Skip to main content

Union health minister's one-size-fits-all ploy: One world, one health... and one gender?

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* 

As an average middle class citizen, I too own a car. The chassis has a unique number which is linked to the registration certificate, insurance and other details. Besides, the car has to undergo periodic servicing every few months. When I visit the service station, the attending executive can easily access the past jobs done on the car. Based on this, the car undergoes oil change, filter change, wheel alignment as and when due and other interventions on a periodic basis.
The poor car has no choice, no autonomy, no privacy, and no gender either! The service station has full view of its exteriors as well as interiors. Even this cannot establish any gender identity of the car. I as the owner of the car do not have much of an option to what the car is subjected to.
Besides periodic servicing, the car has to have its “up-to-date” pollution certificate, FASTag recharge, up-to-date insurance and so on. Without it, I as its occupant can to be fined by the traffic police and the car will not be able to cross state borders.
In the future, will humans be subjected to the same indignity? Some disturbing developments indicate so. Taken in isolation, most of these developments seem benign and even beneficial. But connecting the dots gives that uneasy feeling which is difficult to describe but gives a sense of foreboding.
It started with the UID or unique identifier for citizens – the aadhaar card. Despite the legality of the aadhaar getting challenged in the court from time to time, its linking to various services has compelled majority of Indians to register for it. Even schoolchildren of government and aided schools have this unique identifier, while the legality of such a requirement continues to be debated.
Subsequently, Aadhaar Enabled Biometric Attendance System (AEBAS) was rolled out in many organizations, including educational institutions. Aadhaar linking to PAN Card, mobile number and bank accounts became for all practical purposes mandatory. During the pandemic it was linked to the Vaccination Certificates and the RTPCR tests.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), on 09 June 2023, tweeted an article by our honourable Health Minister, titled, "One World, One Health," the catchphrase circulating currently across the globe. We should be wary of misuse of slogans which are signs of authoritarianism. Slogans over-simplify complex issues, promote groupthink, and discourage critical thinking. They become efficient tools of propaganda and mass hypnosis.
Portions of the article are disconcerting. For example, the honourable health minister explains at length of India’s “transformative digital tools” during the Covid pandemic which generated digital certificates as proof of vaccination. Does this not contradict the government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the vaccination for Covid was completely voluntary! Why the need for digital certificates as proof of vaccination if it was voluntary?
The writing on the wall is ominous. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU) are contemplating Digital Vaccine Passports. The Covid-19 vaccine fiasco has not dampened their zeal it seems. According to the WHO, this will be scaled up to a Global Digital Health Certificate.
With the proposed Pandemic Treaty, the introduction of Digital Vaccine Passports, and Global Digital Health Certificates, the ambition of the WHO to take on the role of an extra-constitutional seat of power is becoming evident to all. Except perhaps to our honourable health minister parroting the “digital vocabulary” with its motley of jargons promoted by the WHO and EU. Reminds one of newspeak in Orwell’s satire “Nineteen eighty-four.”
The average reader will not comprehend much of the technicalities in the health minister’s writing nor its implications. On the contrary, the upwardly mobile laptop class will be impressed by the promise of technology and its applications to health care. Little realizing that technology cannot address our basic deficiencies in public health infrastructure.
If there are no well equipped public hospitals and public health centres, how will digital connectivity help? The technology will again be a boon to the laptop class covered by private health insurance accessing corporate hospitals. Inequities in access to health care will increase.
“One World, One Health” is the take-home message. How appropriate it is?
According to the WHO’s own definition of health, “...health is a state...” that means not static, be it at individual level or population level. A person in perfect health today may be sicker tomorrow and vice versa. His or her needs during perfect health would be different than his needs during sickness. Similar fluctuations will be at the population levels, across countries. Just as all individuals at a given time will not have the same level of health (some may be healthy, while others may be sick and have different grades like mild, moderate or severely ill states), nations vary in their levels of health.
Not only health, the determinants of health such as per capita income, housing, population density, social inequalities, age structure and various other known and unknown factors having a bearing on health and will differ across nations.
If we look from this perspective, “One World, One Health” is an oxymoron. It misses the finer nuances and diversities which determines the health of nations. Just to drive home the point, our country like many poor countries are struggling with under-nutrition, huge burden of communicable disease (far lethal than Covid), overcrowding (which makes physical distancing impossible), most of which are due to poor housing, poor sanitation and air and water pollution.
The richer countries on the other hand are mainly struggling with diseases of affluence like obesity, and diseases of the elderly. They have better housing, sanitation and water supply, low population density and higher per capita income.
Epidemiology studies these differences based on which the interventions are customized for different regions. Way back, when WHO was still a credible source, it adopted the strategy, "Think Globally, Act Locally," which made perfect sense epidemiologically.
Disease dynamics are far more complex. The ham-handed approach of One World, One Health will ruin human lives
The slogan, “One World, One Health” implying one size fits all, breaches all epidemiological principles. It will put the poor countries at a disadvantage. Its paternalistic approach, bordering on authoritarianism with loss of autonomy of nations and human rights violations of citizens is not compatible with a vibrant democracy like India. Digital health, digital identity and use of technology for intrusive monitoring of common citizens on the pretext of health are reminiscent of Orwell’s satiric novel.
Perhaps, in the near future, humans will have as much autonomy and privacy as their cars. They will have to be “up-to-date” on vaccines, medical procedures, and other interventions. They will not be able to travel if their “digital health card” shows that they are lagging in any of these things.
Diversity among nations and cultures and of course gender is what gives beauty to life and determines health in different ways across countries, culture and gender. It also preserves autonomy and human rights of citizens. One has to devise custom made solutions to health problems in diverse situations. One World, One Health concept will not fit all scenarios.
All chessboards have the same 64 squares and the same 32 chess pieces. But each game of chess is unique and the two players have to think themselves.
Disease dynamics are far more complex than a game of chess. The ham handed approach of “One World, One Health” will ruin human lives and enslave countries. The slogan seems to harmonize with the WHO’s proposed pandemic treaty which will give extraordinary and extra constitutional powers to the much maligned organization without any accountability.
Adding to the conundrum of “One World, One Health,” is the statement by the Chief Justice of India, Honourable DY Chandrachud, on gender, “It is not a question of what your genitals are. It is far more complex... the very notion of a man or a woman is not an absolute based on the genitals.” Gender is not what is between the legs, but what is between the ears, the proponents of gender neutrality propose.
Are we looking forward to a future, say by 2084 (may Orwell rest in peace), of “One World, One Health, One Gender!” We would be passing through life like driverless cars with gender neutral AI replacing our natural brains inside our skulls. And our nature bestowed biological genitals will wither away without the agony and ecstasy of first love driven hormonal stimuli to be replaced by artificially created genders of our choice! The future looks rather dull.
---
*Post doctoral in epidemiology who was a field epidemiologist for over two decades in the Indian Armed Forces. He was awarded for his work on Tribal Malaria and Viral Hepatitis E. He is currently Professor at DY Patil Medical College, Pune, and an Academic Editor at PLOS ONE

Comments

Ranjit Natekar said…
V good
Thanks

TRENDING

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Women innovators on simple, revolutionary alternate solutions for water problems

By Proshakha Maitra, Mansee Bal Bhargava* The detrimental effects of uncontrolled population rise and accelerated change in the global climate have posed tremendous pressure on the water and sanitation. This calls all stakeholders, from both developed and developing nations, to improve their resilience and to instigate sustainability. It is more crucial than ever to optimise the use of the resources we have on hand since the world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Crusader for people’s causes, this Hollywood actor entered 'unexplored zones' in US

By Harsh Thakor*  Marlon Brando on April 3rd completes his birth centenary. He perished in 2004, on July 1, aged 80 years. Arguably in Hollywood Brando penetrated sensitivity and versatility at an unparalleled scale and discovered new horizons or explored path breaking zones in acting.

Nuclear power expansion: Is AEC's new, 'unrealistic' target fully backed by PMO?

By Shankar Sharma*  Another unrealistic and tall claim by Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has been announced: India is eyeing 100 GW nuclear power by 2047, the AEC chairman  AK Mohanty   has said. A few years ago, the dream target for the Indian nuclear establishment was 275,000 MWe of nuclear power by 2050 (as per DAE document of 2008 "A Strategy for the Growth of Electricity in India”). Now this target of 100 GW nuclear power by 2047. And as at the end of February 2024, the actual nuclear power capacity was only 7,480 MWe, which formed only 1.7% of the total power capacity in the country. 

How huge crowd at Mukhtar Ansari funeral is comparable to BJP's 'people's court' talk

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  The massive crowd at the funeral of Mukhtar Ansari in Mohammadabad reflects the power and influence that his family wields in the area. One can't deny that he had enormous power in Ghazipur and Mau districts. But the crowd that came and chanted slogans in his favour does not exonerate him of his conviction by the court.  It is important that we understand this. 

'Critical for cultural and ecological security': Ladakh women seek statehood, self-rule

By Our Representative Six Ladakhi women from different organisations in the region, who concluded their 10 day fast, have told an online press conference that it is necessary to provide statehood to Ladakh, even as declaring the region under the 6th schedule, for “deepening democracy, preserving ecology, and for survival.” Feminists across India joined the media meet in solidarity with the Ladakh movement “for 6th schedule, statehood and justice.”