Thursday, 27 March 2014

Centre for Science and Environment's links with Public Health Fraud of India (PHFI)

This is my open letter - mailed Thursday 27 March 2014 - to Anumita Roy Chowdhury of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) who is participating tomorrow in the "foundation-day" function of Public Health Fraud of India (PHFI).

Dear Ms Anumita Roy Chowdhury,
Executive Director (research and advocacy)
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)
New Delhi

It's interesting to find your name on the list of participants in Public Health Foundation of India's foundation-day celebrations on Friday, 28 March 2014 – not surprising though given A.K. Shiva Kumar’s presence on the boards of both CSE and PHFI.

Your and CSE's work on air pollution is a bit of a contrast to Anand Mahindra-chaired PHFI. It can't be easy avoiding Big Business these days.

Mukesh Ambani - from whom India buys a lot of 'gas' for American dollars - used to be one of the members of PHFI governing board. I am sure his affairs at PHFI board are now being looked after well by R.A. Mashelkar, former Director General of CSIR and now a member of the Board of Directors of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL). 

Mashelkar is, of course, a versatile and hard-working personality. How does he manage to juggle Ambani's job with also being a Director at Tata Motors, Hindustan Unilever, Thermax Ltd, KPIT Cummins Infosystems, IKP Knowledge Park, Piramal Enterprises (formerly Piramal Healthcare) and several private limited companies I cannot begin to imagine.

He is even a Director of Reliance Gene Medix Plc., a company incorporated outside India. 

I am sure Mashelkar -- like other capable members of the PHFI board (such as Shiva Kumar, who’s been on your CSE, Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council and Rajat Gupta’s ISB, Harpal Singh of private hospital chain Fortis, and N.R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys who is 'PE'-invested into Wellspring Healthcare and Manipal Global) - has a supremely delicate understanding of avoidance of conflict of interests.

Not very long ago, former McKinsey head Rajat Gupta gave a demonstration of that delicate understanding. He resigned from the chairmanship of PHFI even before he was arrested by the FBI on charges of securities fraud. He knew his interests as a securities fraud accused could conflict with his responsibilities as chairman of PHFI board, filled as it has been with such Cabinet-rank eminences as Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Deputy Chair of the Planning Commission) and T.K.A. Nair (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Principal Secretary).

And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was very careful to take as long as a few weeks after "launching" PHFI on 28 March 2006 on behalf of worthies led by Rajat Gupta to plough into this "public health" club his government's whole-hearted support, starting with Rs 65 crore 'grant-in-aid' from the public treasury.

It's like a luscious cherry on a rich (Bill) Gateau - baked lovingly by Ashok Alexander who's been loyally serving Microsoft founder on the board of PHFI ever since joining Rajat Gupta in putting together this exclusive club. (A "friend, mentor and occasional coach” is how Alexander described Gupta - now going to jail - at the trial of the latter in Galleon insider trading case.)

The rest, as they say, is glorious history of hundreds of crores of more public “grants-in-aid”, lucrative unbid contracts, generous giveaways of parcels of land, approvals, authorizations, ‘research’ institute status from DSIR,  stewardship/membership of each of the crucial health policy committees, a cart blanche to recast India's "public health".... leading up to the auspicious day on 28 March 2014 when you will rub shoulders with the likes of Prof. Michael Greenstone of MIT at the panel discussion on "air pollution and public health".

Talking about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it’s but an insignificant detail that he and his government consistently used falsehood and fraud in turning a private club into an enormously privileged "public health" body by claiming, according to their convenience, to the Parliament and the citizens that PHFI was a ‘Public-Private Partnership’ or an ‘autonomous body’ (even “autonomous PPP”) while it was (and is) neither.

I understand fully that it’s rather difficult to improve "public health" without engaging in falsehood and fraud.

I'd be remiss if I fail to point out here the role that McKinsey & Co. -- whose men, now Gautam Kumra and Prashanth Vasu, continue to be an inalienable part of PHFI board right from the very beginning -- has been playing in improving the "public health" of various countries, such as the United Kingdom.

The Daily Mail reported in February 2012, for instance, that McKinsey played a key role in Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s "reforms" to recast UK's National Health Service (NHS).

"The firm that hijacked the NHS: MoS investigation reveals extraordinary extent of international management consultant's role in Lansley's health reforms," the Daily Mail headlined.

The British newspaper used the Freedom of Information Act to reveal McKinsey’s myriad links to the "reforms". For instance, proposals were drawn up by McKinsey and included in the reform legislation wholesale. "One document says the firm has used its privileged access to ‘share information’ with its corporate clients – which include the world’s biggest private hospital firms – who are now set to bid for health service work."

"The company is already benefiting from contracts worth undisclosed millions with GPs arising from the Bill."

Having been writing about PHFI since March 2011 (when I published my first article, titled, 'Manmohan Singh's Public-Private Partnership with Rajat Gupta'), I should also point out that K. Srinath Reddy, with whom you'd share the dais tomorrow, has been so enthusiastic a "president" that he doesn't hesitate to forge documents and send them to information seekers under the RTI Act, like he did with me. ('Annexure B' in the files attached with mail is Srinath Reddy's work of art in forgery.)

It’s also a mere fact that PHFI cocked a snook at the RTI law for six years before the Central Information Commission indicted and fined this private club scrounging off public money for non-compliance and expressed its "dismay" that "the highest levels of public servants in India” – i.e. Manmohan, Montek and the rest – “did not accept the citizen’s enforceable right to information in PHFI, despite the government substantially funding it and exercising some control".

(The CIC decision of 14 February 2012 is attached with this mail.)

I feel almost embarrassed to be expanding "PHFI" to "Public Health Fraud of India" in my most recent article (published 24 March 2014) and finding out in my investigations that it's an organization wholly fraudulent in its conception, formation and operation.

Embarrassed, because these are mere facts while "public health" improvement takes no less than falsehood and fraud.

By the way, the first two key articles of mine in the series on PHFI can be read on the links pasted below.

I'd sent letters about PHFI's deeds - such as fraud and forgery - to the health ministry and several members of the board of this private club, including Amartya Sen, the venerable "Nobel Laureate". My complaint to the health ministry elicited only an acknowledgement, no action. None of the board members, Amartya Sen and SEWA's Mirai Chatterjee included, chose to acknowledge my letter. A copy of the letter to the health ministry is attached with this mail and a copy of the email sent to Sen is pasted at the bottom.

Also attached with this mail is a PDF containing information obtained through RTI -- forwarded to me by Dr. Arun Gupta of IBFAN (breastfeeding network) and AACI (Alliance Against Conflict of Interest) -- on PHFI's links with Pfizer, Merck Sharp & Dohme Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson.  

An early article on PHFI's formation and objectives authored by Prof. C. Sathyamala, a well-known Indian public health activist (who wrote 'Taking Sides', a book that critically evaluates the problems with the Indian health care system), is attached with this mail.

More of my articles on this "public health" club can be read on the following links.

Kapil Bajaj

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