Where crime pays
One of the police’s most effective weapons of intimidation is the trumped-up charge. The accused person, who may or may not be guilty, stands no chance because the police can produce a professional perjurer whose prepared statement allows the magistrate to arrive quickly at a verdict of guilty.
Both the perjurers and the police are motivated by one consideration only: money. The perjurers are paid by the police, who in turn use the threat of a trumped-up charge to extract bribes from their victims. All are caught up in a fierce dog-eat-dog struggle for survival.
Anyone sucked into the system finds it difficult to escape. A repentant perjurer cannot simply give up his profession and return to an honest way of life. The police will just bring another perjurer to testify against him on another trumped-up charge.
Swarna Lal Pandit is a case in point After faithfully serving the Delhi police for 23 years as one of their most trusted ‘eye witnesses’, Swama was arrested in August under the Law of Preventive Detention. He was picked up not for committing perjury, but for wanting to give it up.
A poor tea vendor in Dev Nagar and father of 12, Swarna first came into contact with the police when he had to grease their palms in order to continue his trade. Over the years his new career as perjurer earned him enough money for a house of his own in the Indian capital as well as a farm in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Two of his brothers are also part of the army of ’eye witnesses’ who appear regularly on behalf of the police to support the prosecution’s case.
In 1978, Swaran fell out with his employers — who rewarded him by framing the first of several trumped-up charges against him. But he was not to be easily subdued and took his complaints to senior authorities and political leaders. An angry police force decided to teach him a lesson.
They issued three separate notices to ban him from Delhi. Swarna challenged them successfully in court, until finally on August 10, he was arrested under the National Security Act. The Act, brought in by Mrs. Gandhi’s government ostensibly to deal with smugglers, black marketeers and saboteurs has proved much more effective for use against trade unionists, political dissidents and other ‘inconvenient’ people like Swarna.
Last year a similar case came to light when Prem Chand Paniwala faced police vindictiveness by refusing to co-operate with them. Forty-year-old Paniwala had testified in 3,000 cases in 25 years. In fact he appeared in 35 cases before the same magistrate in one year!
Every magistrate, police officer and criminal lawyer is aware of the existence of stock witnesses — so much so that, some years ago, the Delhi police department issued a circular advising employees to revise their old list of 200 eyewitnesses and recruit new people.
Though many of the witnesses are illiterate and have to be taught how to sign false statements, they soon acquire a working knowledge of the law and develop their own specialities. Some testify, for instance, exclusively in smuggling cases. But what all the cases have in common is the opportunity they give police to extort money from the accused. Men like Swarna and Paniwala ‘witness’ anything from the ‘recovery’ of liquor bottles, opium weapons and other
In court the language they use is perfect for administration purposes. They testify, for example that they saw ‘a person taking precautions to conceal his presence and there was reason to believe he was doing so with a view to committing a cognisable offence’. These sentences are repeated parrot fashion with only the time, date, place and name of the accused altered. The magistrates don’t bat an eyelid.
Police justify having to create witnesses because people do not readily come forward to give evidence: in 80 per cent of criminal cases the accused are let off because there are no eye witnesses. But reports of police brutality — such as the blinding of people awaiting trial in jail in Bihar — make people terrified to be involved with the police, even as an innocent witness.
For the innocent fare badly in India. People awaiting trial can languish in jail waiting for their cases to come up for as long as 15 years — a time far exceeding any sentence they might be given. There were some 90,000 such prisoners in India’s jails last year — 65 per cent of the total prison population.
Let them eat pills
It makes Indonesia’s much wanted family planning programme look very suspect indeed. Seven million couples are now ‘official users’ of contraception. An in the overcrowded islands of Java and Bali over 40 per cent of eligible couples have registered as ‘acceptors’ — leading to a 1 per cent drop in fertility over the pas decade, according to the National Family Planning Coordinating Board. Great praise has been lavished on the intricate network of mothers’ clubs — over 120,000 in Java alone — which promote Family Planning as part of mother and child care.
But Dr. Haryono, Deputy Head of the National Family Planning Co-ordination Board, remains optimistic. He insists that the 2.3 per cent growth rate is the average for the past nine years, and that the current yearly rate is falling.
Sceptics argue, however, that ’acceptors’ do not necessarily become contraception ‘users’ as intended. In a country as poor as Indonesia, family planning is a much lower priority than keeping their families and animals healthy. So there are reports of villagers using birth control pills to treat fevers or for fattening chickens and cattle. And critics claim that some Family Planning fieldworkers report a large number of acceptors just to Asal, Bapak senang — to please their bosses, a well-known Indonesian syndrome.
On current trends there will be 225 million Indonesians by the year 2000. And, with income distribution skewed heavily in favour of the top ten per cent of the population, it seems likely that pills will continue to be used for purposes other than they were intended.
Population Growth 1961 -80
Antibody for ill-treatment
Commenting on the pharmaceutical industry’s successive blocks of World Health Organisation initiatives to curb their activities, BUKO spokesman Roland Fett said: ‘Multinationals have developed skills and experience in influencing the UN system in their favour. But we intend to restrict this obstruction.’
One of the main criticisms he levelled at the drug companies was their use of 'costly high-pressure marketing and promotional methods’ and ‘the provision of inadequate, often misleading information to doctors about the products they are encouraged to prescribe’. But, almost prophetically, the pharmaceutical industry itself — in the guise of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Associations (IFPMA) — got in first by announcing their International Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practice a few weeks before the conference. By the end of June the Code had been adopted by the IFPMA Council and approved by all major members of the Association.
Conference participants clearly interpreted this as an attempt to deflect criticism and forestall statutory regulation of their activities. And there was loud applause for the speaker who suggested ‘when the sharks sit down to work out a Code on how to treat fish, it’s time for the fish to get together and decide how they want to be treated’.
So the Health Action International antibody has produced its own antidote to the pharmaceutical industry’s code: An Inter¬national Code of Pharmaceutica / Marketing Practice: Discussion Document*. The Document maintains the Code is little more than a public relations exercise from an industry made understandably jumpy by the success of the anti-baby milk marketing campaign.
In their Code, IFPMA suggests that members ‘voluntarily conform’ to the following main provisions:
Health Action International calls the Code ‘a profoundly feeble piece of work’ and a ‘disappointing ragbag’, adding that ‘its impact on malpractices by multinational drug companies can safely be predicted as negligible’. They argue that the Code omits the three essential ingredients necessary to ‘give it teeth’:
HAI is particularly critical of the lack of reference to widespread use of ‘gifts and inducements’ — bribes, in common parlance — by drug manufacturers. Upjohn International, makers of Depo-Provera, for example, have admitted parting with $2.7 million in ‘questionable payments to expedite Government services’ in foreign countries.
But the Document concedes that the Code is better than nothing and comments that the items dealing with scientific information are ‘very welcome indeed’. It is especially pleased to note that the IFPMA urges its members to use ‘complete candour in dealings with public health officials, health care professionals and the public’. HAI conclude they ‘could ask for nothing more’ but warn that they ‘will be satisfied with nothing less’.
Charity ends at home
All this is quite alarming for Oxfam: the Charity Commissioners wield a big stick — withdrawal of ‘charity’ status and cutting off all tax-free favours. And it is not only Oxfam who have been warned to keep their hands clean. Christian Aid, the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and War on Want have also been called back into line by the Charity Commissioners’ latest interpretation of Britain’s centuries-old charity laws.
The new interpretation of laws first enacted 380 years ago in the time of Elizabeth I is ‘just plain barmy’ according to Terry Lacey, General Secretary of War on Want. ‘It would effectively prevent charities like War on Want from seeking to attack the causes of world poverty’.
The Commissioners say that charities must not:
This last clause is the reason Amnesty International cannot qualify for charity status: campaigning against arbitrary imprisonment, torture and murder of political opponents is not charitable work according to British law.
The Depo debate
Their new booklet, simply entitled Depo Provera and published this October, traces the history of the drug from its beginnings as a last-ditch treatment for cancer of the womb lining to what CADP now call the ‘ignorance-based contraceptive’.
Depo-Provera is an injectable contraceptive drug. A massive dose of a synthetic hormone (medroxyprogesterone acetate) similar to progesterone is injected into a woman’s buttock or arm muscle from where it is released slowly into the bloodstream. This makes her infertile for at least three months by:
According to the US Select Committee on Population, nearly 20 million doses were administered to ten million women between 1968 and 1978. And the numbers are growing. In the UK there was an increase of more than 100 per cent over two years to a rate of 38,000 a year in 1978.
The popularity of the drug stems mainly from its convenience — to administrators. Women themselves find it no more — or less — convenient than pills, caps, coils, foams, jellies or condoms. They all have their drawbacks. And Depo is no different. Users complain they put on weight, have headaches, nausea, giddiness, depression, cramping pains in the womb, loss of sex-drive and ‘menstrual chaos’. Menstrual chaos means anything from no bleeding at all to continuous ‘spotting’ for as long as the dose is active — up to 16 months, according to some reports.
But there are other, more disturbing, side effects. And it is these that have prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to forbid sale or export of the drug as a contraceptive in America. Experiments on beagle bitches and rhesus monkeys suggests that Depo can cause breast cancer, cancer of the womb and womb-lining. So strong are its effects on the womb that, in order to keep their animals alive for testing Depo’s effects on other parts of their bodies, 140 beagles were given hysterectomies before experiments began in one study.
Yet most of the controversy surrounding Depo’s safety has centred on its ability to cause breast cancer. Few practitioners are aware of its effects on the womb. CADP’s booklet alleges this is because of a deliberate cover-up Upjohn International, manufacturers of the drug: Upjohn dismisses such allegations as ‘inaccurate and unsubstantiated’, and points out in its publicity
CADP agree. No deaths have been reported: but effects of the drug may take many years to show themselves. Meanwhile millions of women — and their babies — are being exposed to a drug of whose dangers they are unaware. Babies are at risk because the drug is present in large quantities in breast milk, unborn babies are at risk from the residues of Depo in their mothers’ bloodstream after it has ceased to operate as a contraceptive. Curvature of the spine and other physical abnormalities as well as reduced resistance to infection have all been associated with the drug’s effect on baby monkeys. But Upjohn argues that a drug dangerous to monkeys and dogs is not necessarily dangerous to humans. In that case, say CADP, why do experiments on animals at all?
It is difficult to untangle the facts. But IPPF’s International Medical Advisory Panel concluded in January that, with seven out of every thousand women dying in childbirth in countries like Bangladesh, the risks from Depo-Provera seem insignificant. And its advantages — as an injection which doesn’t interfere with breast-feeding, which need only be administered four times a year, which requires only ‘temporary motivation’ of the women — far outweigh its dangers.
Yet it is ‘temporary motivation’ that should be the crux of the debate. A woman need only agree to have her fertility controlled for the few seconds it takes to roll up her sleeve. Once the injection is given, the effects — and side effects — are irreversible for at least three months, often much longer.
Upjohn’s promotional brochure assures doctors of ‘predictability of results, regardless of patient’s attitude. There can be no ‘patient failure’, they promise. This is another way of saying that a woman cannot change her mind. Her freedom of choice and control of her own body is curtailed. And it is only a short step from inducing ‘temporary motivation’ to dispensing with her motivation altogether. What could be simpler than lining up every woman in a slum settlement and giving them an injection four times a year?
CADP reports that this kind of thing is already happening in the UK: ‘There is no doubt that those being offered Depo Provera in Britain tend to be women who are very poor and who, overwhelmingly, are non-English speaking and/or black.’ In one London hospital only one in five women were given information about the dangers of the drug. And the Family Planning Association has suggested that ‘mentally retarded and mentally ill women may be especially suitable’.
From the administrator’s point of view, Depo-Provera is foolproof. From the woman’s point of view, say CADP ‘it is a kind of sterilisation— no matter how bad the headaches’.