a) The past catches up

By ordering an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into more than 80 cases of suspected extra-judicial killings in Manipur, the Supreme Court has reiterated the principle of accountability as an essential part of the rule of law. These cases involved either suspected fake encounters or the use of excessive or retaliatory force. The court has rightly rebuffed an attempt by the government to stall any probe into these deaths on the ground that they were too old to be raked up now. It has taken the view that the killing of a person who was possibly innocent cannot be overlooked owing to mere lapse of time. The state cannot take advantage of its own inaction and scuttle a probe by citing the delay as a reason. Last year, the court had ruled that the armed forces cannot escape investigation for excesses even in places where they enjoy special powers, and that the legal protection provided by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, will have to yield to the principles of human rights. It is surprising that even after this ruling on petitions demanding an inquiry into 1,528 deaths in counter-insurgency operations in Manipur, the Attorney General had argued against the court ordering an investigation into some specific instances. In fact, he had come up with the unpalatable argument that inquiries conducted by the authorities in Manipur were biased in favour of the citizens owing to local pressure and the ground situation. The court stood firm in its assessment, deprecating the suggestion that all inquiries were biased and motivated. The court’s order is yet another reminder that AFSPA has contributed to the climate of impunity in States where it is in force, especially in Manipur, and this may trigger a fresh demand for its repeal. The situation under AFSPA is so hostile to the concept of human rights that in many of these cases there was no inquiry at all. In some instances, the First Information Report was against the victim and not against the alleged perpetrators. It will not be easy for the investigators to get to the bottom of these incidents. It is possible that the special team to be constituted by the CBI Director will find witnesses hard to come by and face difficulties in gathering evidence in many cases. However, that cannot be a reason for denying or putting off a formal criminal investigation as required in law. Justice will be served if there is successful prosecution in at least some cases. Another worrying aspect in the domain of human rights is that the National Human Rights Commission has been reduced to a “toothless tiger”. It is grossly understaffed despite its increasing workload, and many State governments show little respect for its guidelines and instructions. The court’s directive that the Centre take note of the NHRC’s concerns and remedy the situation could not have come a day too soon.

b) A looming threat

About 5,500 of over 76,000 children tested in nine Indian cities have been diagnosed with tuberculosis, 9% of them with multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), highlighting the silent spread of the disease. Though the actual prevalence of MDR-TB among children in India is not known, the results from a limited number of children tested in this sample, under the Revised National TB Control Programme, is worrying. According to a 2015 study, of the over 600 children who had tested positive for TB in four cities, about 10% showed resistance to Rifampicin, a first-line drug. Since the incidence of TB among children is a reflection of the prevalence of the disease in the community at large, the high prevalence of both drug-sensitive TB and drug-resistant TB in children from these nine cities is a grim reminder of the failure of the health-care system to diagnose the disease early enough in adults and start them on treatment. Very often, children who test positive for TB have been in close contact with adults with the disease in the same household. With up to a couple of months’ delay in diagnosing the disease being the norm, there is a continuing threat of TB spreading among household contacts and in the larger community. In line with World Health Organisation guidelines, the RNTCP requires all household contacts, particularly children, of a newly diagnosed pulmonary TB patient to be tested and started on treatment if needed. Children below six years of age in the household of a newly diagnosed patient are required to be given the drug Isoniazid as a prophylactic even when they do not have the disease. A proactive approach to testing helps in early and correct diagnosis of all contacts and in cutting the transmission chain. Unfortunately, as several studies have shown, the RNTCP guidelines on contact screening are heeded mostly in the breach. The results from this limited study should now compel the government to take up contact screening more urgently. In 2010, WHO had revised the dosage of certain TB drugs for children. Fixed-dose combination (FDC) drugs that take into account the revised dosages for children were finally made available in late 2015. The FDCs are meant for treating children with drug-susceptible TB and cannot be used to treat children who require second-line drugs or who have MDR-TB. After more than a year’s delay, a few months ago India finally introduced FDCs in six States. The remaining States will be covered by the end of this year. Adherence to treatment will improve, and correct dosage for children weighing less than 25 kg will become easier when child-friendly FDCs become available throughout the country. Using the Xpert molecular diagnostic test to screen children with TB is a positive step and should be welcomed, but all the diagnosed children should be guaranteed paediatric FDCs. It would be unethical to deny them this lifeline.


1) Reiterated

Meaning: Say something again or a number of times, typically for emphasis or clarity.

Example: She reiterated that the government would remain steadfast in its support.

Synonyms: Repeat, Belabour

2) Retaliatory

Meaning: (Of an action) Characterized by a desire for revenge.

Example: Fears of a retaliatory attack by the victim’s friends.

3) Rebuffed

Meaning: Reject (someone or something) in an abrupt or ungracious manner.

Example: I asked her to be my wife, and was rebuffed in no uncertain terms.

Synonyms: Reject, Spurn, Decline

Antonyms: Accept, Welcome

4) Raked up

Meaning: To talk again about a past event or experience that should be forgotten, because it upsets or annoys someone else.

Example: She’s always raking up the past/that old quarrel.

5) Lapse

Meaning: An interval or passage of time.

Example: There was a considerable lapse of time between the two events.

Synonyms: Interval, Gap, Pause

6) Scuttle

Meaning: An act or sound of scuttling.

Example: I heard the scuttle of rats across the room.

Synonyms: Scamper, Scampering noise

7) Attorney

Meaning: A person, typically a lawyer, appointed to act for another in business or legal matters.

Example: They paid a high-powered attorney to plead their case.

Synonyms: Lawyer, Legal practitioner

8) Unpalatable

Meaning: Not pleasant to taste & difficult to put up with or accept.

Example: Scraps of unpalatable food.

Synonyms: Unappetizing, Uninviting

Antonyms: Palatable, Tasty

9) Deprecating

Meaning: Express disapproval of.

Example: He deprecates the value of children’s television.

Synonyms: Disapprove of, Deplore, Abhor

Antonyms: Praise

10) Impunity

Meaning: Exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action.

Example: The impunity enjoyed by military officers implicated in civilian killings.

Synonyms: Immunity, Indemnity

Antonyms: Liability, Responsibility

11) Putting off

Meaning: To make someone dislike something or someone, or to discourage someone from doing something

Example: The smell of hospitals always puts me off.

12) Prosecution

Meaning: The institution and conducting of legal proceedings against someone in respect of a criminal charge.

Example: The organizers are facing prosecution for noise nuisance.

13) Prevalence

Meaning: The fact or condition of being prevalent; commonness.

Example: The prevalence of obesity in adults.

Synonyms: Commonness, Currency

14) Grim

Meaning: Very serious or gloomy.

Example: His grim expression.

Synonyms: Stern, Forbidding, Uninviting

Antonyms: Amiable, Pleasant

15) Prophylactic

Meaning: Intended to prevent disease.

Example: Prophylactic measures.

Synonyms: Preventive, Protective

16) Breach

Meaning: An act of breaking or failing to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct.

Example: A breach of confidence.

Synonyms: Contravention, Violation

17) Adherence

Meaning: Attachment or commitment to a person, cause, or belief.

Example: A strict adherence to etiquette.

18) Paediatric

Meaning: Relating to the branch of medicine dealing with children and their diseases.

Example: The hospital’s paediatric ward.



THE HINDU EDITORIAL – 14, July – 2017