Mr Narayana Murthy, PHFI reply to questions about the authority and functioning of the organisation

In the third part of a four-part series on the functioning of the Public Health Foundation of India, newly appointed chairman NR Narayana Murthy has answered some of the queries about the organisation, while the PHFI has replied to the other issues that have been raised in the first two articles

In the first two articles, I had raised several questions for NR Narayana Murthy, the new chairman of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). Mr Murthy responded on the 18th and 23rd July to the questions raised and also got the PHFI to respond to some of the questions. I present them here.

I also discover that Mr Murthy himself may potentially face some direct conflict of interest situations between his private funding and his job as chairman of PHFI, which is a public policy institution. Mr Murthy's $129 million venture capital firm, Catamaran, is set to invest $44 million (Rs200 crore) in Manipal Universal Learning, which is best known as a private medical education provider, and it has also invested a relatively modest amount in Wellspring Healthcare, a private healthcare provider. Won't Mr Murthy be in a conflicted situation since his fund invests in health?

Here are the answers to the questions.

1. Did you find serious conflicts of interest in the fact that PHFI, a publicly-funded, public policy body is dominated by wealthy owners of private businesses like Mukesh Ambani, Shiv Nadar, Harpal Singh (and now yourself) -- before you agreed to accept the PHFI chairmanship?

NR Narayana Murthy: I do not see any conflict of interest. This institution is about training, research and policy to improve public health delivery in India.
The institution has highly-respected and accomplished people to guide it to achieve its objectives. The individuals on the board have demonstrated leadership in excellence. Some have expertise in public health delivery, some have managed non-profits, some have been excellent academicians, some have been top quality government bureaucrats, and, in addition, some have contributed to the endowment for the institution.

These people spend their precious time to make this institution a world-class institution. The students who pass out from this institution can join any institution they like and there is no way they will be influenced to join any company founded or financed by any of the board members.

For example, just because I am the chairman of IIITB, no student from there was ever influenced by me to join Infosys.

Similarly, all over the world, high quality educational institutions invite well-known people to be on their board to leverage their expertise.

On the issue of policy research, this institute only recommends policies and it is for the governments to accept or reject it. Further, I have been involved in lots of policy-making bodies in my field in India and never once have I put the interest of my company ahead of the country.

2. By becoming PHFI chairman, will you be conflicted by the fact that Catamaran, your venture capital firm, has invested in Wellspring Healthcare, a private healthcare provider, and Manipal Universal Learning, which is best known as a private medical education provider? And of course, Infosys' healthcare practice.

Mr Murthy: I have already answered this in my answer to question number one.

3. Despite being run on taxpayers' money, PHFI does not disclose basic information, Didn't this worry you when you agreed to become its chairman?

Mr Murthy: I have been invited by the Nominations Committee of PHFI with people that I admire immensely for their honesty, patriotism and excellence in leadership-Dr YV Reddy, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and other such people.

When you see the kind of people that are on the board of PHFI, like Professor Amartya Sen, I can say that this is one of the few institutes in India with such a quality of global talent.

I have looked at the website and will certainly address any requests from rational, polite and genuine people in due course of time.

Responses by PFHI:

(a) Under which Act is PHFI being run, and is conducting its courses and collecting money from students?

PHFI: We are a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. This Act provides a legal framework to the societies set up for the purpose of imparting education and diffusing useful knowledge.

The main objective of PHFI, under the Memorandum of Association of the Society, is to open, found, establish, promote, set up, maintain, assist, support and or help in setting up, running and/or maintaining of public health educational institutions for promoting and ensuring capacity building in public health education, training and research.

Presently, PHFI is running diploma programmes which do not require a university affiliation or status. PHFI is now seeking university status, after fulfilling the requirements.

(b) Who gave you the authority to administer diploma courses and conduct consultancy with government agencies?

PHFI: The authority to establish and run an educational institution for imparting academic programmes within the broader regulatory framework of higher education and undertake allied academic activities such as research and consultancy flows from the Society's Memorandum of Association (MoA) and its bye-laws, as registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.

Guided by the mandate, and drawing upon its considerable expertise in the area of public health, PHFI announces and conducts post-graduate courses in public health. The Governing Council of PHFI has given the approval for the conduct of these diploma courses.

PHFI is invited, or bids for consultancy assignments, alone or along with other technical partners. It gets selected on the basis of its technical expertise, by the relevant agencies including the government. It has been selected for project grants, which were competitively awarded by several national and international agencies.

PHFI is recognized as a research institution capable of undertaking scientific research and development by the Ministry of Science and Technology, based on the strength of its faculty and researchers, their research credentials and publications, as well as the post-graduate diploma/training programmes that it conducts.
(c) Are you accountable to any statutory regulator, the parliament, or any state legislature?

PHFI: Within the legal framework of the Societies Registration Act, 1860, the Governing Council of PHFI is responsible for management of the affairs of the Society and is accountable to its members. The details of the constitution and membership of the Governing Council are available on the PHFI website. PHFI is a registered society and its registration papers are available with the Registrar of Societies. The details on the inception of PHFI are also available on the website.

The Foundation's accounts are audited annually. PHFI has a clearly defined audit system, as approved by its Governing Council. There is an independent audit of PHFI's finances annually, carried out by a reputed external audit firm, approved by the Governing Council.

Financial reports are also prepared for the donors, who are informed on the utilisation of funds by PHFI. Our performance reports and financial audits are ratified by the Governing Council and the Government of India is kept informed. The Government of India is represented in PHFI's Governing Council. In the states where Indian Institutes of Public Health (IIPHs) are located, the state governments are represented on their Advisory Councils.
(d) How were you granted the privilege of receiving a steady stream of government-funded students? Was any competitive bidding conducted in granting this privilege?

PHFI: With the roll out of National Rural Health Mission, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, in 2008, experienced acute shortage of public health specialists in all the states. MoHFW initiated a consultative process leading to a consortium of four institutions, which was charged with the task of providing public health training to serving medical officers in state health services. Initially this consortium comprised the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIH&PH), Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS) and PHFI.

A curriculum for Post Graduate Diploma in Public Health Management (PGDPHM) was evolved by the consortium. Since then, the consortium has been expanded to include nine institutions, approved by MoHFW. PHFI has helped to design this course and was asked by MoHFW to facilitate the coordination among the various institutes offering this course.

Various state governments nominate students to this diploma course. As a 'not for profit' institution, a prescribed fee is charged towards tuition and other utilities. The fee is determined by MoHFW and is paid from NRHM funds, as the trainees are drawn from district and sub-district level medical officers. The fee structure is uniform across all the institutes offering this course as a part of the consortium created by MoHFW. PHFI does not charge any extra fee.

This fee comprises tuition fee, hostel expenses, food, transport and other expenses for the year. The admission of government sponsored candidates for PGDPHM course are jointly finalised between the government and the consortium institutions. PHFI has also awarded full or partial scholarships to 76 students who were self-sponsored. {break}
(e) Do you conduct any merit-based tests in admitting students to your courses? What is the role of "recommendation letters" and "bonds" in admitting students and hiring faculty?

PHFI: The criteria for admission of other students for this course and for other courses offered by PHFI are based upon applications submitted by interested candidates. These comprise curriculum vitae, professional references and a statement of purpose.

The Admissions Committee of the IIPHs, comprising senior members of the faculty, finalises the admissions based upon the eligibility and suitability of the candidates. This process is akin to the process followed by many reputed schools and institutes of public health in other countries. The process is well-documented in the course brochures, available publicly on PHFI's website.

Faculty selection is based upon academic credentials, reference letters and interview by a faculty selection committee.

In view of the shortage of academic faculty in public health in India, PHFI instituted a Future Faculty Development (FFP) programme as a capacity building effort. Candidates with commitment to public health in India are selected, through due process and are sponsored for Master's or PhD Programmes in Public Health with leading partner schools abroad.

The concept is to nurture a cadre of highly motivated and competent public health professionals, who combine a deep understanding of India's public health needs with critical awareness of evolving global knowledge in the precept and practice of public health. Though the future faculty are registered as students in reputed institutions abroad, the practical work for the research related to these PhDs is carried out in India, under joint mentorship.

As a part of this arrangement, the selected and fully-funded Future Faculty Programme (FFP) Fellows, are required to sign an agreement with PHFI in the form of a bond to serve PHFI for a specified period upon their return.

These candidates are recruited as faculty members by PHFI to enable them build their capacity in teaching, research and public health practice during the period of service agreed upon in the contract. This procedure is to ensure that the resources expended for capacity building to meet Indian needs result in the desired outcome.

Other institutions in India, such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, follow a similar system for their faculty, who train abroad while in service.

(f) When you are unrecognised and unaccredited yourself, how do you claim the mandate (on your website) to "Establish an independent accreditation body for degrees in public health which are awarded by training institutions across India"?
PHFI: One of the objects of the PHFI MoA reads, "To work towards establishing standards of public health education by enabling the formation of an independent accreditation system".

This is derived from MoHFW's proposal of February 2006, which states that the proposed Public Health Foundation of India would "establish standards of public health education by enabling the formation of an independent accreditation system".
Currently, there are some institutions imparting public health education degree courses in the country. Public health education has emerged, as a multidisciplinary science, and is being imparted in medical colleges, social science institutions and management schools. However, there is presently no system of accreditation for educational programmes in public health.
The role PHFI envisages here is to facilitate the authorities in setting up of an independent system of accreditation. The proposed National Council for Human Resources in Health (NCHRH) is potentially such a mechanism.
In due course of time, PHFI will work with other public health institutions from India to enable establishment of an independent body capable of providing accreditation to such schools.
(g) Under what statutory authority does PFHI claim the "power to influence public health policy in India"?

PHFI: We have the capabilities and expertise in diverse disciplines related to public health. We undertake scientific, operational and policy research in the broad arena of public health.

Research conducted and evaluated by PHFI contributes to the evidence base used for policy making by the Government of India and various state governments. When invited by the government, policy makers, health professionals or civil society organisations, PHFI assists in arriving at evidence-based recommendations for policy development. This is a responsible academic contribution to policy development and is not in discharge of any statutory authority.

PHFI does not claim any power to influence public health policy, but plays a legitimate role in assisting the evolution of policies that advance public health. PHFI also undertakes multi-stakeholder consultations to develop evidence-based, context-specific, resource-sensitive, culturally compatible and equity-promoting recommendations for strengthening policies and programmes in public health.

It is pertinent, in this context, to note that MoHFW, which sponsored the creation of PHFI, clearly stated in its proposal (February 2006) that the proposed PHFI would "serve as a think tank to government on key public health issues".
(h) Why are the details of your constitution and registration not in the public domain?

PHFI: The details of the constitution and membership of the Governing Council are available on the PHFI website. PHFI is a registered society and its registration papers are available with the Registrar of Societies. All details on the inception of PHFI are also available on the website.
(i) Did you undertake competitive bidding to select the 'private partners' in your public-private partnership? Why are the details of the PPP agreement not in the public domain?

PHFI: At the time of PHFI's inception, the Government of India decided on establishing the Foundation on a public private partnership (PPP) mode and on the role and contribution of the private partners to the Foundation. MoHFW's proposal of February, 2006, states "PHFI would be an autonomously governed public private pPartnership with government support".
(j) Why does PHFI's website not have a report on its functioning and finances in over five years of its existence?

Most information about PHFI is posted on its website or is in various publications. It brings out progress reports twice a year, which are presented to and ratified by the Governing Council, along with the financial audit reports. These progress reports are widely distributed and can be accessed, if desired.
(k) Since you have received significant financial grants, parcels of free land and other assistance from central and state governments, why are you not submitting yourself to the RTI Act and the CAG audit?

PHFI: As stated earlier, the Foundation's accounts are audited annually. PHFI has a clearly defined audit system, as approved by its Governing Council. There is an independent audit of PHFI's finances annually, carried out by a reputed external audit firm, approved by the Governing Council. Financial reports are also prepared for the donors, who are informed on the utilisation of funds by PHFI. PHFI's performance reports and financial audits are ratified by the Governing Council and the Government of India is kept informed.
As far as the RTI Act is concerned, PHFI abides by the legal framework of the Act. The Foundation is not a public authority in terms of Section 3(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

(l) Since you work in the area of public health, what would be your stand if Reliance Industries, whose chairman sits on your board, were to be blamed for a case of industrial pollution or industrial accident?

PHFI: PHFI's endeavour is to infuse public health vision, values and practices in all sections of society. PHFI's principled stand will be in the larger interest of people's health. PHFI will guard against any conflict of interest, in situations where there is potential harm to the health of the people. Should any such eventuality arise, the concerned member on the Governing Council will recuse himself/herself from the Governing Council proceedings. The composition of the Governing Council will ensure that, on all occasions, public interest will prevail over any other interest.

(m) How do you propose to resolve the conflict of interest in the fact that Fortis group, a healthcare provider, is represented on your board through Harpal Singh?

PHFI: As stated earlier, PHFI's principled stand will be in the larger interest of people's health. While PHFI benefits from the perspectives provided by its Governing Council members, it carefully avoids any conflict of interest related to their other activities. PHFI has had no dealings with the Fortis group of hospitals and does not in any way espouse the interests of the group.

In the fourth and final part, I shall discuss the replies and how the PHFI case relates to larger issues like who should get to influence public policy; why public-private partnerships allow the involvement of commercial interests in the public policy arena while leaving out the larger sections of society and ordinary citizens; and why these PPPs must be brought under the purview of the RTI.

You may also want to read the first two parts:
Will PHFI be any different under Narayana Murthy?
Will PHFI become transparent and accountable under Narayana Murthy?

(The fourth and concluding part of this series will be published on Thursday. Kapil Bajaj is a freelance journalist and blogger based in Delhi. He has worked for Press Trust of India, Business Today, and other organisations. His interests are democracy and public policy.)

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    Narendra Doshi

    8 years ago

    This is too good an action & reaction, in a short time frame, worth emulation by both the readers & critics of Moneylife.

    Water purifiers ineffective in preventing waterborne diseases, revealed through RTI

    Dr Arvind Shenoy, senior chemical and consumer product researcher, had a hunch that Hindustan Unilever was making exaggerated claims about its Pureit water purifier. His suspicions were confirmed by the NIV which has threatened to take legal action if the company does not correct the advertising

    That the giant multinational company Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has no qualms about misleading people  to sell its product was exposed recently, thanks to the RTI Act. It has even been threatened with legal action for making tall claims that its water purifier 'Pureit' kills/removes one crore viruses in one litre of water.

    The esteemed institution that has issued this warning to the company is the National Institute of Virology (NIV), which in its letter dated 2nd June has accused it of "twisting and misrepresenting facts".

    The facts pertain to a study conducted by the NIV "to evaluate the performance of domestic water purification units with respect to contaminating enteric viruses." HUL has, it seems, exaggerated by about 100 times the efficacy (of its water purifier) as tested by the NIV. The video links to the company's advertisements are here.

    The letter written by Dr AC Mishra, director, NIV, on 2 June 2011 states: "It is brought to my attention that your company is advertising Pureit regularly on TV. The said advertisement is quoting explicitly NIV's report that the purifier kills one crore viruses in a litre of water. We have clearly reported in our paper that experiments were conducted using 0.67x105 Hepatitis E virus particles per litre of water. Hence, your advertisements are not based on facts. You are requested to refrain from twisting and misrepresenting the facts. Failing to take immediate corrective measures may force us to resort to legal action against your company."
    Mumbai-based Dr Arvind Shenoy, a PhD in chemistry and a consumer product researcher, with 42 years of professional experience in consumer product testing, both chemical and microbiological, decided to invoke the RTI Act on this matter in October 2010. "It all began with their Rs1 crore safety challenge advertisement, in which the HUL proudly tom-tommed about a test report on eight domestic water purifiers by the NIV. According to HUL, the NIV report claimed that its Pureit water purifier, a gravity-fed water filtration device, was the only water purifier that "removed/killed more than one crore viruses from one litre of water (Ek Crore Virus Ek Litre Pani se Maarta Hai)," Dr Shenoy says.
    He explains, "I felt an instant apprehension about HUL's advertising claims. Since NIV was a Government of India (GOI) institution, I sought information under the RTI Act, thrice in 2010. After five months of waiting (he got the information on 25 February 2011), I had all the information, which revealed what I had suspected all along! Indeed, HUL had misrepresented, twisted and blatantly lied to gullible consumers about the quality of the Pureit water purifier. The tone of the advertisements on HUL's Pureit now appears to be a calculated exercise in falsehood and deceit in order to coax as many consumers as possible to buy Pureit."

    Strangely, NIV refused to take action against HUL, even after the RTI revelation. So, on 11 May 2011, Dr Shenoy wrote to Dr Vishwa Mohan Katoch, director general, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Delhi, informing him that "Unilever Limited also markets Pureit to Indonesia and Mexico, but, in these countries they don't make such tall claims of killing one crore viruses per litre, probably for the fear of the repercussions from their respective governments."

    The RTI information revealed that HUL was making its water purifier appear 100 times more efficient than what was stated in the report. Dr Shenoy says, "the document procured under RTI makes it abundantly clear that the testing was done with only 0.67x10(5) Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) particles per litre of water and not one crore, that is 1x107 HEV particles per litre of water as claimed by HUL in its advertisements."

    Asked whether the testing by NIV of the eight water purifier brands was sponsored,  V Gopalkrishna, scientist and public information officer at NIV, stated that "it was not a sponsored testing" and that "it was an NIV supported activity". However, Dr Shenoy who has a copy of the test report that was published by NIV researchers in the Journal of Tropical Medicine and International Health, Vol 14, pages 1-7, 2009, suspects otherwise. This is because the brand Pureit has been mentioned in the published test report (4th sentence on page 889). Mentioning a brand in such an internationally reputed journal is a violation of the norms of the US EPA's international ethical and scientific protocol.
    Dr Shenoy observes, "I noticed that, curiously, for reasons best known to NIV researchers, in their published test report study on eight water purifier units in the scientific journal, they have specifically mentioned Unit number eight as Pureit, a water purifier developed by Hindustan Lever Limited. This gives an impression that the study was conducted in NIV at the behest of the manufacturers of Hindustan Unilever. It is not ethical as per international research standards to mention the name of a brand and a company specifically; hence the suspicion."

    According to information received through the RTI Act, NIV tested eight brands of water purifiers sold in India. The test report was written in the international journal by Vikram Verma and Vidya A Arankalle, both scientists at NIV. (Read the article, "Virological evaluation of domestic water purification devices commonly used in India emphasizes inadequate quality and need for virological standards", from the Journal of Tropical Medicine and International Health.

    The units tested were: Unit 1 - Zero B, Unit 2 - Eureka Aqua Flow, Unit 3 - Orpat, Unit 4 - Krystalle, Unit 5 - Eureka Aquasure on Tap, Unit 6 - Anjali B-Free, Unit 7 - Aqua Plus (hollow fibre membrane), and Unit 8 - Pureit (from Hindustan Unilever).

    By the way, the conclusions of the report should open the eyes of people as to how ineffective the water purifiers in India are. It says, "These same samples showed free and total chlorine levels that were adequate to ensure proper elimination of bacterial contaminants, but were unable to remove pathogenic viruses. These reports clearly document a definite need for a separate, well-defined virological standard for drinking water as well as for the evaluation of water treatment plants and domestic water purifiers.

    "The minimum standards established by USEPA were not designed for developing countries where the microbiological quality of public water supply may not be as good as in developed countries. India and other developing countries should formulate their own standards and ensure strict adherence by all those concerned. This will help both manufacturers and consumers to be quality conscious with respect to drinking water, a basic need for every population and the major source of a variety of infectious diseases taking heavy toll every year in all the under-developed and developing countries.

    "Similar study needs to be extended to the water treatment plants/systems used in villages, small cities and the metros to truly understand the quality of water made available to the people. It would be worthwhile judging the performance of the domestic units in field, i.e. houses, with respect to water quality, adherence to the recommended maintenance of the units, as well as time period of usage. We would like to point out here that we have evaluated one unit of each type. The batch-to-batch or unit-to-unit variation was not evaluated. This is a limitation of this study and needs to be extended to several units from one batch as well as different batches.

    "In conclusion, our study suggests that even with the limitation of the study pointed out above, the results indicate that six of eight units tested (one unit/type) do not confirm to USEPA standards and emphasises the need for a definite national policy for the evaluation of such devices by the regulatory authorities as well as at factory level. Such an exercise will ensure availability of quality-assured domestic water purification units to the community, thereby reducing the burden of water-borne infections. It is desirable to set up our own national virological standards as well as evaluation of the protocol developed by us in several laboratories followed by strict adherence to the method accepted and approved by the regulatory authorities."

    The point here to note is that although the NIV in its letter dated 2nd June has threatened legal action if HUL does not "immediately" rectify the false information, it is nearly two months but the NIV has not yet served even a legal notice to the multinational company. Does that speak loudly of NIV's intentions in conducting the test in the first place? As for Dr Shenoy, he wants HUL to publicly apologise. He has sent HUL a legal notice on 25 July 2011.

    (Vinita Deshmukh is a senior editor, author and convener of Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected].)

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    N Kumar

    5 years ago

    When nothing is absolute in the country, the only option is BOIL your filtered water before consumption !

    This also applies to RO filtered water because many of us are not sure about the PORE SIZE of the bio-membrane, the heart of a RO filter.

    Or simply rely on boiled water, though concern still remains regarding chemical contents such as Arsenic, etc.

    It is wise to first test your water in a lab and then decide.

    N Kumar

    5 years ago

    When nothing is absolute in the country, the only option is BOIL your filtered water before consumption !

    This also applies to RO filtered water because many of us are not sure about the PORE SIZE of the bio-membrane, the heart of a RO filter.

    Or simply rely on boiled water, though concern still remains regarding chemical contents such as Arsenic, etc.

    It is wise to first test your water in a lab and then decide.

    Priyanka Singh

    5 years ago

    Would you have a medicine without knowing whats wrong with your health?
    Similarly, without knowing whats wrong with your water never buy a Water Purifier.

    It is important to know which is the RIGHT water purification technology for you. The right technology in your water purifier will help to make your water SAFE for drinking plus retain the essential natural minerals.

    Check Water Consumer is a portal which shares all information related to safe drinking water. It is a non-commercial portal - you can get a free recommendation for which is the right purification technology for you (basis the water type you get), compare various water purifiers etc.


    8 years ago

    Thanks Dr Arvind Shenoy, PhD ,for stopping one more establishment(other then the political one) from fooling the Indians

    Samuel S Jason

    8 years ago

    Yes .It is same with Eureca forbes also.I have a 10 yr model and the agent wants me to buy new one. After many calls also they were not responding to renew the AMC I maintained for 10yrs.


    8 years ago

    All MNCs sail in same boat.Eureka forbes is one of the worst.BIS (Bureau of Indian standards org),Medical Council Of India/indian medical Association-all are hand in gloves to maaaaake money and cheat un-aware common man.Two water purifiers(costing approx.Rs10,000) -BRAND NEW-STARTED LEAKING-from the day one.With very strong protest-I got my money REFUNDED.However several communications sent to Eureka Forbes remained-UN ANSWERED.Eureka Forbes has around 15 models of water purifiers.All of them are NOT tested and apprtoved by BIS.This is blatent way of certifying a product.Eureka Forbes conveniently advertises the models as BIS apprived - which are NOT tested and approved by BIS.One needs to investigate these issues and punish corrupt officials and organisations.


    8 years ago

    HUL a uk based multinational is no different then other multi nationals like coca cola and pepsi who are just engaged in exploiting third world countries since long time(now called developing countries),the ad which i saw most rudest and worst in rememberance are from coke and pepsi when akshay kumar does unbelievable stunts(all computer tricks),and the one i hate most and which shows empty headness of ad agencies is of mountain dew when salman khan opts to drink chilled mountain dew at himalya peak(any chilled water will freeze at himalaya)then how he can drink freezed water and though no one opts to drink water (instead one will drink Tea or Cofee or some enrgy drink),
    so finally i i have concluded that foreign multinationals think india as hunting ground of all waste products of western culture to be marketed in india without any fear of law enforcing agencies.(India me pais khilao or jo jaho karo koi puchne wala nahi hai,paidsa do or sari sarkar aapki jeb me).
    MERA BHARAT MAHAN (to be read Mahan in corruption)

    Aadarsh Iyer

    8 years ago

    I am not surprised by what HUL is doing. If you see the other advertisements of HUL, they have always been comparing the efficacy of their products with those of their competitors. They failed once when fena filed a case against them and had to withdraw their Wheel ad. HUL should refrain from making such false claims. If and when such a claim is made they should also show the products used for comparison. This also happens because an ordinary consumer can never test the efficacy of such products or the veracity of such claims. Only one in a million will have the ability to test and challenge the claim, other will just buy the product thinking that it is from a reputed company like HUL. HUL in my view should apologise publicly for having misled their consumers and compensate those who bought their product based on the claim.

    Ashok Kanchan

    8 years ago

    An eye opening findings. There is urgent need to check such advertisements. May be by creating independent Advertisement Authority of India.

    rajmohan menon

    8 years ago

    total failure from the advertisement council. Before approving the airing of ad they should have checked the 100% authenticity of the claimer(HUL). Growth should not be seen as an opportunity to cheat.

    Ganesh Krishnan

    8 years ago

    Very noble effort to educate the public on the misleading claims by multinational companies. Can the consumers who purchased Pureit after the ad was published come together and file a case of cheating against the company and claim compensation?



    In Reply to Ganesh Krishnan 8 years ago

    No consumers cannot. In India it is the birth right of big companies to cheat. There is a quote in Aesop's fable - petty criminals are hanged; big criminals are elected!

    arun adalja

    8 years ago

    very good multinational companies are doing false claim and when marketed abroad they do not make such claims as they know if something goes wrong then they have to pay huge penalty.

    P R Kumar

    8 years ago

    Dear Sir

    Its absolute truth & fact !! Majority of the people were mislead by the Ad. Kudos for your effort.

    P R Kumar


    8 years ago

    Why such test reports are not made available on websites of such Test Labs in public domain?
    It will be good to see a ranking of Water purifiers to understand which is good or may be which is best among the worst...


    8 years ago

    Congrats. Glad that Somebody is there to point out that such a reputed organisation making false claim and misrepresenting facts about their product. It is quite unfortunate that the people tend to believe since they have no other alternate. And surprised to note that despite the fact, the co.still giving the ad and NIV is not taking any action for misrepresenting the facts. Alas. God only should help poor people.

    Will PHFI become transparent and accountable under Narayana Murthy?

    The Infosys founder’s entry to PHFI only strengthens the dominance of Big Business on the board of the organisation. This organisation which decides on public health policy, remains non-transparent and unaccountable, despite enlargement of government representation on the board

    Big Business dominates the governing board of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). As many as 10 of the 31 members of the PHFI governing board represent business groups. They include powerful names such as Mukesh Ambani, Shiv Nadar, Purnendu Chatterjee, Uday Khemka, Harpal Singh and now NR Narayana Murthy. In addition, there are board members who represent entities that have roots in business organisations, such as Ashok Alexander of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Their fabulous wealth must have given them some special understanding of public health policy issues and qualified them to be on the board of an institution that will deal with such issues. But what does one say when the government ignores even obvious conflicts of interest, such as the presence on the PHFI board of Harpal Singh, whose Fortis Group is a private healthcare and medical education provider and has a direct interest in the shaping of the government's health policy.

    Babus don't stand for transparency

    After a recent recast of PHFI, there are as many as seven central government bureaucrats-serving or retired-on its governing board. They include some of the most powerful babus, including TKA Nair, principal secretary to the prime minister, and Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission.

    These 'public servants', however, have shown no interest in making this publicly-funded, public-policy-influencing organisation RTI-compliant and open to scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General, statutory regulators or parliament and legislators. On the contrary, in March this year, Dr Ahluwalia, in his capacity as the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, reinforced the culture of secrecy and unaccountability by declining a request by Satyanand Mishra, the chief central information commissioner, to bring all public-private partnerships (PPPs) under the RTI Act 2005.

    Thus, the organisation that NR Narayana Murthy, chairman emeritus of Infosys Ltd, now chairs, can function like a private club with none of the hassles of transparency and accountability, but large chunks of public-funding available to it.

    Figuring out Mr Murthy's motivation

    Will Mr Murthy end up lending his 'driven-by-values' reputation to a shadowy and non-transparent organisation?

    That question occurred to me partly because I have personal knowledge of Mr Murthy's financial support to the cause of greater transparency in public life through annual RTI Awards organised by Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF), an NGO that is managed by Arvind Kejriwal, who is currently the main coordinator of the Jan Lokpal movement. (I have worked with PCRF for a year.)

    On 12th July, I sent an email to Mr Murthy, explaining the issues surrounding PHFI and underlining the contradiction between his public profile and his new job. I also urged him to use his good offices to do something to unravel the network of unaccountable, private interests behind PHFI, rather than lend his reputation to this deception.

    Murthy's reply was prompt, but intriguing. "I have just accepted the position and have not yet met the president of PHFI. Therefore, I cannot comment on the issues you have raised. Please raise specific questions and I will take them up with the authorities and request them to provide answers," he wrote back.

    That is curious, because many of the issues I had raised relate to PHFI's non-compliance with the RTI Act and non-disclosure of important information which is apparent from its website.

    Here are some key questions about PHFI.
    1. What statutory authority and public accountability does PHFI have to arrogate for itself the power to influence public health policy in India, either on its own or through membership of government committees?

    2. Why are details of PHFI's constitution and registration not in the public domain?

    3. How does PHFI propose to resolve conflict of interest situations arising out of the fact that Fortis Group, a private healthcare and medical education provider with direct interest in shaping public health policy, is represented on its board through Harpal Singh?

    4. Since judicial determination of corporate liability in the Bhopal gas tragedy has left a deep sense of injustice, what in PHFI's view should be done in terms of holding polluting industries responsible for the consequences of their action and inaction, and for protecting public health? Does it recommend a new and stricter law?

    5. What is PHFI's stand on the public health risks involved in expanding nuclear power generation? What would PHFI suggest in terms of policy?

    (This is the second part of a series that began on Monday. To read the first part click, "Will PHFI be any different under Narayana Murthy?" In the third part tomorrow, Kapil Bajaj writes about the answers he received from Mr Murthy in response to the questions raised above. Kapil Bajaj is a Delhi-based freelance journalist and blogger. He has worked for the Press Trust of India, Business Today, and other organizations. His current interests are democracy and public policy.) 

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