(Presentation by Maj. Gen. (rtd) Vinod Saighal* at the 18th IDPD-IPPNW World Congress, New Delhi on March 9, 2008)
“I locate the source of psychiatric ills in the conscious mind, rather than the unconscious.” (M. Scott Peck)
“Once the angel in us is repressed, he turns into a demon.” (Victor Frankl)
"The drug trade in the province of British Columbia generates an estimated $7 billion a year, creating a glitzy gang culture where, as a Vancouver policeman moans, “handguns are as ubiquitous as cellphones.”
‘Strife is rife’ is a note which one can strike wherever conclaves are held to find solutions to conflicts. In the case of the IPPNW global meets held every two years analysis of the situation on the ground from one conference to the next will show a marked tendency towards increased violence and breakdown of societal cohesion. While the lofty ideal of IPPNW remains universal nuclear disarmament, the nuclear prize winning world body has also chosen to include in its ambit the daily violence that subjects people to incomprehensible pain and bereavement, especially when the violence is visited upon innocent bystanders. While thus far the emphasis has been on the amelioration of the human condition, the time may have come, however, to take into account the savagery being perpetrated on Mother Earth, which is home to myriad other species that share the planetary home with humans and whose disappearance will deprive the most evolved being of much that is beautiful, enjoyable and worth living for in this bewitchingly fragile dot of sentience in the vastness of space.
In as far as it concerns the daily violence resulting from small arms the chances of seeing its lessening in this domain appear to be remote.
The Worsening Situation
The majority of comments on the proliferation of Small Arms (SA) list narco-terrorism as the factor contributing the most to their spread. While not disagreeing with that assessment, it would be pertinent to dwell upon some of the more proximate causes for the overall increase. Unless these other causes are addressed a state will soon be reached, wherein not only would the world have learned to live with the spread of small arms, they would become commonplace enough to cease being considered a menace. Should present trends continue small arms are likely to become passé. People, the world over, would have graduated to the next higher levels of lethality. Why should this be the case?
Simply put, it stems – first and foremost – from the compulsive need of military hierarchies to find more lethal ways of bringing about large-scale destruction. When the upper echelons of the violence ladder keep graduating to higher and higher indices of destructive lethality, there will invariably be a corresponding upward movement for all rungs of the ladder. What is being implied is that unless there is a drastic scaling down of the destructive weapons spiral at the top it would become well nigh impossible to prevent a corresponding up-movement at all other rungs of the ladder. The motive force of the destructive spiral of violence on the planet is ‘top down’ and not bottom up’.
NATO on its 50th anniversary in 1999, declared a policy of using pre-emptive warfare, averring that use of nuclear weapons was their right. In January 2008, five of the West’s most senior military officers and strategists stepped up a notch the move to war. They issued a manifesto calling for U.S. – dominated NATO to use pre-emptive nuclear attack, not in warfare, but to halt the “imminent spread of nuclear weapons.” As reported by Ian Traynor, writing for The Guardian from Brussels’ NATO headquarters, the manifesto calls for root-and-branch reform of NATO; a new pact drawing the U.S. and the European Union together in a “grand strategy” to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, since there is “no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world.” Their proposals are likely to be discussed at a NATO summit in Bucharest in April. Canada, as one of the founders of NATO, will be in on the discussion. The five authors of the alarming manifesto are a former chair of the US joint chiefs of staff and NATO’s ex-supreme commander in Europe; Germany’s former top soldier and ex-chair of NATO’s military committee; a former Dutch chief of staff; a former French chief of staff; and a British field marshal who is ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff. (Saskatchewan Peace News, Vol. 16, No. 1, February 2008)
Before this conference considers the means available to doctors to stop SA violence it would be worth looking at the current situation in order to assess where intervention might be feasible, as also its efficaciousness. That the situation is getting out of hand becomes apparent from the synopsis presented in the ensuing paragraphs. Since this conference is being held in the capital of India it would be in the fitness of things to first look at recent happenings in and around New Delhi. For the same reason while keeping in mind the universality of the phenomenon a greater emphasis is being put on its South Asian dimension.
An elite school close to the capital of India hit the headlines in 2007 when a student of class VIII was shot dead by two of his classmates. The incident was not uniquely Indian. The school shooting was reminiscent of shootouts in schools abroad. In 2002, two American children sprayed bullets on 120 of their classmates. An incident of classroom rage was also reported in Japan. At the Gutenbarg Grammar School the killer gunned down 13 teachers, two children and a policeman before shooting himself. It was described as “a national tragedy and Germany’s worst post-war massacre”. A recent UNESCO study highlights the increasing cases of crime and violence among schoolchildren. It is an issue that poses a serious challenge to both developed and developing countries. Researchers are in general agreement on a number of factors leading to juvenile delinquency: these include maladjustment born out of disturbed child-parent relationship, mother deprivation, broken or neglected homes, poor IQ, problems of adolescence, superiority or inferiority complexes, poverty and the like. A few facts relating to small arms invite attention:
- 12 persons die due to shooting everyday in India.
- Worldwide 1000 people die daily in gun related violence.
- Over 300,000 people are shot dead every year.
- Robin Cook (U.K.) once described small arms as ‘the basic method of mass killing over the past decade’
- There may be around 75 million guns in South Asia, out of which 63 million are thought to be in civilian hands. Pakistan could be having 20 million guns. In India the figure could well be higher.
- The weaponisation of society is increasing by the day due to the breakdown of social cohesion of society.
- In India it is difficult to trace the illegal production of domestic weapons. For example it is estimated that Bihar has over 1500 illegal manufactories.
- Annually, some 80,000 Russians die of drug-related causes. One in five crimes committed in Russia is related to drugs. About 45 per cent of Russian university students use drugs, according to Russian Minister for Education and Science Andrei Fursenko. He described the situation as “critical.” President Vladimir Putin has described the drug abuse problem in Russia as a “national calamity.”
- Guns are used to displace people from their homes; Guns enable the use of child soldiers; Guns hinder peacekeeping; Guns last for many years, and are frequently recycled between conflicts or crimes; Guns don’t respect borders.
In many areas of the subcontinent, notably across large tracts of Pakistan and north India, weddings seldom take place without the firing of guns in the air as part of the celebrations. The practice which was earlier limited to the feudal landlords has now proliferated to the affluent classes. It is one more example of the spread of gun culture. So rampant has this practice become that following repeated incidents of firing in the air during wedding processions and parties, in some instances resulting in deaths, the district magistrate of Gurgaon (near Delhi ) was obliged to ban the use of firearms during social functions.
The District Magistrate’s orders threatening prosecution under section 188 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) for any person found violating the ban does not seem to have had much effect on the overall situation. As per the records of the district administration the rate of issuance of gun licenses to individuals has gone through the sky. As against 61 and 95 licenses issued in 2004 and 2005 respectively, the district administration issued 249 licenses in the year 2006 and 302 in 2007.
The police aver that the department was under various kinds of pressure to issue gun licenses to individuals. The statement attributed to the police is hardly surprising in view of the fact that a significant number of members of parliament in New Delhi have criminal records, with the figure being much higher in the state legislatures. Seeing that all political parties keep accommodating even hardened criminals with a number of murder, kidnapping, dacoity and rape cases against them by giving them party tickets – ‘winability’ being the main criterion for allotting tickets – the chances of restricting or banning small arms is as close to zero as is the case in the USA. In the latter case the National Rifle Association (NRA) is such a powerful body that in spite of the number of killings in schools and colleges showing an alarming increase the NRA will simply not allow effective legislation to curb the menace.
In Pakistan drugs and weapons have been going hand in hand. During the Afghan war the vehicles of the army controlled ‘National Logistics Cell’ which used to supply arms to the mujahideen were used as drug carriers on their return journeys. A nexus was gradually formed between the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), independent warlords, military officers, drug barons and politicians. Names of various prominent political leaders have been linked with one drug syndicate or the other from time to time. A report published by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1993 titled “Heroin in Pakistan: Sowing the Wind” claimed that Pakistan was run by drugs and that heroin is becoming the lifeblood of Pakistan’s economy and politics. According to a Pakistani periodical the multibillion-dollar business fetches (or fetched for its dealers) revenue of over $ 8 billion. That it is wrecking Pakistan’s social fabric is well known. The drug money had corrupted the law enforcement agencies. There was also an exponential rise in the number of drug addicts in the country. The US and its allies who are operating in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region are taking the help of the narcotics mafia to track down the Taliban-al Qaeda cadres and leadership. The US is thus looking the other way. Afghanistan’s narcotics production and its global implications will require a separate paper, so far-reaching are its ramifications.
In Iraq there are 110,000 AK-47s, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor and 115,000 helmets intended for Iraqi security forces that, according to the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon cannot account for. According to some commentators by offering arms and bribes to Sunni insurgents – an initiative that has been far more important to the temporary reduction in the level of violence than the influx of additional American troops – US forces have affirmed the fundamental irrelevance of the political apparatus bunkered inside the Green Zone. Meanwhile, to fund the war, the Pentagon is using up somewhere between $2 to 3 billion per week.
In the U.K. around 90,000 jobs are linked to arms exports and military procurement supports around 10 per cent of manufacturing employment. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade has noted that Arms companies within the UK are thriving upon deliberately supplying opposing warring states. Not only are they allowed to do this but, as events like DSEI [an arms exhibition] show, the UK government is actively involved in promoting the opportunity to do it. The government routinely secures arms contracts with both sides of a confrontation through subsidies, promotions, arms exhibitions and ministerial visits. Indeed, the vast majority of people killed in wars are victims of small arms, about two million over the last decade alone. Britain has exported small arms to dozens of countries, issuing 1,500 small arms licences in the Labour government’s first year in office alone. (Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World, Mark Curtis)
What Exacerbates the Situation?
The grim reality in large parts of the world today is that the law and order forces that should be the bedrock for the efficacy of any gun control legislation or ban in the international trade in small arms are themselves part of the problem. Undisciplined and corrupt police forces, which use arms for extra-judicial killings are on the rise. Besides the international arms traffickers several military and police forces under dictatorial regimes or in countries that are badly governed themselves become conduits for gunrunning. Similar incidents had come to light in Kosovo. The increase in small arms has been so prolific that no legislation can be truly efficacious because small arms proliferation and its control comprises legislative, governance and societal issues, more so where law and order is seldom uniformly applied. The efforts of many countries that have shown a desire to check SA proliferation indicate that prolonged unrest or failed state conditions in countries that have contiguous borders makes the proposition a non-starter. Something similar is taking place in inner city ghettos where unhealthy neighbourhoods vitiate the societal environment.
The world is transiting through times that have enshrouded large portions of it in violence with the result that more and more people remain on a short fuse. In very many situations where verbal exchanges might have settled the issue in earlier days, today only guns do the talking. Absence of polite dialogue at all levels, i.e., within communities, between communities and between nations has led to inter-community inter-regional and international trust deficit. The need of the hour is definitely for cutting back on arms proliferation. Yet in many places states that have lost their monopoly on violence have actually started arming populations in areas where the writ of the state has been challenged by opponents of the regime or by anti-social, anti-national or supra-national elements – be they insurgents or religiously inspired radicals.
There is general consensus among regional analysts that in the subcontinent all types of threats need to be holistically addressed. These threats could be placed in different categories, namely: internal conflict, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism. Adding to it is the growing menace of trafficking in women and children. The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Anand, after releasing a report on an Action Research on Trafficking initiated by NHRC (National Human Rights Commission), said “Trafficking of women and children has today acquired the dimension of organized crime internationally and has become a very lucrative business with estimated profits of US dollar eight billion annually.”
Moving to other dimensions of the problem it needs to be said that in the majority of countries of the Third World or the world that became independent in the second half of the twentieth century, democracy has yet to take effective root. In all such societies where democracy is not present, or is ineffective, large sections of the people who feel marginalized are increasingly taking recourse to the bullet as a viable alternative to the ballot. Even in countries where democracy has taken root there still remain large tracts where there is an increasing demand for the more sophisticated SA, because justice is not being uniformly administered. It is axiomatic that where there is persistent demand supply channels ‘will’ get established, one way or the other. What emerges is that it is the failure of the state, more than anything else, that is responsible for the increase in demand for SA weapons from otherwise law abiding elements: for self-protection, for keeping at bay the henchmen of political parties who play an extortionist role, and for warding off so many other types of threats which the state is unable to deal with in an effective manner. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to state that in many countries - and several provinces in those countries can be singled out for special mention – the state itself, or its instrumentalities are seen to pose the biggest threat to the people’s well being. Bloated and corrupt bureaucracies, rapacious law and order forces and the venal political class have all combined to make the people bereft of hope for sustenance, or justice. Should the trend continue, SA proliferation cannot realistically be checked.
Hence the most efficacious response to SA proliferation and exploitation of children remains the restoration of ‘good governance’, or establishment of effective governance in parts where the state exists only in name or in the guise of uniformed instruments of brutality. It is not the intent here to single out any country in this regard. The state of affairs just described exists across the board, to a greater or lesser degree, in most countries where SA proliferation is taking place. It is felt that the most ineffectively governed states and, at the other end, the most repressive states, are likely to engender greater violence through an increasing reliance on the gun culture due to the criminal intimidation of the populace linked to political ‘warlordism’ raising its ugly head.
A connected phenomenon that has a bearing is the ‘ghettoisation’ of the elite – the political elite and the very moneyed class. In earlier times it used to be the ‘have nots’ who generally remained restricted to limited spaces called ghettos while the better off classes had the run of the place, the freedom to go almost anywhere without let or hindrance. What is seen in the present time is a grand reversal of what went before. That is to say, it is now the political elite and the big ‘haves’ who have become restricted to specific areas of cities, to their ‘gilded ghettos’ which, in a manner of speaking, remain ghettos no matter how beautiful the mansions or how manicured the lawns. Owing to the breakdown of the social cohesion of society, these privileged elements no longer enjoy the freedom to wander wherever they like.
It is this stratum of society – the privileged elite – that is equally to be held responsible for the spread of SA; the reason being that they are unwilling, or unable, to move about freely without heavily armed escorts. When the most privileged and, at least, hypothetically, the most secure element of any society ‘demands’ sophisticated weapons for its own protection by way of large security escorts they automatically induce waves of menace for the ordinary people as they move about. Since the upper echelons of any society are deemed to be the trendsetters it would only be a matter of time before other people start emulating this trend. What is true at the unit level – the unit being a town, province or state – is equally true at the global level. In the latter case the most secure nations of the world keep adding to their security, while the least secure can only hope for a more rational world order to emerge to bail them out. As in the case of nuclear weapons, so also in the case of small arms, the vertical proliferation is way beyond the horizontal proliferation that is taking place.
It is well appreciated that there is an increasing threat of terrorism around the world. But it is invariably the ordinary people who – being wholly dependent on the state for their security – bear the brunt of terrorist attacks. Should the state not afford adequate protection, sophisticated SA will continue to proliferate. In many cities around the world the police are abandoning large sectors of the city where the dregs of society or immigrant communities live to criminal gangs who terrorize the people living there. Tacit understanding exists between the police and local gangs. The latter are left alone if they restrict their operations to the confines of their ghettos. It leaves the people living within at the mercy of the local thugs. Here again, the day is not far off before newer groups acquire SA to protect themselves.
The next big causative factor is the horrendous population growth on the subcontinent and the concomitant destruction of the natural environment. This, in itself, becomes sufficient cause for societal violence and the spread of small arms. For, had the population of the subcontinent which was around nine hundred million or so at the beginning of the nineteen eighties decade, stabilized at around that figure or even at the billion level, many of the intractable problems that these nations face today - especially increased societal violence - would not have been there, or even if they had manifested themselves they would not have seemed intractable. The corollary to this statement would also hold good. Should the subcontinent’s population reach or exceed the 2 billion mark, governance in the subcontinent will become a near impossibility. In fact, the veneer of civilization would have disappeared from large swaths.
Today the subcontinent has reached such a stage of overpopulation that should it become technically feasible to project ten thousand people every day to a colony on the moon or Mars it would not make a dent in the population growth rate or lead to an improvement in livability in most parts. Cities bursting at the seams are a dimension of the problem that has not received sufficient attention; or a purposeful move towards its tackling. It is leading to a lowered quality of life for the majority of the subcontinent’s inhabitants and results in further breakdown of the social cohesion of society. If it remains unchecked it will lead to greater societal violence and sectarian conflicts as the resource base shrinks. The need to kill the others will no longer be met by the simpler variety of small arms being used today.
How Doctors Can Help: Promising Fields of Study
A review of the present situation around the world reveals that with each passing year there is a resurgence in societal violence - be it physical, mental or through the use of firearms and other destructive weapons. While governments and civil society organizations may have launched several initiatives to curb or limit the manufacture of several types of lethal weapons or to tighten the rules for their export or easy availability the effect on the ground has yet to be felt in the countries worst affected by violence. In fact, research into clandestine export of weapons by governments or their agents shows an annual increase; it goes hand in hand with their professed concern for the spread of such weapons. There have been instances where governments have gone to enormous lengths to hide their activities, which, had they become known to the public when such embargoed exports were taking place, would have caused such public outrage as to nip the illegal export in the bud. Unfortunately, the public is informed of the government deception much after the event, when the archives are made available to researchers or when persons who were in the government, especially the secret services, decide to publish their memoirs. Therefore, straightway a partial remedy to prevent illegal transfers and sales in cases where governments are the prime movers suggests itself. A secure global forum can be set up to encourage whistleblowers, who, confident of secrecy and security, could directly intimate the projected illegality so that preventive action could be taken through media exposure. Naturally, foolproof methods would have to be incorporated to protect the national identities of the persons concerned. There would be other lacunae that might crop up. These too would be resolved by global experts volunteering their services to make the “international whistleblowers forum” a success.
Excessive blood and gore in films is spreading. While it may turn off some of the older generation young people are automatically attracted towards it. And then, one day, out of the blue, without any warning to their family, friends, teachers, minders and keepers someone resorts to mindless violence. A deep catharsis takes place in the community where the violence occurred. In a few days, weeks, or months, people pick up the threads of their lives and go about their day chores, till a similar action takes place in another place. Shootings in schools and campuses are now becoming commonplace. As is almost invariably the case, the phenomenon first manifests itself in America and then spreads to other countries who slavishly emulate American trends.
A major study shows that children behave better, learn more and are better adjusted if their father is involved in their lives. Researchers found that a good relationship between youngsters and fathers had a positive effect that could last for two decades. In low-income homes, regular contact was also seen to lead to less juvenile crime. Anna Sarkadi, of Sweden’s Uppsala University, where the research was carried out, said: “Our detailed 20-year review shows that overall children reap positive benefits if they have active and regular engagement with a father figure. We found various studies that showed that children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes. Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical wellbeing at the age of 33, if they had a good relationship with their father at 16. It may seem obvious that what’s worked for centuries is good for individuals and society, but that’s what we found.” She added that the studies showed the value of the father’s input as a role model from babyhood to the teenage years. The review, published in the latest issue of the journal Acta Paediatrica, looked at 24 papers published between 1987 and 2007. (Mail Today, February 14, 2008)
A study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that teenagers were more likely than adults to overestimate risks for every outcome studied, from low-probability events like contracting H.I.V. to higher-probability ones like acquiring more common sexually transmitted diseases or becoming pregnant from a single act of unprotected sex. “We found that teenagers quite rationally weigh benefits and risks,” Dr. Reyna said in a recent interview. “But when they do that, the equation delivers the message to go ahead and do that, because to the teen the benefits outweigh the risks.” For example, she said: “The risk of pregnancy from a single act of unprotected sex is quite small, perhaps one chance in 12, and the risk of contracting H.I.V., about one in 500, is very much smaller than that. We’re not thinking logically; they are.”
For that reason, Dr. Reyna and Frank Farley, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and past president of the American Psychological Association, noted last June in an article in Scientific American Reports that traditional programs that appeal to teenagers’ rationality “are inherently flawed, not because teens fail to weigh risks against benefits,” but because “teens tend to weigh benefits more heavily than risks when making decisions.” (The New York Times; reproduced in The Asian Age, February 16, 2008)
It is becoming increasing evident that governments do not seem to be in a position to create the conditions that could bring down societal violence. Therefore, it will have to be organizations like the IPPNW, IDPD, like minded NGOs and concerned citizens around the world who will have to take up the challenge. It is unlikely that any major initiative on the part of these bodies can immediately bring the desired change. Nevertheless, informal studies and surveys conducted show that longer term remedies are in the offing should it be possible to draw the attention of all concerned to the initiatives that are harbingers of a few of the positive transformations that are being effected in the coming generation. Some of the more promising ones are discussed below.
Today none among the young could be seething with greater rage than the young people of the Tibetan Diaspora. The suppression visited upon their homeland for over half a century would have led any other body of youth to take up violence. Yet, while there may have been any number of protests there has not been a single terrorist act in India or elsewhere by the frustrated Tibetan youth. No doubt Buddhism and the persona of the Dalai Lama have kept them away from the type of violence perpetrated by other frustrated groups. In-depth analysis shows that the deeper reason for the exercise of self-control by the Tibetan youth stems from the pattern of education imparted to them in Tibetan schools. This is an important case study which could be taken up by IDPD and their conclusions intimated to IPPNW chapters around the world.
Another outstanding example of an education pattern that stabilizes the personality of growing children and one which allows them to confront violence with equanimity is the education pattern followed in Pondicherry by the Sri Aurobindo Society and their offshoots elsewhere in India and abroad. Auroville near Pondicherry, the international city based on the vision of the Mother (Sri Aurobindo’s successor) follows a similar system. A visit to Pondicherry and Auroville would convince a visitor that the products of such upbringing would hardly ever be party to mindless violence, regardless of provocation. In fact, the presence of the alumni of these institutions has a becalming effect on those around them.
In India institutions like the Krishnamurty Education Foundation or Mother’s International send a small, but steady stream of balanced and upright individuals into civil society as model citizens.
The role of the media in exacerbating adverse situations hardly needs reiteration. School or campus shooting was virtually unknown in India till quite recently. Like most other trends that are picked up and adopted around the world this one too spread from USA. When the first shooting incident in a school took place in Delhi/Gurgaon it could have turned out to be a one-off and people might have forgotten about it. However, the extensive media coverage led to people around the country, including rural areas becoming aware and the repetitive dissection led to copycat schoolboy shootings. Mercifully the trend to date is restricted to boys. The girls have not yet gotten into the act.
It is becoming painfully apparent that governments and the political elements that have gotten a stranglehold on the levers of power are not going to act decisively to eradicate this evil and several other scourges of a similar nature through enlightened legislation and, where such legislation exists, to enforce it. Therefore, here again it will have to be civil society and bodies like the IDPD (in India) that can mobilize public opinion to declare ‘small arms and drug free zones’, in localities where concerned citizens and the public have become sufficiently alarmed to follow through on this type of initiative. Examples abound in India - probably elsewhere as well - where women have banned the sale of liquour from their villages after an alarming spread of beatings, rapes and outrageous behaviour on the part of the drunken males. The example of the successful villages has been emulated at a number of places. Ultimately it is going to be many small actions by people who care that are going to change the face of society, for the better.
The same logic applies to toy guns that are an important contributory factor in children growing up hooked on more lethal weapons in their teens. It may be difficult to enforce national or international ban on the manufacture of video games and toys that psychologically orient young children towards violence by the type of games they play from infancy. Small groups, communities, school bodies, resident welfare associations can come together to make sure that these are neither displayed nor sold in their localities. Successful conglomerates like Sony Corporation whose video games have taken a hold on the global market and the imagination of youngsters can slowly phase out the more violent video games and challenge their brightest programmers to create games that would be equally exciting and yet lead children into becoming better citizens of tomorrow. The changeover would be a part of the corporate social responsibility of the multinationals that dominate the video games market.
Community television and arts are enjoying growing state funding to compete with private information sources. If the programmes for children are made more interesting, it follows that the young ones, with some encouragement from their parents and teachers, are going to gradually turn away from the more violent fare offered by commercial TV channels.
Last but not least, studies from several countries have shown that where yoga is taught to children from an early age and imbibed as a recurring practice in later life, such individuals are able to generally remain calm, eschew violence and have a steadying effect on society. Yoga emphasizes both mental and physical harmony and wellbeing. Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar has called yoga "a guiding pole star in enlightening the future
generations". Hence, the spread of yoga, which is already taking place, could be further encouraged by all organizations working to restore the social cohesion of society.
While the race for the planetary destruction sweepstakes continues unabated in the form of nuclear proliferation, weaponisation of space and the unending research into more lethal weapons of mass destruction it is humbling and humanizing that the quest for bringing relief to the daily suffering of millions of human beings around the world continues to remain foremost for those who have taken the Hippocratic Oath. Doubtless, numerous cases of malpractices by medical practitioners are reported daily in the media. City dwellers, or the portion of them who have become affluent, may be able to afford the exorbitant costs of treatment that is denied to rural folk and people in the lower economic rungs. However, in spite of this yawning chasm there are many doctors who go about quietly to administer to the needs of the most needy. Since they carry on their work selflessly and without fanfare they generally remain unknown. At least in India their numbers are legion. IDPD or Indian Doctors for Peace and Development are part of this selfless, self-effacing stream that serves humanity. In conclusion we fervently hope that their work and dedication continue to remain a beacon for the coming generation of medical practitioners.