Letter to Medico friends circle (MFc) 2012

Letter to Medico friends circle (MFc) about their silence on the violence perpetrated by their loved ones – other ‘public health professionals’.The only reply I got was silence.

Dear friends,
Being, as I am, a novice in the field of public health, I would like to raise a few questions that I myself do not have the answers to. I put it on this forum as a public health professional. I do not mean to be inflammatory or contradictory, but the issues I raise here have definitely been instrumental in making me averse to working with any public health organization or institution.

Are these issues due to unavoidable ‘human’ factors or larger sociological situations – I do not know. I therefore share this with a genuine lack of understanding, but with a desire to.

1. How does one differentiate between a business interest and a public interest NGO? In my limited experience, I find that under the pretext of public interest, several NGOs are pushing a religious and/ or personal power or economic agenda. Some others are pushing for larger policy changes that affect public health in more ways that I can really comprehend but have my apprehensions about.
2. Why is it that organisations are largely headed by the ‘upper caste’? If equity among the masses is something that we promote, why is this not seen at an organizational level? The reasons given for non-inclusion of people from other castes and religions are mostly at an individual level, but there is a ‘consistent co-incidence’ in the caste structures at senior management levels. I find that these power pockets make all the decisions on the behalf of others, are vocal and think that they are representative. Should there not be an active promotion of equity at the senior management by organisations that talk about equity as a broad and overarching value?
3. Why is it that organisations and individuals who object strongly to malnutrition in the state and country, not object to a ban on beef? Is there no relationship between the consumption of cheaply available red meat and the anemia/protein energy malnutrition and starvation deaths in the country? Aren’t the ones who usually eat red meat also the ones who disproportionately face malnutrition in the country? Is it a public health issue or is it a religious issue? Where does one draw a line?
4. Why is it that so many Indian public health organisations throw around words like governance, accountability and transparency to the government, but are themselves so lacking in all three domains? Why this moral superiority by individuals and organisations about government systems?
5. There is large scale plagiarism and unethical practices by the so called public health research bodies. Is there any system in place to keep a check on this?
6. In the wake of growing privatization, is there really a line between that and PPP (public private partnership)? Most often there is failure to disclose conflict of interest by organisations that receive funds to actively promote PPP inspite of several failings. So many instances of failure of PPP are not documented at all. The bodies that evaluate PPP themselves seem to have been bought in by agents that push for privatization.
7. In my state, there are individuals who talk on behalf of all civil society. They usurp all government projects and funds by non-transparent methods and processes. Who appointed them as CSO representatives? Is it a process of self selection? When does one cross the fine line between representing the common good and representing ones own agenda? Is there or should there be a system in place to control this?
Just a few thoughts. Any inputs would help.

Sylvia

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