Even as the Planning Commission stood by its decision to nominate Binayak Sen to its steering committee on health, there is a loud note of disapproval from Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who has questioned the rationale behind the appointment, saying the rights activist is still facing trial.
“The people of Chhattisgarh do not approve of the appointment,” he said. “He has not been absolved of the charges by the court but just given bail,” Dr. Singh told journalists here.
(The Supreme Court recently granted bail to Dr. Sen, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chhattisgarh trial court on charges of sedition.)
Pointing out that for such appointments a proper procedure was followed including scrutiny of antecedents, Dr Singh said: “Is there such a dearth of experts in the country that the Centre had to take the advice of a person accused of sedition?”
On the other hand, Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, who also chairs the steering committee on health, told The Hindu here on Wednesday: “The issues that we would tackle in the 12th Five-Year Plan are extremely important — including children's health in tribal areas. Since Dr. Sen has worked with the poorest of the poor, his contribution would be useful.”
Confirming Dr. Sen's appointment, Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told journalists that it was the Planning Commission's proposal. However, it is yet to get formal acceptance from Dr. Sen, though informally it has been confirmed that he will accept the appointment and that it is a matter of time before he does that.
“We are bringing the best brains together from across the country to formulate policies to tackle issues like malnutrition, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate, and our feeling is Dr. Sen would help us in this,” said Dr. Hameed. The first meeting of the steering committee is scheduled for May 26.
The 61-year old paediatrician has worked in Chhattisgarh's tribal belt.