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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 42, New Delhi, October 2, 2021

From the Archives: The mid 1970s investigation into secret US research projects in India | Chakravarthi Raghavan

Friday 1 October 2021, by C Raghavan


From: Mainstream, May 17, I975


On July 29, 1974, the Press Trust of India came out with a dispatch revealing the real face of dangerous American research projects under the cover of the WHO. These research outfits spread all over the country are actually meant to serve the Pentagon. The PTI had a hard time unearthing the misdoings of these projects because of the resistance of the Union Health Ministry and such bodies as the Indian Council of Medical Research. Previous to this, National Herald had published on February 11, 1972, an exposure under the caption “Science of Neo-Imperialism” by "A Scientific Worker”.

When the sensational PTI disclosures came up in Parliament on July 30, 1974. The Ministry of Health and Family Planning dismissed them as “tendentious, unfair and misleading”. But Parliament was obviously not satisfied with the Minister’s cavalier conduct and the Public Accounts Committee of the Lok Sabha took up the matter. Its Report presented to the house on April 28, 1975, has brought out the enormity of this menace of the so-called “research” projects conducted by Americans in this country.

The fact that this undoubted national service was rendered by the Editor-in-Chief Sri C Raghavan, and its Science correspondent, Dr K.S. Jayaraman, speaks volumes of their courage, sense of duty and patriotism. By all standards of purposeful journalism, this was indeed the scoop of the year. It has been a hard-fought battle against overwhelming odds. Mainstream, invited Sri C. Raghavan to describe how this battle was fought and is happy to Publish this account by him. EDITOR


The Story Behind WHO Exposure

by C. Raghavan

It took us nearly fifteen months of patient investigation, cross-checking all the leads, and reading up a great deal of technical material, to understand the ramifications of the various foreign-sponsored research activities in the country.

Our main effort centered on the Work of the Genetic Control of Mosquito Unit IGCMU), an outfit run by the World Health Organisation under an agreement with the Health Ministry in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and financed by the United States out of the PL-480 Rupees. In the course of our search for what was happening in the GCMU, we came across bird watching and bird studies. and study of arboviruses by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) under a variety of sponsorship and finance. Other schemes too came to our notice. the ultra-low volume (ULV) spraying at Jodhpur to deal with malarial mosquitos, and the microbial pesticide project at Pantnagar Agricultural University, the activities of John Hopkins University.

While it took us fifteen months to put together the story and issue it, it took the Minister just twenty-four hours or reading up on mosquitoes to dub the report as “tendentious, unfair and misleading".

It took nine more months of patient inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee before we were vindicated, and the Health Ministry indicted. In the process of digging up material to help the PAC’S investigation and present a picture of what goes on in this land of ours, we came across so much material that perhaps would ill book and almost read like a thriller.

The obstruction and noncooperation or the bureaucracy to our attempts to get at the facts did not come as a surprise to us, though my colleague Dr. K S Jayaraman, who did all the leg-work and reading and researching, was aghast, as a scientist, to find out that in the Health Ministry scientists and doctors could not freely discuss matter even an a scientific level without being afraid of action from the top.

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Read the full story below.

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