Vantage point

Tuesday, February 18, 2003


As someone who had worked in the Polio immunisation drive for the last 4 years, this article came as a shocker. We were so happy in 2001 when the numbers were reducing and all but 4 states of India were polio free. However a rise is a worrying sign. Will we ever be able to reach a stage where our children will look at polio as something out of history books, the way we look at smallpox?

So many NGO's are involved in this now. All that people have to do is take their babies there on those Sundays and get those drops in their mouth. No injections, no payments, nothing.

90% of the cases are in Uttar Pradesh, and most of them in the poor Muslim families. This is mainly due to some "misconception" (pun unintended) that polio doses somehow are meant for birth control, which is considered unislamic. Now I have worked in the slums of Pune, and have written down names of hundreds of Muslim children after we administered the doses, and their parents have not had a problem. In fact pulse polio drives are held in Pakistan and Afghanistan on a large scale and they would not have been allowed if they were unislamic. So it seems as if this galatfehmi is limited only to a few muslims of Uttar Pradesh.

An information campaign needs to be launched in this state featuring respected leaders and celebrities of the community, you know, the Shahnawaz Hussains and the Mohammad Kaifs of U.P., who will convince these people to not abstain from the drive and not paralyse their children's futures.

Polio hatao!