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April 6, 2001 - April 7, 2001

Tricycles for handicapped children Saturday, April 7, 2001

VADODARA: Alkapuri Junior Chamber, along with Mahavir Social Group, will donate 11 tricycles to handicapped children in Pentionpura School of handicapped children on Mahavir Jayanti.

Vacation workshop: Community Science Centre is organising a 'Vacation Workshop' from April 16 to May 18 for students from standards II to X on various subjects relating to science and computer programmes. It is also organising programmes for students who have cleared the IIT-JEE screening test.

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BHAVNAGAR ::: MCI recognition on cards Saturday, April 7, 2001

BHAVNAGAR: The Bhavnagar Medical College authorities are confident that the Medical Council of India team, that visited the college last week, would recommend granting of recognition to the college.

Medical college dean Prof H R Deshmukh said some additional facilities scrub room, neonatal care unit and air-conditioning of the audiometry room had been created recently.

He said the surgery wards had been revamped and facilities improved in the operation theatres. Construction of an out patient department would be completed soon.

The state government had spent Rs 12 crore on a new building for the medical college whose first batch of graduates would roll out in a couple of months. The MCI recognition would be crucial for these doctors.

More importantly, post-graduate courses in various disciplines can be started only after getting the recognition. If this is delayed, the first batch may lose out on enrolling for the PG courses.

However, the college authorities opine that once the college gets MCI recognition, getting the clearance for the PG courses would be an easier task.

The strength of the teaching faculty has stabilised for the first time in the last two years. The MCI team confirmed the faculty position by checking the applications forms, photographs of the teacher concerned and their span of service at the college. It also held discussions with the students and staff of the college and the hospital.

A couple of final MBBS students said there were enough faculty members for major disciplines like medicine, surgery, orthopaedics, preventive social medicine, pathology etc. The have easy assess to the library which has a collection of 5000 books and important medical journals.

Youth and cultural activities minister Mahendra Trivedi, who is also guardian minister of Bhavnagar district, had made a strong plea to health minister Suresh Mehta to take immediate action for fulfilling the MCI norms. He had also organised a special meeting with health ministry officials.

The Bhavnagar MP and legislators from the city had also urged Mehta to ensure that all requirements necessary for the recognition are fulfilled at the earliest.

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Discrimination in relief work under International focus. Friday, April 6, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Former US president Bill Clinton's visit to Kutch will not only help highlight internationally the problems that Gujarat is facing in fighting the quake aftermath, but will also bring cases of discrimination in relief work to the international fore.

Already, world's leading human rights groups have begun sending their representatives to probe this anomaly.

One of the most influential rights groups, the Human Rights Watch, which is based in Washington, has sent across its senior Asia-desk representative to probe veracity of the complaints, mainly from Dalit-based voluntary agencies in Gujarat.

After taking round of several villages and towns in Kutch, Smita Narula said the Human Rights Watch would soon come out with a detailed report on cases of discrimination against Dalits and other social groups in Kutch.

The Watch representative said preliminary investigations revealed that "while the government has on the surface allocated equal amounts of monetary compensation and ration supplies to members of all communities, Dalit and Muslim populations are suffering disproportionately in terms of their access to other supplies, adequate shelter, electricity, and running water".

Narula, who was instrumental in preparing a voluminous Watch report on discrimination against the Bhangi population in India with a special chapter on Gujarat a couple of years ago, said, "This was apparent in several cities near Bhuj, including Anjar and Bhachau, where the government had provided far greater shelter and basic amenities to upper caste populations who yield considerable political leverage, as compared to others".

Narula said, "It is also clear, across community and caste lines, that a lot of what has been given to affected populations has come from the private or NGO sector and not from the government." Identifying the basic demands of the depressed sections of the population, she stressed, these are "for immediate reconstruction of homes, clearing of rubble from areas of destruction, and assurance that the supplies that are being sent from within and outside the country are actually reaching their intended recipients".

Pointing out that "there were many allegations that supplies were either being diverted by middlemen or simply not reaching the victims of the earthquake", Narula suggested there was fear of segregation in case new towns and villages came up.

"It remains to be seen whether the government is up to the challenge of constructing integrated housing and abiding by the constitutional abolishment of untouchability. Given the attention the earthquake has received, the world will be watching," she said.

At the same time, Narula agreed, "There is no doubt that everyone is working very hard to restore order in the face of such a calamity. The Indian Army, in particular, was commended numerous times for its heroic rescue efforts. In the months to come, attention will shift to the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction of homes."

Commenting on cases of religious discrimination, Narula said, "In towns of Anjar and Bhachau Muslims were faring quite poorly in terms of shelter, electricity and so on. Temporary housing for upper-caste Hindus in these areas were of far superior quality and construction."

Given such a situation, Narula suggested, the Human Rights Watch will react to the tragedy "by calling on the Indian government and international agencies to closely monitor the delivery of relief and the process of rehabilitation so that supplies are reaching everyone, regardless of caste or religious affiliation, and that political leverage does not become a prerequisite for receiving aid."

National SC-ST Commission chairman Dilip Singh Bhuriya was here recently to look into complaints of discrimination. He has told Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel that casteism is deeply rooted in the Kutchi society and has requested him to allow houses to be build in a way that would foster inter-caste societal intermingling.

Political circles close to the CM, however, said an ideal non-caste society, during the rebuilding of Kutch, was "desirable" but "not possible". Talking with 'The Times of India', the BJP's North Gujarat Rajya Sabha MP AK Patel, an ex-Union minister, said that "building a caste-less society where all communities live together is an impossible task".

Another senior party leader close to the CM, Gujarat State Fertiliser Corporation chairman KD Jaswani, quoted the instance of his community, Maheshwaris, seeking to build only Maheshwari houses in Kutch's 80-odd villages. "We can't part with funds to build Dalit houses. It is for the government to take care of that," he told TOI point-blank.
News Source - The Times of India

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Consumer activism puts doctors on the guard Friday, April 6, 2001

VADODARA: The increasing number of medical negligence cases in consumer courts has forced doctors to be on guard and take steps to avoid litigation.

The rise in consumer activism has led to a jump in the number of medical negligence cases filed in the Vadodara District Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum (VDCGRF). At present there are over 250 cases filed under the Consumer Protection Act against city doctors and hospitals here.

"Most of the medical negligence cases are eventually dropped as medical negligence is often difficult to prove. But the litigation harms the reputation of doctors and, in addition, causes stress leading to an era of defensive practice," says eye surgeon Dr Ashok Mehta, who is also member of the VDCGRF.

But the large number of litigation cases has led the Gujarat State branch of Indian Medical Association (IMA) to start a special 'Professional Protection Scheme' for the first time in India. Almost 40 per cent of the IMA members have opted to join the scheme whereby they can seek insurance cover against indemnity, says IMA Vadodara branch president Dr Vijay Shah.

He says the scheme has received a good response from the IMA members as in case the consumer forum directs them to pay compensation this is paid by the IMA scheme.

In addition to this scheme, the city branch of the IMA had invited Dr Sudhakar Sane, a jury member of the Mumbai District Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum, a few months ago to give a talk on dealing with increasing consumer litigation.

"The aim of the talk was to educate doctors about litigation and preventive measures and on ways to deal with litigation. The growing number of litigation had made it an important one for the doctors," said IMA president Dr Vijay Shah.

However Shah says that though there are a large number of litigation proceedings in the court these are not easy to prove and therefore merely 10 per cent of the complainants get compensation.

The Vadodara District Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum jury member Dr Ashok Mehta says the large number of negligence cases against the medical fraternity also points towards the misuse of the Act to threaten doctors.

According to him almost 50 per cent of the medical negligence cases have been dismissed or dropped. "There are some cases that are genuine cases of negligence. But I have also come across patients or their relatives who blame doctors for negligence when they 'think' the doctor has not given them 100 per cent result.

"However these might be subjective beliefs that have to be backed by concrete proof that points towards malafide intentions of the doctor. An error of judgement by the doctor does not always amount to negligence," he says.

According to him the adverse consumer activism is also leading to an era of defensive medical practice whereby doctors choose to make a patient undergo innumerable tests to avoid a potential litigation in case of misjudgement.

IMA member Dr Bhardawaj Desai says often patients or their relatives feel the doctor is negligent due to a lack of communication. "When Dr Sane was here he stressed on the need for doctors to communicate clearly with patients and their relatives about his condition and the medical options that he has chosen and the risks involved," says Desai.

He also stresses on the need to maintain detailed records of patients so that these can help in disproving negligence cases.

Dr Mehta says patients should realise that 10 per cent chances of complications are natural. In any operation including simple cataract there might be chances of complications. A certain leeway has to be made for this," he says.

Here, pre-existing condition of the patients, overall health and age of the patients have to be taken into consideration when a case of negligence comes up for hearing. Whether a doctor's act has caused harm and whether that act was indeed due to negligence has to be proved if a doctor is to be penalised," he says.

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NGOs leave Bill blank; AIF keeps chest shut Friday, April 6, 2001

AHMEDABAD: There are NGOs and NGOs and NGOs. Bill Clinton may have sounded quite repetitive when he said over and over again over the last two days that his visit to the quake affected areas was a "learning process". And there is one thing he must have surely learnt during his hour-long interaction with select representatives of the non-government organisations : that there are as many ways of rebuilding Kutch as the number of NGOs working in the quake-hit district.

For the assortment of NGOs , who grappled with each other to get invited to this select gathering at Hotel Taj Residency Ummed , it must have been a learning process too. They learnt that the American India Foundation (AIF) , of which the former US president is acting as ambassador, would still not like to say how much money it is willing to deploy in the rehabilitation process , in which priority areas and through whom.

The discussion of the AIF with the NGO representatives in the packed hotel room , drifted for about an hour with an air of anticipation till the big man himself walked in. It took him a few moments to realise that the discussion was heading nowhere.

And then he changed the rules of the game. "Perhaps this question has been asked earlier and , if so , my apologies for the same, but I would like you to place yourself in our position and tell us if you had raised big sums of money in the United States for the earthquake affected , what would you be doing with it".The former US president went on to add " remember, the amount could be anything 10 or 20 or 30 million dollars , it will all depend on how investors see we are using that money".

And then he suddenly came with a mind-boggling figure - $ 100 million. "But even that would be just a small part of what is actually needed for this massive physical and human loss , so you have lots of money which is yet not enough , how best do you use it to create a new future for the people".

Sunil Handa of Eklavya Foundation was the first to pounce on this question. "If I have half a million dollars , I would just disribute it to the NGOs and get out , if I have 20 million dollars , I would think of setting up a mechanism , maybe even an office in Ahmedabad , from where I could give guidelines to the NGOs I am funding and also monitoring how the money is being spent". Handa said he would concentrate on social infrastructure , health and education.

Ela Bhatt of SEWA said she would like to put money on employment generation. , social security insurance , handicrafts , micro-finance and better technology for salt production. The secretary general of Red Cross, Dr Vimla Ramlingam said the money should go to setting up of artificial limbs centre and mobile blood banks. Neeta Ambani of Dhirubhai Ambani Foundation said a permanent machinery for disaster management with an effective rapid action force should be set up.

Karsanbhai Patel of Nirma Foundation said the government should be taking care of most of the requirements and the NGOs should only play a supplementary role in their specific areas of expertise.Krishnakant Vakharia of Vishwa Gujarati Samaj and Sushma Iyengar gave the peoples' perspective - that all decisions should be taken with the people at the centre of the plan.

The AIF delegates like Mike Patel , Vikram Chatwal , Lata Krishnan , Ashok Alexander and Rajat Gupta quizzed the NGOs on various aspects - on their focus areas , on their relations with the government, their idealogies , their short-term and long-term perspective on rehabilitation and also the transparency in accounting for the expenditure.

At the end of it all , Clinton summed up saying "there is enormous amount of energy back home in the United States , both in the Indian American community and beyond that to contribute for the earthquake victims, given the magnitude of the problem any amount that we raise will only be small, we have to see how best we can use it to make the maximum impact on the lives of people".

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