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Mashelkar in the eye of a storm

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Dr. R.A. Mashelkar
Dr. R.A. Mashelkar

Special Correspondent

Left and intellectual property rights experts want report on patents scrapped

  • A national embarrassment: CPI (M) leader Nilotpal Basu
  • MNC interest disguised as national interest: CPI leader Raja

    NEW DELHI: The Left parties and experts on Thursday demanded scrapping of the Mashelkar Committee report on patents and asked the Union Government to reject any proposal from its members to rewrite the "plagiarised" and "pro-multinational corporation" paper.

    The Government had asked the former Director-General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) R. A. Mashelkar and four other "experts" to examine Left objections to the new legislation on patents.

    However, key portions of the committee report were found to be lifted from a document funded by MNC pharmaceutical companies and reflected their views on the two issues.

    Demanding appointment of a joint parliamentary committee to examine the two issues limiting pharmaceutical patents to a chemical entity, and, in case of substantial improvements, excluding micro-organisms from the patents regime -- leaders of the Left parties told a press conference here on Thursday that public health implications were too serious for the issue to be left to another expert committee.

    "It is a big shock that such a high-level committee has indulged in plagiarism. It is a national embarrassment because developing countries look to India for intellectual leadership. The Prime Minister can't accept the offer [to rewrite the report] by Dr. Mashelkar," said CPI (M) leader Nilotpal Basu.

    "He is pursuing a policy hostile to the scientific community. The entire exercise seemed to be to serve the interest of MNCs. Worse than plagiarism is the fact that MNC interest has been disguised as national interest," said CPI national secretary D. Raja.

    Experts Vandana Shiva, Meera Shiva, B. K. Keyala, Dinesh Abrol and S. P. Shukla pointed out that the crux of the Mashelkar Committee recommendations ran counter to reviews by noted organisations including the World Health Organisation, the South Centre and the British Government.

    The former CSIR Chief was even a member of some of these committees and expressed views that were contrary to those contained in the report to the Indian Government. With 80 per cent of Indians paying for medical expenses out of their pocket and the government spending just under one per cent of the gross domestic product on the health sector, a rise in drug prices would badly hit the vulnerable sections.

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