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Truth behind child beggars

All of us know that children are the future of a country. But it is sad to see that our country is facing an ever-increasing child beggar menace. It is a common sight to see children begging in buses, railway stations and other public places.

Recently when I was travelling in a bus a boy of about 10 years of age got in and started begging. He was dressed well, looked quite smart and seemed intelligent. When he asked for a rupee or two from me, I asked him in which school he studied. He did not answer but got down soon, as only a few in the bus were convinced enough to give him something.

Although we do give older beggars money out of compassion, it is my strong belief that that we should not encourage children to beg. It is true that if children are in need, we need to give them priority and help them before helping others, but begging should not be promoted among them at any time.

What we need to be concerned about is whether these children are really in need or whether they or those who compel them to beg misuse the money, how it will affect their young minds, personality, social status and education, and whether they are forced into begging by parents or any other persons.

Whatever the reason may be, being pushed to beg affects the child in various ways. As a child he would not be of a proper mental state to study or move in parallel with other children in society.

These children involved in begging tend to let it become a habit of it and do not want to get away from it even when they are in a position to earn their own living and / or placed in a good environment. Child beggars are more vulnerable to social vices such as child abuse.

When they grow older, not being used to hard work and not being properly educated will deny them of any decent occupation. Thus, the only and easiest mode available to them to get money would be begging or still worse, stealing.
There have been many cases where the child may be hired by someone who in return gives him a small amount. This is done through an organised begging network, which operates in Colombo and most suburbs.

Under the United Nations Convention on Rights of a Child, every child has the right for survival, development, protection, education, etc, He also should have proper food, clothing, rest and recreation to grow up into a good citizen. Above all proper guidance is important.

It is known that using children for labour is a criminal offence. But as a matter of fact, child begging is a much more dangerous issue than child labour. The child beggar menace should be taken seriously by policy makers as a matter of concern.
As concerned adults we need to be more alert and vigilant about these helpless and innocent victims of child begging.
S.N. Fernando


Disease mongers

Disease Mongers - how doctors, drug companies and insurers are making you feel sick- by Medical Journalist Lynn Payer provides interesting reading. Some knowledge of medical terms will help the reader to fully understand his message.

References are all to the USA, but most facts are quite relevant to Sri Lanka and, may be, to other countries as well. The book deals with how specialists fight with other specialists over the right to treat certain types of diseases, how doctors are scared of being accused of malpractices and therefore insist on a plethora of clinical tests which are often not at all essential and, can even be harmful and may present risk to life. Some tests such as angiogram and colonoscopy (both of which the writer has gone through) can cause damage to internal organs. Acting on the results of tests doctors prescribe, further tests, or treating patients prescribing drugs that are totally unnecessary, is the reason that quite a lot of doctors donít know how to even interpret the test reports.

The pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable in the USA; drug companies promote the sale of their drugs through doctors who are well looked after by them through health magazines and health symposia attended both by doctors and the public.

The electronic monitoring of the fetus, though highly praised, can cause cerebral palsy of the child. There has also been an increase in the number of caesarean operations, even when the child can be delivered without a problem in the normal way. This is one ruse by certain surgeons to drive fear into unsuspecting mothers in order to make a fast buck. Thus, treating patients is big business in the USA and doctors and drug companies connive together.

Several case studies have shown adverse side effects from pain ≠killers, known as non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), which have caused 2600 deaths and 20,000 hospitalisations each year. The author also accuses doctors of organising aches and pains that are widespread into disease leading to treatment.

The situation in Sri Lanka is not far different. For example, several years ago, a certain doctor prescribed drugs worth Rs. 11,000 for gastritis (today they will cost double) and the patient, or rather the victim, bought only half the quantity on the good advice of the (qualified) pharmacist.

The caesarean operation has become a very common one. Whether the surgeons are totally responsible for this, or are Ďaided and abettedí by mothers, who donít want to experience the pangs of child birth and those who want to have their children born before January 31, so that he/she may mot have to wait ten to eleven months without a school, is riot really known.

Discerning and well informed readers understand how, some Sri Lankan doctors exploit patients to amass wealth, with the connivance of drug companies. Yet our Minister of Health has failed to issue a gazette notification giving effect to the National Drug Policy proposals, approved by cabinet over three years ago. His excuse, according to Dr. B. A. Fernando of Modara, is that the consultants are pressing him not to implement the law!!

The sixty four million dollar question is: whose well-being is more important to him - that of the twenty million people; or that of the few thousand (less than five thousand) doctors and why the cabinet and, the president, in particular, has not ensured that the minister implements the proposals?


Sri Lankaís deplorable railway system

At a recent public meeting, the Hon. Minister in charge of Railways challenged that if he is unable to develop the railway he will resign. We hope it will not pave the way for him to go home after one year, if he fails to deliver the goods as Minister of Transport.

Every minister in all successive governments has been promising to improve the system, but it never happens. When a new minister is sworn in, the trade unions take him round to show the wanton wastage of the former government. The new minister promises to rectify all wrong doings and assures the public that, as the new minister he will improve and provide a better service. How many ministers have given this type of assurance?

All those running the railways are responsible for the present deterioration from labourer to the top administrator. The trade unions too, are responsible for inefficiency and corruption. The minister calls for public support to develop the system, the members of the trade unions, who promise the minister much needed cooperation, subsequently finds them in trade union action. The very membership of the trade unions are the king pins of corruption in the railway.

They turn a blind eye when valuable parts are pilfered from carriages parked in the yards. Vandalism like cutting of seat covers, removing of fans and other gadgets fixed to compartments are on the increase. The public witness these acts but never complain to the authorities, fearing reprisals.

Railway property has been encroached by people with political affiliations. All commuters who use the main line, the coastal line, the Puttalam line and the KV line will bear witness to these encroachments.

The railway tracks are totally neglected and no maintenance done. In the old days these tracks were well maintained and cleaned. The sides of the railway track had enough space to lay two or more tracks for development.

Untidy polluted railway stations appear to be like ruins of the past. Walls have never being colour washed. Roofs are leaking and platforms are ill lit. Furniture in the waiting rooms are decayed and broken. Platforms are never cleaned and maintained. Labourers have become masters and the masters have become labourers. In the past, railway stations were kept clean and tidy. Rows of beautiful flower plants pruned and well maintained. The carriages were clean and well illuminated. Destination boards were exhibited on the side of the carriages.

The Station Master neatly clad in spotless white uniform was always with a smiling face. The railway guard immaculately dressed in spotless white trouser and black serge coat. These were the good old days with no diesel engines and fast trains.

Today, we do not see any improvement, the staff is so impolite and shabbily dressed, railway compartments are never cleaned, the railway stations are like ruins, the hooligans and thugs who board trains are never disciplined. Railway security is so inefficient that, beggars and other elements are a nuisance to the train commuter. Today we have derailments, cancellations and trains not running to time, constant revision of time tables. When trains are terminated at Fort or Maradana, there are no connecting trains to destinations beyond. Office workers are invariably detained at these stations for want of a connection to destinations beyond Fort or Maradana.

Trains do not run to time and it is common knowledge that most trains are overcrowded. It is a sad sight to see school children who are unable to board crowded trains beg the guard to allow them to get into the guard van being blatantly refused. They have to take the next train and when they reach school they are late and punished by the school authorities for getting late through no fault of theirs.

When trains are overcrowded it takes time for passengers to board and get off, before they could do so, the train pulls. We have seen commuters getting injured in this exercise
We hope that the ministerís aspirations will be realised within the one year period, to rectify burning issues and give a better service to the public, then only we can congratulate him.
Lenin Jayasinghe
Ihalakaragahamuna - Kadawatha


Western Democracy outdated in Pakistan

The pantomime being played out in Pakistan is amusing indeed. It is not the first time this comic tragedy is occurring. For instance, in the l960s, President General Ayub Khan was at conflict with his Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. President Ayub Khan sought support from the US while Bhutto sought support from the people. Bhutto was temporarily defeated and jailed; later President Ayub handed power to another military man General Yahya Khan. Within a year, the fight among Yahya, Bhutto and Sheik Mujibur Rahman, a popular politician from East Pakistan, led to the break up of the country with the connivance of India.

Bhutto assumed power at the beginning of the 1970s and ruled with an iron - fist for seven years. In early 1977, after Bhutto was re-elected, the opposition cried foul. This time Bhutto was trapped; he could neither seek US support nor could he seek popular support. The US and the combined opposition (in the form of the Pakistan National Alliance) captured and capitalised on the discontent of the people. Eventually the military took advantage of the situation and overthrew Bhutto, General Ziaul Haq took power.

The conflict between Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry and President Musharaff is not unprecedented: in 1998 Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff, a businessman groomed in the 1980ís, by the army and security agencies, fought with Chief Justice Saiiad Ali Shah and his party goons stormed the Supreme Court building.

In 1999, the simmering fight between President Musharaff and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif became public after the Kargil fiasco. Musharaff sent his forces deep inside Kargil in Indian held Kashmir against Indian Forces, to destabilize Nawaz Sharif and his policies and disrupt the budding India - Pakistan relations. When Nawaz Sharif acted and deposed Musharaff as army chief, the army counter attacked, overthrew him and installed Musharaff in power.

What is most disturbing for the US, Musharaff, Bhutto, Nawaz Shariff, and the secularists are, that these Islamic militants aligned with the Taliban are getting stronger by the day.

The recent suicide bombings which have left thousands dead, is a dreaded weapon in the hands of those who oppose Musharaff, Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, the US and the secularists. These numerous suicide bombings that have proliferated since January this year have targeted the security forces, the police, Aftab Sherpao the Interior Minister, Musharaff (recently in Rawalpindi) and Benazir Bhutto.

The battle between the militants and the army is escalating, it is a sign for mayhem and chaos like in Iraq. It is only a matter of time before the US armed forces get involved in this confrontation.
Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and named the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Although its rulers from the beginning up to today had Muslim names, they did not and do not abide by Islamic principles precipitating separation (Bangladesh) defeat at the hands of India.

What is disconcerting about the Islamic Movements of Pakistan which want to establish the Sharia and Islamic form of government is that they are pro - Taliban. Their atrocious acts brought down the divine image of Islam and these actions alienated many people, more than they attracted. In most Muslim societies today, there is little understanding of Islam, the functions of a Islamic State and how to go about establishing one. Unfortunately, most Muslims understand Islam primarily in terms of restrictive laws concerning personal behaviour. The much larger questions of political legitimacy, social and economic justice are seldom discussed.

If the Islamic Movement in Pakistan follows the methodology of Imam Khomeini (RA) who founded the Islamic Government in Iran, they will doubtless succeed in establishing a genuine Islamic Republic of Pakistan which will be a force to reckon with.
Saybjan Samat


Those who cross over should be eliminated

This refers to S.B. Dissanayakeís interview. It is ridiculous to hear that politicians who cross over should be protected.
If you go deep into this issue, history will show that politicians who crossed over are the destroyers of Sri Lanka. They have crossed over for their benefits, not on behalf of the country.
All these people should be eliminated from Sri Lankan politics. They are cunning people and they have destroyed our country.


No free visas from India inspite of SAARC resolution

While India refuses to honour their obligations to adhere to SAARC resolutions with regard to free visas, Pakistan has displayed not merely their friendship to Sri Lanka but also respect to the SAARC resolution, by announcing visa-free facilities to Lankans visiting Pakistan. Why is India continuing with her obstinate stand despite pleadings from Lankan citizens - regularly published by the English newspapers here pointing out the corruption and the large sums of money involved to obtain Indian visas. Surely it is time India showed some sensitivity to the continuing suffering of Lankan visa applicants queuing in increasing numbers at the IHC gates from dawn.
Thank you Pakistan for your friendly action. Mother India are you hearing our pleas?
S. Rajaratnam
Colombo 6







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