There is no vaccine against the venal mind. No immunisation ever invented gives us a complete coat of armour. The law is only good enough to catch the more obvious type of visible corruption. When it’s raised to a more abstract and institutionalised level, where it forms the very operating logic of a system that surrounds you with good words, it simply becomes the natural order of things. But once in a while, a crack develops in the consensus and the light filters through. The evening of January 20, when the lonely dissenting voice of Dr Vipin Vashishtha was sought to be banished by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), was one such moment. What showed through in that light was the entire unholy architecture of India’s immunisation programme.
The evening did not go well for Dr Vashishtha, ex-convenor of the academy. In the late hours, his fellow members had him thrown out unceremoniously from the IAP general body meeting. The reason: Dr Vashishtha had blown the whistle on the silent collusion of interests between paediatricians and vaccine manufacturing companies. It’s a nexus that enables these companies—Indian and multinational—to push expensive vaccines into the market, some of them not even answering to a real need. The market is worth thousands of crores, and booming. And doctors make unwarranted profits in the process, at the cost of the unknowing public.