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MGNREGA becomes a symbol of corruption

Rajeev Sharma

$img_titleThe UPA government’s flagship scheme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) has run into a serious trouble of corruption, poor implementation and under-utilisation of funds, as a result of which Union Rural Development Minister has drastically slashed down the annual budget for the scheme from Rs 40000 crore to Rs 30000 crore per annum and threatened to reduce it further if the States do not put their act together,  sources told this correspondent on May 15.

However, on the issue of corruption over implementation of MGNREGA, Ramesh threw his hands up and referring to the corruption in the implementation of the rural job scheme in some of the states, he said the Centre can do very little to curb this menace and it is upto the state governments and particularly the Gram Panchayats to take the lead in fighting corruption. He said, from time to time state governments are apprised of the reports of the Central Teams regarding irregularities, if any, for corrective action.

Now, in a first, the Performance Audit of MGNREGA for all the States will be placed before parliament in November this year, Ramesh told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. Sources said initially the MGNREGA performance audit of five states – Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Chhatisgarh – will be placed before parliament. On May 13, the Supreme Court had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the alleged misappropriation of MGNREGA funds from the state’s 100 villages spread over six districts during 2006-07.

Ramesh went on record in the house in singling out three states -- Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha – for their unsatisfactory implementation of MGNREGA. He told the upper house that despite poverty and unemployment in the three eastern states, demand for rural job is not so much as in the other well-to-do states. He said, efforts are being made to strengthen the Gram Panchayats in these states, which is the nodal agency for the implementation of MGNREGA. Since April 1, 2012, the wage rates for the MGNREGA works have been revised upwards for all the states and union territories and is now linked with the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labour( CPIAL). The revision indexed to CPIAL would be done annually and the revision would become effective on April 1 each year.

Ramesh said the performance audit is presently on in all the states and his Ministry will receive the draft report by October end. The Performance Audit of MGNREGA will cover the period from 2007 to 2011. From this year it will be compulsory for every Gram Panchayat to be certified by a Chartered Accountant, drawn up from a district level panel prepared by Comptroller and Auditor General, CAG.


Drug approval norms violated to fleeze the consumer

When protectors become predators

Maneesha & Abhay

Hippocratic Oath—‘First, do no harm’ pledged by physicians and healthcare professionals is losing its sanctity! Often the oath is disregarded for gains beyond saving human lives. Life savers are ready to sell life for personal favours and many a times the highest governing authorities become the part of this dirty game. This unholy collusive nexus between drug manufacturers, independent medical experts and officials of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) in granting approvals to new drugs is highlighted in the shocking report recently submitted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee for health and family welfare. The report says that drugs banned, discarded or withdrawn in developed countries are allowed to be circulated in India. The Committee also pointed out that since 2008, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) is approving one drug every month without any trials and serious lapses and irregularities are happening in granting approvals to new drugs.

In order to scrutinise new drug approvals, the Committee sought details on randomly selected 42 medicines from the list of approved 2,167 new drugs by CDSCO. Of these, 38 drugs were approved in the years 2004 to August 31, 2010; one drug had been approved earlier in 2001. Three drugs had been approved earlier in mid 90s. Out of 42 drugs, the Ministry could not provide any documents on three drugs on the grounds that files were non-traceable. All these drugs had been approved on different dates and different years creating doubt if disappearance was accidental. Strangely, all these cases also happened to be controversial drugs; one was never marketed in US, Canada, Britain, Australia and other countries with well-developed regulatory systems while the other two were discontinued later on. In India, all the three drugs are currently being sold.  For remaining 39 drugs, approvals were granted either based on suboptimal clinical trials or without any trials at all.

DCGI has the power to approve drugs without clinical trials in “Public Interest.” But what constitutes Public Interest? How can approvals be given to foreign drugs without testing on Indians is in Public Interest? Some of the reasons given for irregular approvals are: “Serious disease” (all the more reason to conduct clinical trials to ensure that patients in India really benefit from such imported, exorbitantly expensive drugs), “Rare disease status according to United States Food and Drugs Administration (USFDA)” (How can USFDA decide which disease in India is rare?). Inspite of these inherent contradictions, approvals were granted for new drugs without appropriate testing and currently many untested drugs are sold in Indian market.

Now the question that needs to be asked is, whether this unethical nexuses between medical experts, drug manufacturers and officials of Drug Control Organisation is limited to India? Or is it a worldwide phenomenon?

Unfortunately, it is a universal plague putting human health at risk. Last week in US, pharmaceutical giant Abbott arrived at $1.5 billion settlement with the federal government for illegal marketing practices, including promoting prescription drugs for uses not approved by the FDA, paying financial inducements to increase sales and engaging in practices that pose grave danger to the patients.

Not long ago, there have been multiple instances, when pharma giants like Pfizer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, and many more have been fined for illegal practices. In 2009, Pfizer paid $2.3 billion to the government while Eli Lilly settled civil and criminal charges earlier for $1.4 billion.

Last November, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that it had reached an agreement in principle to pay $3 billion to resolve multiple government investigations into its sales and marketing practices. GSK was charged with illegal marketing of Avandia, a diabetes drug that was severely restricted last year after it was linked to heart risks. The company had paid doctors and manipulated medical research to promote the drug.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) reportedly is in negotiations with the government to pay more than $1 billion to settle civil charges for the off-label marketing of Risperdal and Invega.

In another instance, last December, the Irish drug maker Elan agreed a $203.5m, half in criminal penalties, half in a civil payment, to settle an investigation of its illegal marketing of the anti-seizure medicine Zonegran. Elan sales staff had promoted it for weight loss and mood disorders.

The cost of fraud and kickback fines for top drug companies since 2006 is at $20bn and adding legal fees, the total would be at least double.

Although the collusion between medical experts, drug manufacturers and officials is a global phenomenon, at least in western countries, pharma companies are heavily penalized for gross irregularities. But unfortunately in India, either actions against felony are not taken and if taken are very weak creating an impression that India is a banana republic.

There wouldn’t be a better opportunity than now, especially after the scorching report by the Parliamentary Standing committee to initiate the process for completely reforming the mechanism of granting approvals to new drugs by making is more transparent.  Moreover, arbitrary,  discretionary powers of DCGI need to be either curtailed or rationalised. Unless stern measures are taken, innocent Indians will continue to become guinea-pigs for multinational pharma giants.

Undoubtedly, India is emerging as economic global power, now it’s time for us to be the leaders in ethical practices too!


PFI rejoinder and our reply

PFI claims it is peaceful, democratic



This letter is in response to the defamatory news published against Popular Front of India in page no. 7 of Organiser Weekly dated  March 18, 2012 titled as ‘PFI/NDF prime suspects in Delhi blast’. We strongly condemn the allegations levelled against  the Popular Front.

Your allegation as “The Popular Front of India (PFI), National Development Front (NDF), jehadi gang-up, which is behind several terrorist blasts in India and which is plotting riot on Kerala by butchering pregnant cow and placing buffalo head on temple lamps is the prime suspect of NIA, IB and RAW in the blast at Delhi targetting the Israel, Defence Attache’s wife Tal Yehoshua” are completely false and baseless. It is nothing but to terrorise and to mislead the readers.

We strongly condemn your allegation as charging us as “The NIA-IA-Raw feel that in three years, PFI/NDF had established Pan-India network with various jehadi groups, like SIMI” is clearly shows that your are cooking up such false stories, without mentioning the name of the officials. The question here arises is that how much credible is the information provided by some officer whose name itself could not be published in the news.

Since your slanderous news report has tarnished the image and reputation of our organisation, we request you to publish the full text of this rejoinder in next immediate issue of your weekly. We also bring to your notice that, unless our version is published with an apology, we will be compelled to initiate legal proceedings against  you and the newspaper.

KM Shareef,
General Secretary,
Popular Front of India

Our correspendent replies

With reference to my article on  March 18, 2012,  regarding NDF/PFI, I clarify as under:

a) My reference to NDF/PFI role in Delhi blast involving Israeli Attache’s wife was based on media reports originating at that time. The New Indian Express had at that time carried a report, ‘Delhi Car Blast: Clues Point to PFI’. Also in Sunday Express Magazine dated  March 4, 2012, it has been reported that PFI is the suspect of NIA/IB.

Police officials, politicians, etc. have also given their views on the PFI/NDF role in various extremist activities in this two page story.

Right from the nineties earlier Madhani, and after his arrest, NDF and other jehadi groups have been in the scanner of police, intelligence central agencies for various terrorist acts like Marad massacre, Beypore boat blast, Vagamon training before several blasts throughout India, export of terror to Kashmir where five Keralites were shot dead by Indian Army, love jehad, hand cutting of Professor, etc. Even in the Kasargod riots, army uniform march, etc. NDF/PFI is the prime suspect of police as per media reports. Earlier jehadi groups were under scanner of intelligence and defence agencies for training in estates, isolated islands in Kochi and attempt to blast INS VIRAAT, when it was anchored there.

b) Targetting of trains have been going on for quite some time. Brake pipes of trains were cut in Nilambur. Trains are regularly targetted in Kasargod district. It is by God’s grace and sheer luck that major mishaps have not taken place, despite stones, iron rods, etc. being placed on tracks.

c)When the going went tough ISS changed to PDP and ex-ISS men to NDF to PFI to SDPI. There are media/police reports that they are also linked to banned SIMI.

Anyway the report was based on media reports on current events, appearing at that time and not a creation of Organiser.

Scanned copies of newspaper cutting (some) are sent for your reference.

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