said.
Activists say that government should seek help of consumer organisations and together file suo moto complaints in larger public interests. Roland Martins, co-ordinator, Goa Civic and Consumer Action Network, says, “The government needs to be proactive to take up suo moto complaints. There so many misleading or fake advertisements across various sectors like education, health etc. If each department acts against them, it would definitely help the consumers. The government departments, in such matters, can also seek the advice of consumer organisations.”
Recently, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) announced that it is planning to take insurance complaints suo moto in order to ensure fair play by the insurance companies.