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Diversity is a fact of life in India, can not be wished away: President Mukherjee


New Delhi, April 9 : Describing “pluralism and tolerance” as India’s core philosophy, President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said diversity was a fact of life in the country that cannot be wished away by any whims.

Mukherjee said democracy was not merely about numbers but rather a phenomenon that calls for consensus building.

“Diversity is a fact in India. It cannot be turned into fiction by whims and caprices of few individuals,” he said delivering the first Arjun Singh memorial lecture here.

“Democracy is not all about numbers but it also calls for consensus building,” Mukherjee said and described “pluralism and tolerance as core philosophy” that must be continued undeterred.

“While we must wield no space to anarchy, efficient democratic machinery must have the means and wherewithal to absorb public opinion for formulation of sound policies,” the president said.

He said India’s cherished communal harmony might be often put to test by “vested interests” but maintained that “we must remain alert to communal tensions rearing its ugly head anywhere.

“Rule of law must form the sole basis for dealing with any challenging situation. It is our democratic underpinning that must prevail at all times.”

“The multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special. We derive our strength from tolerance. It has been part of our collective consciousness for centuries. It has worked well for us and it is the only way it will work for us,” he said.

“India is a multi-faceted nation of 1.3 billion people, 122 languages, 1,600 dialects and seven religions,” Mukherjee said at the function attended among others by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who speaking earlier, expressed “chinta” (concern) over the “increasing threat to the secular fabric of the country”.

The function was also attended by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah and Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Kamal Nath, M.L. Fotedar and others.

Recalling her long association with former union minister Arjun Singh, Sonia Gandhi said he was a true symbol of commitment to secularism and to the cause of the poor.

Paying tributes to Arjun Singh’s commitment to secular values, Gandhi said that by looking at things happening in the society, “I feel there is need to have more people like Arjun Singh”.

The president spoke at length on Arjun Singh’s steering of the country’s education portfolio and said his former colleague holds the distinction of handling the responsibility for eight years — in two stints.

Arjun Singh held the human resource development ministry portfolio under P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.

“This (eight years) was the longest stint by any education minister after Maulana Abul Kalam Azad,” the president said.

On the overall higher education front, Mukherjee lamented that for long no Indian university has given any Nobel laureate and pointed out that the likes of Amartya Sen and Har Gobind Khorana could not be retained by Indian universities.

There must be “serious scrutiny” over this, he said and asserted that this trend must change.

In terms of numbers, he said while India has over 730 universities and 35,000 colleges but “the quality of education is not up to international standards”. (IANS)

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Pentavalent vaccine: Doctors raise red flag

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive

the new Hepatitis B vaccine for adults is called Heplisav-B.
India's PV to be reexamined because of its harmful effects. .
  • Pentavalent vaccine was introduced in India six years ago
  • It is since then have been a cause of many deaths
  • Doctors want it to be reexamined before continuing its use

Pentavalent vaccine (PV), that was introduced by India a little over six years ago, doubled the deaths of children soon after vaccination compared to the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccine, according to a new study that calls for a “rigorous review of the deaths following vaccination with PV”.

Health officials have launched a campaign targeting nearly 24 million people with a one-fifth dose of the vaccine. Wikimedia Commons
PV has been cause of many deaths in past years. Wikimedia Commons

Government records show that there were 10,612 deaths following vaccination (both PV and DPT) in the last 10 years. There was a huge increase in these numbers in 2017, which the Health Ministry has promised to study. “The present analysis could be a starting point in the quest to reduce the numbers of such deaths,” authors of the new study say.

The study by Dr Jacob Puliyel, Head of Pediatrics at St Stephens Hospital, and Dr V. Sreenivas, Professor of Biostatistics at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), both in New Delhi, is published in the peer-reviewed Medical Journal of Dr D.Y. Patil University.

PV is a combination of the DPT vaccine and two more vaccines against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) and hepatitis B. Starting December 2011, PV was introduced into India’s immunisation programme to replace DPT vaccine in a staged manner with a view to adding protection against Hib and Hepatitis B without increasing the number of injections given to infants.

Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons
Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons

But sporadic reports of unexplained deaths following immunisation with PV had been a matter of concern. Puliyel, Sreenivas and their colleagues undertook the study to find out if these deaths were merely coincidental or vaccine-induced.

The authors obtained data of all deaths reported from April 2012 to May 2016 under the Right to Information Act. Data on deaths within 72 hours of administering DPT and PV from different states were used.

For their study, the authors assumed that all deaths within 72 hours of receiving DPT are natural deaths. Using this figure as the baseline, they presumed that any increase in the number of deaths above this baseline among children receiving PV must be caused by this vaccine.

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According to their analysis of the data provided by the government, there were 237 deaths within 72 hours of administering the Pentavalent vaccine — twice the death rate among infants who received DPT vaccine.

Extrapolating the data, the authors have estimated that vaccination of 26 million children each year in India would result in 122 additional deaths within 72 hours, due to the switch from DPT to PV.

“There is likely to be 7,020 to 8,190 deaths from PV each year if data from states with the better reporting, namely Manipur and Chandigarh, are projected nationwide,” their report says.

It is important to make sure that these vaccines are reexamined peroperly. VOA

The authors note that while the study looks at the short-term increase in deaths (within three days of vaccination) it does not calculate the potential benefits of PV on infant mortality, for example by protection against lethal diseases like Haemophilus influenza.

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive. “These findings of differential death rates between DPT and PV do call for further rigorous prospective population-based investigations,” the study concludes. IANS