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Binayak Sen attends the Planning Commission Panel on Health

From the Business Standard:

Binayak Sen, who was charged with sedition until recently, today attended the first meeting of the working group on health at the Planning Commission and made a strong pitch for addressing nutritional needs of the people.

Sen was appointed as one of the members of the group, following his release from the Raipur jail recently, after the Supreme Court cleared him of the of sedition charges.

Sen, who has spent a large part of his life treating malaria among tribals in Chhattisgarh, said that the body mass index of an average tribal person was below 18.5 and this could be best addressed by food entitlements rather than just medicines.

He said the 35 kg of foodgrain given per family now was totally inadequate and it should be supplemented with dal and oil for a complete diet.

Sen said the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, of which he was a member, and the Right to Food Campaign had been demanding universal food entitlements and it was closely linked with health of the nation.

He added that adequate food should be the right of everywone. Sen also argued for a legal healthcare entitlement for all.

Planning Comission Member Syeda Hameed said there was no doubt that nutrition was an integral part of health and should be addressed urgently.

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From the Times of India:

I was surprised at nomination to plan panel group: Binayak Sen

NEW DELHI: Binayak Sen on Wednesday said the Planning Commission’s decision to put him on the working group on health had come as a surprise even as he disregarded the Madhya Pradesh CM’s boycott of the plan panel’s meetings in protest against his nomination.

The paediatrician and human rights campaigner, who is on bail after being convicted for sedition by a trial court, was in Yojana Bhawan for the meeting of the steering group on health which will advise the commission in finalising the 12th five-year plan.

Sen said his appointment came as a surprise despite having worked for more than three decades in the tribal-dominated areas of Chhattisgarh. “I was surprised,” he said, adding, “I have been working in the filed (health) for the last 30-35 years. I had worked at the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health in Jawaharlal Nehru University as a faculty member. I was also part of the Medico Friend Circle.”

His appointment created a controversy with some questioning the nomination of a person convicted of sedition. It was also opposed by the Chhattisgarh government. While conveying its displeasure to the plan panel, the state government threatened to skip future commission meetings if Sen remained on the panel.

Sen tried to keep himself away from the controversy. “The matter is between Planning Commission and the state government. I don’t have anything to say,” he said when asked about state government’s decision.

Sen was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sedition and links with Naxal groups operating in the state. However, the Supreme Court granted him bail in April after which he was released from Raipur jail.

The 40-member steering committee, which is chaired by plan panel member Syeda Hameed, is mandated to suggest effective initiatives for the monitoring and evaluation of health programmes and recommend measurable indicators for the 12th plan, along with review of the National Health Policy 2002.