Letters 24 May 2021

Letters 24 May 2021
Highlights important shortcomings

Dinesh Thakur has highlighted important shortcomings in the functioning of the regulatory body for medicines in India. (Is the Pandemic the Wake-up Call We Need on the Drug Regulatory Process?, 22 May)

The absence of clinical guidelines available in many countries like the US, UK and West Europe has been acutely felt in the ongoing pandemic. The guidelines distributed by AIIMS is faulty, outdated, and inspires no confidence. The emergence of mucormycosis as a serious threat is a direct result of the misuse of medicines which is common in India and has become obvious to the public during the pandemic.

We urgently need to ask for reform of regulatory bodies and more robust scientific institutions to improve healthcare.

George Thomas
Regulators look the other way

A timely and thought-provoking article by Dinesh Thakur on India’s drug regulatory process. India’s system of drug approvals is notoriously venal and murky. Our road to reforms is more difficult because rather than protecting the citizens, our regulators serve the interests of the industry they are hired to watch. That applies to almost all regulators, from telecom to housing to drugs and clinical trials. This is partly because of the political nature of appointments to regulatory bodies and partly because of the absence of effective mechanisms for transparency, accountability, and dealing with complaints or critical feedback. Human life gets cheaper as rules become negotiable, and the regulators look the other way.

Vipul Mudgal, Common Cause
Dalits under the Left in West Bengal

Monobina Gupta in her insightful article (Historical Roots of the Rise of Hindutva in West Bengal, 23 April) observes “Even as Hindu Right organisations penetrated subaltern castes, the communist parties, maintained a studied silence on casteism”.

It should be noted that the CPI (M)-led Left Front, which came to power in 1977 and ruled West Bengal for 34 years, unleashed state violence in 1979 on the lower caste Bengali Hindu refugees originally from East Bengal (now Bangladesh), who settled in an island in the Sundarbans. The “Marichjhapi Massacre’, as it came to be known, was erased from public memory, although a few eminent Bengali intellectuals/poets, including Samar Sen, Badal Sircar, Hemanga Biswas, Benoy Ghosh, Birendra Chattopadhyay and Sankha Ghosh, released a press statement at the time condemning the massacre.

Recently, a journalist, Deep Halder, has documented the event, based on the oral testimonies of the survivors in a book, Blood Island: An Oral History of the Marichjhapi Massacre (Harper Collins, 2019). In the words of Halder: “...all survivors I spoke to put the number of deaths to anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000; some said even more”.

We do not know how the Marichjhapi massacre was carried in the memories of the subaltern castes, and whether it led to Hinduisation of their identities in different parts of West Bengal.

Arup Kumar Sen, Kolkata
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