The proposal was rejected by the Defence Ministry’s Expert Committee

There is disquiet in the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry after Defence Ministry rejected its Republic Day Parade tableaux depicting India’s achievement in eradicating polio was found “unsuitable” on account of thematic and creative content.

The proposal was rejected by the Defence Ministry’s Expert Committee — comprising eminent persons from various fields — even after Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is said to have personally spoken to his counterpart in the Defence Ministry. On his part, the Defence Minister A.K. Antony is said to have told Mr. Azad that he had no say in the matter of selection. This was followed by intervention at various levels, but without success.

The Health Ministry was keen to project polio-free India as a major achievement of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). More so, because on January 11 next year India would complete three years without reporting any case of polio. Also, it is only the second time in the history that a disease is being eliminated from the earth through immunisation.

The global eradication of small pox was certified, based on intense verification activities in countries, by a commission of eminent scientists on December 9, 1979 and subsequently endorsed by the World Health Assembly on May 8, 1980.

Now, polio is on the threshold of being eradicated from the country. India was carrying a large burden of polio disease but has made impressive progress in the past 35 months. The number of polio cases came down from 741 in 2009 to 42 in 2010 and just one in 2011. No polio case has been reported in the country since then. The WHO on February 24, 2012 removed India from the list of countries with active endemic wild polio transmission.

India is planning an event on February 11, 2014 where the WHO Director General Margaret Chan would declare, not only India but the entire South East Asia, polio-free. Among those who will be present at the function include President Pranab Mukherjee; Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Of the 11 countries in the WHO’s South East Asia Region Office, India was the only country which had polio until 2011, and with India becoming polio-free, the crippling disease has been pronounced officially eradicated.

Sources in the Health Ministry told The Hindu, it wanted to showcase polio eradication as one of the major achievement of the government in an election year but their hopes were dashed when the Defence Secretary sent a letter on December 23 saying: “The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare presented their tableau proposal in various meetings of the Expert Committee. However, the same was not found finally suitable for inclusion in the list of tableaux selected by the Expert Committee for participation in the Republic Day Parade 2014.”

The final recommendation of the selection of tableaux for the Parade is made by an Expert Committee consisting of eminent persons from art, culture, dance, music, etc., taking into account the thematic and creative content of various tableaux, the Defence Secretary’s letter said.

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