CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS UNITE TO PROTEST AMERICA’S PRESSURE ON INDIA
Call upon the Indian Government to not trade away the health of people
in India, and around the world
New Delhi, 22 January 2015
With trade and intellectual property rights featuring prominently in the agenda of US President Barack Obamas’ India visit, community and civil society groups are concerned that talks on these issues are rigged against affordable access to medicines for patients in India and around the world. This comes against the backdrop of ever increasing pressure from the US to dilute India’s intellectual property (IP)) system and thwart generic competition under the garb of promoting investment and economic growth in India.
Since PM Narendra Modi’s return from the US in September 2014, several developments indicate that the US is accelerating its effort to weaken India’s pro-poor patent laws. Within days the United States Trade Representative (USTR) launched an “Out of Cycle Review” of India’s IP regime which selectively targeted the areas of concern for US businesses.
Bilateral mechanisms have been set up through the US-India Trade Policy Forum and a series of meetings scheduled for the next year which will only serve to sustain US pressure on IP-related issues. “The institutionalization of bilateral engagement on IP-related issues provides the US government a platform to push the commercial interests of its corporations” cautioned Amit Sengupta, convenor of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (PHM India).
In an additional attempt to intensify pressure on the Indian government, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) launched an investigation on India. A second investigation was announced in October 2014, even before the report of the first investigation was released. The report, published in December 2014, one-sidely reflects US corporations’ stand which attacks the use of public health safeguards such as Section 3 (d) and compulsory licensing by India. Loon Gangte, President, Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) remarked that ”patent safegaurds under the Indian law are to key preserving the lifeline for millions of people living with HIV who are dependent on cheap generic drugs from India. More than 80% of ARVs used in developing countries are supplied by India. If the US succeeds with its bullying tactics, lives will be lost”.
“The result of the US pressure is obvious. The draft national IP policy released by the newly constituted goverment IP think tank is glaringly ignorant and promotes IP as the only solution for innovation and creativity in India, contrary to any evidence” lamented Anand Grover, Senior Counsel, Supreme Court and Director, Lawyers Collective. “The policy document is completely out of sync with India’s ground realities and her development needs”.
Dinesh Abrol, Convenor of the National Working Group on Patent Laws said “US demands have been crafted with the intention of imposing stronger IP norms on India, in line with the unceasing and false propaganda of US MNCs. In the Indian context, the promises of theTRIPS agreement signed twenty years ago have not borne fruit. The Government must not only reject the US demands but act proactively in to address the current public health challenges.”
In response to the ratcheting up of US pressure 40 civil society organisations, patient groups and community networks have raised a global petition rejecting US actions that could jeopardise India’s position as the pharmacy of the developing world. The petition has been supported by over 75 thousand individuals who will be directly affected by changes in India’s IP policies.