Tuesday, December 28, 2010

India slammed for jailing health activist

Just two weeks after Human Rights Day on December 10, the Indian government has sentenced a leading health and human rights activist to life in jail amidst fierce protest from noted academics and health professionals. Binayak Sen, an Indian public health expert and pro-poor advocate, was jailed last week after being accused of helping Maoist rebels.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International say that the Indian government has unjustly sentenced Sen to an extraordinarily harsh and undeserved life sentence on the basis of dubious evidence. India has openly declared that left-wing ideologies are a threat to its economic growth - which it continues to pursue as aggressively as ever - and Sen's supporters say that in its desperate bid to quash growing Maoist insurgency, India is also ignoring basic human rights.

Sen has been globally lauded for his work to improve rural healthcare in India, and was awarded the 2008 Jonathan Mann award for Global Health and Human Rights. Respected intellectuals such as Amartya Sen and Noam Chomsky have petitioned against his life sentence.

Sen's various imprisonments (in 2007 too, he was held without trial for several months) expose serious weaknesses in India's judicial and political system. The government is growing politically more conservative while paradoxically trying to push for a more open and liberal economy. Yet Sen's jailing is also disastrous news for the country's public health. Sen has for decades fought for the health of marginalised people, such as India's vast and neglected tribal populations, which the government has virtually ignored.

Government schemes to improve healthcare in rural areas often fail through a lack of resources and corruption. For instance, a policy advisor at one of India's major health institutes told me that doctors who are recruited to work in remote villages often bribe a local to fake records for them while they themselves remain in the city. Thus, on paper it looks as though these populations are receiving healthcare when in fact, they never even see a doctor.

It is this broken health system that health professionals like Sen are struggling against. For India to jail one its few true champions of the poor is nothing short of a travesty.

3 comments:

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  2. Thanks for the infomation priya.
    There are not just India, other country also doing the same thing

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  3. Thanks for the Informasiana
    verywell and thank you.....
    Good article you have here.

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