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Kalam commends India, Pakistan coming together to fight polio

By Our Staff Reporter— PTI

BATTLE AGAINST POLIO: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presents a memento to actress Aishwarya Rai for her role in the campaign against polio. Looking on is Glenn E. Estess of Rotary International, which organised the Polio Summit 2004 in New Delhi on Saturday. India is working to ensure that by next year there will be no fresh cases of the disease. — Photo: V. Sudershan

NEW DELHI, AUG. 7. ``Instead of fighting against each other we should concentrate on fighting poverty and disease that are our common enemies. India, Pakistan and Afghanistan assembling here on the same dais today, to fight polio, is a beautiful thing to happen,'' the President, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, has said. He was inaugurating a two-day International Polio Plus summit here today.

Addressing delegates from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and other international agencies working in the field of polio eradication, Mr. Kalam said: ``As many as 30 polio cases were reported from India in the year 2004 and a majority of these belong to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The State and Central Health Ministries have to mount a mission mode programme to make Uttar Pradesh and Bihar polio-free. Also people should be told that the drops have no side-effects for the child and those who are unable to bring their children to the immunisation centre should be tracked.''

Global mission

``We have to make it a global mission with international agencies, World Health Organisation (WHO), Rotary International and member countries as partners and definitely, India will be a partner in this mission,'' Mr. Kalam said.

Also present at the summit were the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Anbumani Ramadoss, polio ambassador Aishwarya Rai, president of the Rotary International Glenn. E. Estess, the Uttaranchal Governor Sudarshan Aggarwal, Pakistan's Federal Minister of Health Mohammad Nasir Khan, Afghanistan Minister of Health Sohaila Seddiq and the chairman of Sri Lanka's National Polio Plus Committee K.R. Ravindran.

A new chapter

Later at a press conference, Mr. Nasir Khan claimed that this was the beginning of a new chapter on health diplomacy where politicians would lead from the top and manage to establish the historic feat of eradicating polio.

``And much like India we have also appointed Wasim Akram as the brand ambassador and we hope that together we can eliminate the ailment altogether from the face of the earth.''

Final push

On the situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, World Health Organisation (WHO) officials pointed out that seeing the decline in cases, ``the countries should not become complacent and let down their guard. We have to give the final push to see the world free of polio.''

'Women helped me to be successful'

The President, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, is not just a bachelor but also a `brahmachari' (celibate).

Mr.Kalam gave that reply when asked by a student at a function here to commemorate `50 years of Collagen Triple Helix: A Celebration in Science' about his success though he was not married.

However, he said, he had a big family. Women in his family and of the country have helped him to be successful.

To another question,the President said he regretted being born in British India and that he could not become an Air Force pilot.

Asking students to excel the field they choose, Mr. Kalam said he also regretted that he might not be there when India becomes a developed country.

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