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Thursday, June 14, 2007

IIPM Press Release :- Stop! Red Light!


Truckers to be careful on the highway... in ways more than one!

AIDS is that four letter word that usually spells death or a short life of extreme pain, and not always physical alone, as the body withers away against the onslaught of the killer. With no known cure, the disease that has reached pandemic proportions in some parts of the world, is so debilitating that the infected are usually left with little option other than awaiting their fate – their final date with death. Against such a determined killer, the logical response should ideally be of similar, if not greater, magnitude but alas, from our political parties and busy ‘culture police’, that would be expecting a little too much.

What happened in New Delhi on 16th April during a campaign to create awareness about HIV/AIDS amongst the trucker community was an apt demonstration of putting the cart before the horse. The absurd brouhaha raised over the Richard Gere-Shilpa Shetty kiss while the original hero of the truckers – Sunny Deol – looked on, turned out to be nothing better than what Gere described it himself before the apology – a ‘circus’! Not only did our self styled ‘culture cops’ scoff at what was nothing more than an exaggerated gesture of friendliness, they also ended up trivializing the cause for the benefit of the assembled 4,000 odd truckers, losing it in the moral melee.

AIDS is a growing problem in India with 1 in every 200 already infected, making it the country with the second highest number of HIV infections after South Africa. This pernicious proliferation owes a lot to the 6 million truckers and their helpers plying on the national highways. Away from homes and wives for long periods, the promiscuous ways of these truckers, added to which their ignorance and reluctance about condoms, render them at a high risk of contracting AIDS. They, in turn, go on to infect their wives, and later, children. This mirrors the classic pattern of the spread of AIDS in Africa, where it was the lorry drivers who first contracted the disease and then passed it on to their families. Even today, in parts of Africa, where there are lower incidences of HIV and AIDS, are those that have no or fewer highways. According to UN estimates, India is not far from surpassing South Africa at the dubious record of maximum AIDS and HIV cases in the coming decade.

At Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, Asia’s largest transport hub on the outskirts of Delhi, 7,000 truckers from all over India converge each day to haul freight to and fro from the capital. This is also where they solicit the services of prostitutes operating from the truck stops for as little as Rs. 30! With most of the intimacy being unprotected, it’s not uncommon to see long queues in front of the solitary STD clinic of the area. Gonorrhea and Syphilis are common, but in recent years, AIDS too has joined the list. About 15% to 18% of truckers tested here have been diagnosed to be HIV positive, which isn’t any less an alarming prospect considering the scenes at many other such transport hubs across India. What is needed, perhaps now more than ever, is to combat this looming catastrophe with creating awareness among truckers about the risks unprotected sex exposes them and their families to. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Richard Gere wanted to do.

Edit bureau: Amarpal Malhi

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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2007

IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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