Rajya Sabha

July 31, 2019

Jogen Chowdhury appeals to the Chairman to take up discussion on ‘How to strengthen the media’. This notice was given by 15 parties almost one month ago  

Jogen Chowdhury appeals to the Chairman to take up discussion on ‘How to strengthen the media’. This notice was given by 15 parties almost one month ago  


Before beginning this Short Duration Discussion on cancer, let me make an appeal to the Chairman. Fifteen parties, comprising about half the strength of this House, had submitted a notice for a Short Duration Discussion almost four weeks ago. The subject was ‘How to strengthen the media, the fourth pillar of democracy’. This Government is running away from a discussion on this important topic. They don’t want to strengthen the media, they want to silence the media. 

Now to cancer. All of us know someone who has been impacted by cancer. I am an artist, Sir, and I will not give you statistics to measure the immensity of the problem. The courage and fights put up by our near and dear ones are imprinted in our minds and in our hearts. 

Yesterday we passed a Bill here to supposedly empower women. More women in India die from cervical cancer than in any other country. 

Have you done anything to protect our women?

Sir, HPV vaccine can prevent this. Why is the vaccine not a part of the National Immunisation Programme? Breast cancer counts for the highest number of deaths among women due to cancer due to the failure in diagnosing breast cancer in the early stages. 

Have you done anything to protect our women?

We will not accept this because both cervical and breast cancers are preventable, easily detectable and effectively treatable if detected early. 

Have you done anything to protect our women?

Oral cancer is the most common cancer among men and can be effectively prevented through tobacco control. Yet this Budget saw a decline in allocation to the Tobacco Control Programme and the Drug De-addiction Programme.

Let me share with you the initiatives successfully implemented by the Government of West Bengal. These support the cancer patients during their treatment as well as after their treatment. 

Since 2015, treatment of all types of cancer and blood disorders is completely free in Bengal’s state-run hospitals. This includes free medicine, free radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and free beds in all Government hospitals.

Five state-of-the-art linear accelerator (LINAC) machines for external beam radiation treatment for cancer patients are under installation, and are being tested, in three medical colleges. 

Additionally, three tertiary cancer centres at a total cost of Rs 93 crore are being set up at Burdwan Medical College and Hospital, Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital and College of Medicine & Sagore Dutta Hospital. A Regional Cancer Centre (RCC), with a project cost of Rs 47 crore is coming up at Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata. The Bengal Government is setting up state-of-the-art cancer centres in three cities – Murshidabad, Bardhaman and Kolkata. Every State should have these dedicated units focusing on research and treatment of cancer. 

In India 65 per cent of the total expense on healthcare is out-of-pocket expenditure. This adversely affects the treatment-seeking tendencies of people. To enable a more accessible healthcare framework, the Bengal Government’s group health protection scheme, Swasthya Sathi, started in 2017, has basic health coverage for secondary and tertiary care up to Rs 1.5 lakh per annum per family through insurance mode and up to 5 lakh for critical diseases including cancer.

Further, follow-up chemotherapy for cancer is provided on a day-care basis at the district hospitals in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Howrah, Nadia, Murshidabad, Purulia, Paschim Medinipur and Purba Bardhaman. Setting up of similar facilities at other district hospitals is underway. 

Honourable Chairman, there are gaping holes in our current policies and therefore it isn’t surprising that these policies are failing. We have enough numbers reflecting the urgency of the issue. Do we need more proof to convince the Government? I hope the Government of India will take steps in line with the Government of Bengal, which has successfully and effectively intervened in the cancer crisis we are collectively faced with. 

Thank you.