People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 29

July 27 , 2008





CPI(M) Campaigns For The Protection Of PSU Vaccine Units


R  Govindarajan



IN the enveloping political turmoil over nuclear deal an important issue concerning the lives of millions and millions of our children is being swept under the carpet by the powers that be.  The north and south Chennai district committees of CPI(M) organised a conference on “Disease Prevention – Children’s Right to Live” on July 3, 2008 at Chennai.  The massive attendance of people from various hues of life in the conference indicated their deep concern and anxiety over the attempts being made by the union Health and Family Welfare ministry to scuttle the free immunisation programme that is currently in vogue to protect the health of the children.


It has already been reported that the ministry has taken a decision to stop production of vaccine needed for free immunisation programme in the three public sector units – the BCG laboratory, Chennai, the Pasteur Institute, Coonoor and CDL, Kausali (HP).  The Drug Controller of India has suspended their licences on the plea that their production did not meet WHO’s production standards.


The conference was organised to focus and explain the gravity of the consequences that could come out of this decision to the people.  The conference was presided over by G Ramakrishnan, Central Committee member of the CPI(M).  Dr Rex Sargunam welcomed the gathering.  In his welcome speech, Dr Rex explained the irrational aspect of union Health ministry’s decision and dangerous consequences that could affect the lives of our children.  G Ramakrishnan, in his presidential address said that this decision of the Health ministry appeared to be a well calculated attempt to facilitate the private (Indian and foreign) pharmaceuticals who were, in the domestic market, suppliers of these vaccines.


Research and development happened to be the most important aspect in the drug production; but the ministry pursued a deft method to hand it over to the private interests for their profits.  This was evident, he said, from the fact that two of the nominees to the expert team constituted by the ministry to study restructuring of those public sector units belonged to the private domestic suppliers of these vaccines and there was a need to arouse public awareness in the context of inadequate media focus.


Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of CPI(M) and MP, in her special address to the conference focused on three aspects of this issues- relating to policies of union government, to the method of work and management of these institutes and to the rights and duties of the workers. But the most fundamental of all those, she said, is the future and welfare of our children.  In this exercise, our country’s self-reliance had been subjected to an attack with the adoption of policies of liberalisation and privatisation.  New and foreign technology could be absorbed here provided it could protect our children, not augment the profits of MNCs.


Brinda said the union government should know its priorities and the people had the right to know what is their chosen priority.  There was a shortage of immunisation vaccine in ten states but the Health minister did not seem to be aware of the calamitous situation that could arise out of that shortage.  Nearly one year had passed since WHO gave its report but no action was taken by the ministry.  Funds were not provided for these public sector units to upgrade.  Despite this, the BCG laboratory at Chennai, completed 70 per cent of restructuring work (as suggested by WHO) out of its own funds.   She asked why the union Health ministry could not undertake that kind of work in other institutes too.  The decision of the ministry to stop production, a step towards intended closure, defies any logic.  She demanded that the Drug Controller of India should revoke the order stopping production of vaccines in these three units.  She appealed to all organisations and individuals to appear before expert team which would be visiting these institutes and demand resumption of production of vaccines by these units in order to protect these public sector units from the onslaught of liberalisation and privatisation, as the entire issue is concerned with lives of our children.


Dr Ruckel Goilonde of ministry of Health cell and Public Health movement presented a detailed study as to how this decision of the government to cut at the free immunisation programme could give rebirth to the diseases which have been nearly eliminated at the present.  He said the health of the children was the responsibility of the government and it could not be compromised for profits of the private sector.


Dr Chandra, a renowned Professor of Medicine (Pediatrics) in her brief speech expressed apprehension that if this policy of the government was pursued, then we might go back to the old days when in 1980’s  3000 children died annually in the absence of proper immunisation programme. She cautioned that this decision in the long run would destroy the objectives of Family Planning Programme.


In his concluding address, N Varadarajan, CPI(M) state secretary, said the capitalist system in pursuit of profit would venture into all unscrupulous methods playing with the lives of the people, in this case with the lives of children.  In the political sphere, only CPI(M) has been projecting this before the people and there is apathy in the media also.  It is the responsibility of everyone to expose this dangerous decision of the government to close these public sector units.  He appealed to the people to join en masse in the protest movements organised by the CPI(M).


The conference passed a resolution demanding revocation of orders stopping the production of vaccine in the three public sector units and the government to provide enough funds to upgrade those institutes.  The resolution appealed to the people to join the campaign to protect these public sector units in order to ensure better future and welfare of our children.


The CPI(M) Tamilnadu state unit has taken a decision to organise demonstrations on July 10, 2008 at all the district headquarters throughout the state and campaign to expose the perfidy inherent in this decision of the government.