About a 'crossed' sign

DID YOU know that the use of the Red Cross symbol by doctors is tantamount to abuse and punishable by law? In addition to a fine of Rs. 500, the offence can result in forfeiture of goods or vehicles on which the emblem has been used.

Chapter IV of the Indian law regulating the use of the emblem (which was promulgated in 1960 and is called the Geneva Conventions Act) deals with the abuse of the Red Cross emblem and Sec. 12 read with Sec. 13 of the chapter, makes unauthorised use of the Red Cross emblem or its imitation a punishable offence.

"The Red Cross emblem can be used only by those belonging to the Red Cross Movement and Military Medical Services involved in humanitarian work, chiefly in times of armed conflicts and natural disasters," asserts secretary, Andhra Pradesh chapter of the Red Cross Society, Dr. Rajalakshmi.

The medical fraternity - doctors, chemists and druggists, blood banks, hospitals, poly-clinics, dispensaries, nursing homes, ambulance services, among others - have been using the emblem as it were their own logo.

"Actually, they have their own professional symbols which are equally attractive and reflect the values and tradition their occupation represents. It is quite wrong on their part to use our insignia, for which we have to face problems quite often," laments Dr. Rajalakshmi holding the government responsible for the misuse.

"The Geneva Convention of 1864 strictly prohibits the commercial and personal use of the symbol, and also compels the signatory countries to formulate laws guaranteeing the right use of the Red Cross Emblem. This makes it the Government's responsibility to check on the use or the misuse of the emblem," concurs senior advocate (foreign collaboration) C. Mohan Chakraborty.

Says noted gastroenterologist, Dr. Nageshwar Reddy, managing director, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology, "I am not aware of any such laws against the symbol's use." Anyhow, Dr. Reddy does not use the Red Cross emblem on any of his vehicles, which bear stickers of a beacon light (like an Olympic torch) with wings and a coiled snake; the word `doctor' is written beneath. (This symbol, brought out by a paramedical company, is used by a lot of other doctors as well.)

Dr. Anil Benjamin of Gandhi Medical College Hospital, however, is firm . "The Red Cross is into humanitarian work and so are doctors. I don't see any reason why it is illegal to use a red cross on a white background. In fact, nobody has ever told me before about the same. Moreover, what have I to gain from an emblem?" he questions.

Former principal of Government Ayurvedic Medical College, Eragadda, Dr. Manik Rao has also expressed ignorance about the matter. Senior orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Harinath, on the other hand, says, "I am aware of the laws regulating the use of Red Cross emblem, and therefore, I use the Indian Medical Association (IMA) emblem. The government, however, should do more to sensitise medicos about the usage of the Red Cross emblem."