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Ignorance is not bliss

Tahir Amin is shocked that nobody has raised their voice against patenting of drugs

— Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

Tahir Amin: `The Government is going ahead with patenting, and the public seems to have no clue.'

MOST PEOPLE probably don't know what a patent is or are just not interested, and sometimes I can't blame them because it is a rather dull topic. But when I read about how patents on medicine and drugs could potentially increase the price the public might have to pay, then of course I am interested, especially so when I heard that on December 26, 2004, the Government had quietly slipped through an ordinance to amend the Patent Act 1970.

Sadly, the reaction, or lack of, by the public and so-called opposition MPs to the Patent Ordinance just shows how secretive the Government has been on this whole issue from the very start. Apart from the informed lobby groups, I don't believe there has been any government debate or, more importantly, a public debate about how the new patent regime might increase the price of medicine, or not as the case may be, and what effect it might have on the average citizen of India.

In my mind, the passing of the ordinance is the Governments way of saying, "Hey, you public don't know anything about patents so we will just carry on in our merry way and change the laws as we please without needing to tell you about what the implications are."

Well, patents might be a rather tedious and dull topic, but when the government is passing a law, which potentially could affect how much I could be paying for medicines, then I want to know and I would hope most of the general public would as well.

The public and the MPs who are supposed to represent us in Parliament need to open a debate on the Patent Ordinance for the sake of their own understanding, and to ensure the Government does not slyly bring in new laws that only appear to serve the interest of the corporates and not the citizens. It's at times like this that I realise that India is not the world's largest democracy that it claims to be.

TAHIR AMIN

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