With reports of mysterious substances in letters reported from Delhi, Chennai and Kerala, the postal department is on an alert and is scrutinising all foreign mail closely. The Delhi-based National Institute of Communicable Diseases (nicd) is already testing four suspicious letters, including one delivered at the Apollo Hospital. The results are not out yet although officials say that most of these cases could be hoaxes.
But it has been enough to put the government on its toes. Prime Minister Vajpayee's principal scientific advisor, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, has been asked to assess the level of preparedness. The home ministry has taken charge as the nodal agency for chalking out a strategy to combat bio-terrorism along with the health department and defence establishments specialising in nuclear, chemical and biological war.