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Legislators must renew role of AIDS war



Ashali Varma interviews Murli S.Deora

Legislators must renew role of AIDS war

Murli S .Deora is president of the Bombay Congress Party, and a powerhouse of Indian politics.  In his long career of public-service, Deora has also been Mayor of Bombay.  He is now associated with a number of international organizations, including parliamentarians for Global Action, and is emerging as a key spokesman for population and sustainable development concerns in developing countries. He recently talked with Ashali Varma of The Earth Times in New York. Excerpts from their conversation:

Why have you taken such a prominent role in the global parliamentarian’s movement?

It is important for India to be represented in the global parliamentarian system.  There are important issues at stake like environment, population, poverty and disarmament.  Indira Gandhi used to say that poverty was great polluter.  In India it is linked to over population.  Parliamentarians can influence government decisions and bring in legislation to solve some of these problems.

Regarding the issue of disarmament, what can parliamentarians do to achieve more control and less proliferation of arms in the Third World?

At the end of the Cold war, we see many regional conflicts and ethnic disputes.  These countries feel they have to buy arms to protect there borders.  Here again parliamentarians can play a vital role globally to pressure government to reduce money spent on arms.

What linkage is there between economic development and AIDS in Third World countries such as India?

AIDS will affect India tremendously.  It will be a drain on the country’s resources and will hamper economic development.  Unfortunately, there is very little awareness of the problem in India.  I have to admit that India has been slow to react to gravity of the situation.  Now we are trying to educate, inform and take charge of the situation, but not enough has been done. 

What specifically can parliamentarians do to increase global consciousness about AIDS?

Parliamentarians can help to enact laws that will help to increase awareness of the problem.  They can help to pass regulations in parliament to monitor hospitals and clinics and get more funds allotted to fight this disease.

What linkage is there between population pressures and AIDS?

Population has a direct linkage to the AIDS crisis in developing countries.  More children are born to the poor, who are most affected by this crisis.  This will result in many children being born HIV positive, and being orphaned at an early age, with no system to take care of them.

Poverty forces many people to sell their blood.  Is India taking steps to monitor blood collection centers?

I must confess a great deal more has to be done on this front.  There are a lot of professional blood banks and we are still not sure how well they check the blood or screen the donors.  We are trying to make it mandatory.  All of us are very concerned about this.

How can the role of the U.N system be made more effective in population, development and health matters?

The United Nations is like a world government.  It has a vital role to play in creating awareness of problems that are occurring around the world, and has been effective in solving them.  I personally think that the U.N and its various arms like UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA are doing a great job in developing countries. They reach out not only to governments but also to the people at the grassroots level.

With a new administration coming in Washington, what specific things concerning population and development would you wish to bring to Bill Clinton’s attention?

I was told that the Bush Administration had stopped funds to UNFPA.  I think President -elect Clinton will start it again.  This would be a positive move.  For the moment, I personally feel that Clinton should take care of country’s economy first.  He has to look after the internal problems before looking at global issues.  The world economy will adjust itself. I feel it is important for America to be strong economically and create jobs for its own people first.