Sunday, January 18, 2015

Justice V R Krishna Iyer - Bhishmacharya of Indian Judiciary

This was Justice V R Krishna Iyer's Last interview and I am privileged. I could not ask much. He was tired and 100.

On June 12, 1975 Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of Allahabad High Court held the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi guilty of rigging the Lok Sabha election of 1971. The judge held her election to parliament null and void. He also barred her from contesting elections for six years. Indira Gandhi’s lawyers filed an appeal in the Supreme Court believing that the highest court in the country will pull her out of the quagmire she was in. But her hopes were dashed when the then Supreme Court judge V R Krishna Iyer barred Indira Gandhi from participating in debates or voting in Parliament.  He then referred the matter to a larger bench of the court. Justice Krishna Iyer’s stand on the issue prompted Indira to act fast and declare ‘Emergency’, the darkest chapter ever in the history of India. However, his undaunted spirit led to the rise of new school of thought and a new era of ‘Judicial Activism’ was born. Ironically, it was Indira Gandhi who appointed V R Krishna Iyer as a Supreme court judge.On November 13, ‘Krishna Iyer Swamy’ as he is fondly called celebrated his 100th

birthday.He looked tired but the energy had not diminished one bit. “You know, I am 100. I am tired. I have terrible knee pain. You are young and have a lot to travel before you reach my age,” he had said with a friendly smile. Though he often complained of not being able to hear and see, the way he promptly replied to every question that was put to him made one wonder whether he really was able to do so or not.

“You will have to come close to my ear and speak,” he had said.Ask the man who always stood for every noble causes, is there any regrets in life? He replied promptly,”eradication of poverty and the upliftment of the underprivileged. Those days are yet to come when everyone gets justice from the judiciary.”

This intention was the main force that led Iyer to support a campaign to introduce Islamic banking and finance in India in 2010. Iyer said, “I welcome Islamic finance in India for it has proven successful in poverty alleviation and promoting sustainable growth in many countries, including the United States, and it is very relevant in our country where 20 million people are starving.”

Speaking about the judiciary he said, “I am not at all satisfied with the way it is going ahead. Cases drag on and pile up. Certain judge retires without pronouncing verdict on cases being heard by him. Hence, before appointing any judges, they should be put on posted on the post for six months on a temporary basis. If their work is found to be satisfactory, their appointment can be confirmed,” he said.He has never ever taken a break from reading and especially, writing until yesterday. “I used to write. But I stopped doing so from yesterday.”

His PA Ramanathan said that though the newspapers are dictated to him, he goes through the headlines with magnifying glasses.

Dr Mani- Lal- Bhoumik - The Man who saves eye sight

In 1943, three million people died of starvation and malnutrition during the Bengal famine. There was extreme penury all around. But even amid these difficulties, there was a 12-year-old boy who used to dream big every night. He often thought he could easily touch the stars.

“Those days were full of blind faith, superstition and primitive practices,” said Dr Mani Lal Bhaumik. Superstitions had Dr Bhaumik’s mother remain standing after her delivery, because the umbilical cord was being cut by people of lower caste.

Son of a school teacher, Dr Bhaumik walked four miles on his bare foot to reach school.

Little did he know that despite his poverty, one day, he would grow up to become a renowned name. Dr Bhaumik is the co-inventor of the Laser surgery for the eyes (LASIK).

Speaking about his invention, he says, “Earlier, when laser made a hole, it would burn. But when the experiment was going on, the laser rays accidentally fell on somebody’s hand, and it did not burn. The discovery paved the way for corrective eye surgery.” Dr Bhaumik says that his team took 10 years to study the pros and cons of the surgery.
When it was pointed out that patients are still reluctant to undergo the surgery, out of fear, he says, “It might be because of lack of  awareness. To me, it is as safe as scratching your skin. Around 30 million people worldwide have undergone it. As far as I know, there has not been a single complaint. The success of the surgery depends on the skill of the surgeon. But, undoubtedly, the surgery is a bit expensive.”

  It was Dr Bhaumik’s association with the renowned Indian physicist, Satyendranath Bose, which changed his life. “He was my mentor, who had an independent and brilliant mind,” said Dr Bhaumik. “My professor was his student and he introduced me to Bose.” And then there was no looking back.

  Dr Bhaumik also recollects his one-week stay with Mahatma Gandhi in his ashram. “He did not speak much,” says Dr. Bhaumik. “But whenever he spoke, it was a gem. He was highly disciplined. We had to get up at the crack of dawn. By this time, the hymn, ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja ram’, would be reverberating everywhere.”

  Dr Bhaumik was at Kochi recently to deliver a talk at the Photonics Department of CUSAT. And despite having lived for 55 years in the United States, he is an Indian in every sense. “The West has achieved a lot, but whenever they feel a vacuum, they turn to India,” says Dr Bhaumik. “A blend of East and West can do wonders for you.”

  Nevertheless, he reiterates the bond that binds everyone in this world. “The particles with which the universe is made up of is from a single source and interconnected,” he says. “If the world knows this fact, there would not be any religious wars.”

  Dr Bhaumik has won many awards including the Padma Shri, in 2011, for his achievements in the field of science and engineering. He has also set up the Mani Bhaumik Educational Foundation, Kolkata, which  funds the university education of several underprivileged but meritorious students from rural Bengal. And, recently, the man, who was born in poverty, donated $150 million to the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, his alma mater. His book, ‘Code Name God: The Spiritual Odyssey of a Man of Science’, which became a best-seller has been translated into 100 languages.

published in the New Indian Express

Dr Robert Gallo - interview

As the country frets over how to contain Ebola in the event of an outbreak, eminent American virologist Dr Robert Gallo, who had substantially attributed AIDS to HIV, reassures that vaccines are available for Ebola, and that the public administration has to play a prominent role in making their benefits available to patients.   “Experiments are currently on to develop around 12 vaccines for Ebola. Of which, three have turned out to be successful,” he said.

Dr Gallo was in Kochi on Sunday in connection with the International Conclave on Cancer Care, hosted by Aster Medcity.

“Though the fear of Ebola is gripping the whole world, with the recent outbreak termed as the worst in the history, the real villain is HIV that is capable of literally squeezing life out of man. Unlike HIV, Ebola will not leave its gene in human beings. It is a fleeting phenomenon,” Gallo pointed out.
“Millions of people have died of AIDS, and some people are not aware of the fact that they are infected with HIV. Some of the infected persons do not get proper medication, while some fail to find competent doctors,” he said. When asked about curing AIDS, Dr Gallo said, “a biological cure for AIDS still remains a distant reality.”

When asked about the controversy surrounding the vaccine being administered on patients suffering from cervical cancer, Dr Gallo, who is impressed with the healthcare scenario in Kerala, dismissed it saying that the whole issue was purely political.

According to experts in the field, there are effective vaccines available for cervical cancer, which should be administered to boys and girls before they become sexually active.

Dr Gallo further pointed out that there were different types of cancers caused by viruses.

“Twenty per cent of the cancers are caused by viruses, and there are eight types of viruses, including Hepatitis B, C, and the Herpes virus. Of all the viruses, HIV is the worst because of the high mortality rate among patients. HIV does not cause cancer directly, but affects the patient’s immune system, "he added.

Me with Dr Gallo

published in The New Indian Express