Special Correspondent

  • National embarrassment: Nilotpal Basu
  • MNC interest disguised as national interest: Raja

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

    The Government had asked the former chief 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 lifted from a document funded by MNC pharmaceutical companies and reflected their views on the two issues.

    Demanding the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee to examine the two issues limiting pharma 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 news conference here 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 Communist Party of India (Marxist) 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 the 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 panel recommendations ran counter to reviews by noted bodies including the World Health Organisation, the South Centre and the U.K. Government.

    The former CSIR chief was even a member of some of these committees and expressed views which 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.