Shehla murder case: Trial adjourned till April 10 #Vaw #RTI


My Friend Shehla Masood

My Friend Shehla Masood

March8, 2013, PTI

The Special CBI Court today adjourned the trial in the Shehla Masood murder case till April 10 as the new CBI prosecutor sought time to secure documents on call details in connection with the case from private telecom companies.

Special CBI Judge Anupam Srivastava adjourned the trial till April 10 after the new CBI prosecutor, Atul Kumar, submitted a request for seeking time to secure original documents on the call details from private telecommunication companies, including Reliance.

The call details, believed to be among the accused and other people connected with the case, were part of the chargesheet filed by CBI last year.

Accused Saba Farooqui’s defence counsel Sunil Srivastava told reporters that he had objected in the court the demand of the new CBI prosecutor, who did not come prepared on the matter and sought more time to delay the trial.

“A change of prosecutor by the investigating agency would not affect the case, and it appeared that the CBI is avoiding appearance of prosecution witnesses as was evident in the previous trials too,” Srivastava alleged.

As the prosecution witness could not furnish original call records documents cited as evidence during the hearing in the case on February 13, the court had then postponed the trial for today.

All five accused in the case – Zahida Parvez, Saba, and three alleged shooters Saquib Ali ‘Danger‘, Irfan, and Tabish were present in the court.

Till now Hemant Shukla, CBI’s senior public prosecutor, was handling the case since filing of chargesheet.

Masood was shot dead outside her house in Bhopal‘s Koh-E-Fiza locality on August 16, 2011.

 

#India- BILL VS ACT: Confusion over sex crime laws #Vaw #Womenrights


Manoj Mitta | TNN

Persisting differences within the Cabinet on the rape Bill will not just make it harder to replace the ordinance on rape laws before it lapses in less than a month (April 4)—the government may also have to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (PCSO) which was passed by Parliament just 10 months ago. This is because the differences over the rape Bill, however they are resolved within the Cabinet and in the two Houses, are unlikely to remove all the anomalies thrown up by the hurriedly drafted ordinance promulgated last month following the outrage over the Nirbhaya gang rape.
The inconsistencies between the sexual offences pertaining to adults and children underscore the failure of policymakers to think through the provisions. Consider the extent of the legislative mess that remains to be cleared on so crucial an issue as gender crimes.
AGE OF CONSENT|This is one of the sticking points because PCSO had, in a controversial move, raised the permissible age for consensual sex from 16 to 18 years. Then, in a bid to make the statute book consistent, the government introduced a legislative proposal on December 4, increasing the age of consent to 18 even in the general law, the IPC. But the J S Verma Committee, set up in the wake of the Nirbhaya incident, applied a corrective by recommending that the age of consent remain 16 as it has been for over seven decades. The government, however, disregarded this advice. While the parliamentary standing committee endorsed the government’s stand, feminist groups demanded that consensual sex among teens should not be criminalised unless the age gap was more than four years. The upshot is that if the government decides to retain the age of consent in IPC at 16, it will have to amend PSCO to bring it in alignment with the new policy.
GENDER-NEUTRALITY
|The government is also under pressure to depart from the radical approach adopted in the ordinance where the term “rape” was replaced with the broader, genderneutral offence of “sexual assault”. The ordinance is contrary to the Verma report as well as the demands made by feminist groups. The argument in favor of retaining the term “rape” as a crime committed by men is that the gender-neutral provision will make women, “the real victims”, even more vulnerable to sexual crimes. The possibility of counter-complaints against women would have a chilling effect on their ability to seek legal remedy after being subjected to sexual offences. If it does not abandon its gender-neutrality proposal, the government runs the risk of enacting a law that is opposed by the very section it is meant to protect.
MARITAL RAPEPCSO and the ordinance are at odds on this issue. PCSO, which applies to all children below 18, makes no exception for the rape of a girl by her husband. But marital rape is penalized by the ordinance only when the wife is below 16. The wives above 16 are statutorily barred from accusing their husbands of non-consensual sex. This one-sided restriction means that a husband can accused wife of rape while the wife can make such an allegation only if she is below 16.
LESSER PUNISHMENT FOR CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN
This is a reversal of the global pattern of prescribing greater punishment for crimes against children. Consider some of the anomalies that need to be fixed. While the minimum punishment in PCSO for a non-contact sexual assault is seven years, the minimum in the ordinance for the same offence is 10 years. If the offender touches the private parts of a girl under 18, the punishment under PCSO ranges from three to five years. But if the victim is a woman over 18, then the punishment under the ordinance ranges from 10 years to life imprisonment.

MUDDLE GROUND

 


One billion rising for Soni Sori and all women prisoners

Stand up for Soni Sori

sonidna

DNA, March 8, 2013

Soni Sori, a young adivasi teacher from Chhattisgarh, has been in police custody since October 2011. She was arrested in Delhi on October 4, 2011 and charged with being a conduit between the Essar Group and Maoists. She was taken to the Dantewada police station, where she was allegedly raped and tortured with stones inserted into her vagina and rectum.

Suppressing the voice
Sori has been outspoken while questioning human rights violations by police and security forces in Chhattisgarh. “The Chhattisgarh government wants adivasis to stop organising, agitating or protesting abuse of human rights,” Himanshu Kumar, member of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said.
“Once labelled Maoists, terrorists or something equally convenient the system finds it easy to go after them,” says Kamayani  Bali Mahabal

Roll of shame

Dantewada SP Ankit Garg who Soni Sori has named as responsible for the sexual torture

View original post 198 more words

#India- Kerala church bans Suryanelli rape victim #Vaw #Censorship #WTFnews


By, TNN | Mar 7, 2013,

Kerala church bans Suryanelli rape victim
Women’s rights groups staging protests against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien, a fortnight ago, outside Parliament demanding his resignation over the Suryanelli gangrape case.
 KOCHI: A Catholic church in central Kerala has banned the Suryanelli gang-rape victim and her relatives from entering the church.

St Francis Xavier Church at Sachivothamapuram near Kurichy in Kottayam district is said to have issued the directive two weeks ago. The church falls under Vijayapuram diocese and was established in 1906.

As the residents in the area have come to know the identity of the victim and her family, it is better that they should stay away from the church until all the problems related to the case are resolved, the church is said to have ordered.

The victim had recently lodged a police complaint and a petition before a local magistrate court for probe against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien alleging that he had raped her. However, the court had last week dismissed the girl’s plea for investigation against Kurien.

The victim’s plea was based on revelation by lone rape convict, advocate Dharamarajan of Idukki.

Catholic church’s own news service, Union of Catholic Asian News, had recently described the victim as a “16-year-old Catholic schoolgirl” and Kurien as “a Kerala Christian and Congress party leader”.

In an interview to a news channel, Dharmarajan had stated that Kurien went to a guest house at Kumily in his car and that the girl was raped there.

The case relates to a 16-year-old schoolgirl being sexually abused by around 42 men over 40 days after abducting her and transporting her across Kerala.

On January 31 this year, the Supreme Court had quashed the Kerala high court‘s mass acquittal in the sex racket case granting benefit of doubt in January 2005. The high court had let go of all the accused except Dharmarajan, who was found guilty of sex trafficking.

 

#India- Celebrating women’s solidarities! Resisting cultures of violence! #Vaw #Womenrights #womensday


We have all recently witnessed unprecedented response to a young woman’s brutal gang rape and eventual death. The public anger and mass grief it triggered finally pushed our government to take action. Such is the power of people’s resolve!

Yet, sexual assaults and violence continue unabated across the country, from everyday instances of sexual harassment like stalking, touching and staring to violence at home and at the work place. Sexual violence against women from Dalit and Adivasi communities, religious minorities and the differently abled, and people marginalised on the basis of gender and sexuality is being invisibilised. There is reluctance to recognise marital rape (committed by a “trusted” partner) as a crime. Sexual abuse and torture by security forces in Kashmir, North-East and Chhattisgarh (including custodial violence) enjoy state impunity.

The Justice Verma Committee introduced many critical recommendations like command responsibility for custodial rape. Many of these suggestions have been overlooked by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013. One big lacuna is the proposed gender neutrality of the accused. Unlike in existing law where the accused is male, the new Bill makes it possible for women to be charged with these offences. In a culture known for its anti-women positions and acute gender inequalities, this clause makes a mockery of sexual violence (including rape) against women. We demand that this be changed immediately!

Public ferment against sexual violence is being projected as a call for death penalty. We strongly condemn any retributive justice practised by the state, and appeal that any form of punishment function within the ambit of human rights and justice. We call upon the Government of India to join the overwhelming majority of nation states that have abolished death penalty.

Sexual assaults are but a part of a wider spectrum of cultures of violence that entail discrimination against women. Honour crimes and killings, khap panchayat diktats, attacks on women’s autonomy, neglect of women’s health, women workers’ lack of social security, and neoliberal policies that oppress poor women in multiple ways are all the result of anti-women attitudes. Patriarchal institutions like religion and community lose no time in calling for curtailment of women’s freedoms in the public sphere in the name of safety. The “Din Hamara Raat Hamari Abhiyan” or Take Back the Night Campaign is a rejection of such moral policing that impinges on women’s right to full participation in society.

The International Women’s Day is an enduring symbol of women’s solidarities and struggles against injustices. On this occasion, we salute the fighting spirit of sisters from across the nation including Soni Sori in a Chhattisgarh jail, Irom Sharmila in a Manipur hospital, “Suryanelli” battling a 17-year old case in Kerala and many unnamed women challenging the capitalist-state nexus in Orissa and other parts of Central India. We raise our voices against all such violations.

We invite people from all walks of life to join us in remembrance, resistance and celebration of women’s extraordinary achievements. Let us collectively resolve to fight for women’s justice, dignity and autonomy.

Lend your voice and support to women’s movements that have been working in multiple directions: from consciousness raising to supporting women’s facing violence, from law reform to challenging traditional notions about women’s roles, opposing caste-communal violence to supporting women’s political participation and so on. Significant work continues to be done to challenge prejudices against women with disabilities and people of different genders and sexualities. Thanks to such efforts, women have achieved major strides in redefining family and inheritance, political participation, legal reform vis-à-vis domestic violence, dowry deaths, and adverse sex ratio.

Resolve to end injustice and violence against women!

Stand up for women’s rights!

Brief overview of the women’s movements in India

* 1848: Savitribai Phule started girls’ schools, defying threats by feudal forces (?)
* 1885: Rukhmabai chose prison over marriage as a child bride & studied to be a doctor
* 1940s: Telengana women part of militant struggles for land and freedom
* 1970s: anti-liquor, anti-price rise movements, issues of land alienation and wife-beating addressed in Shahada, Maharashtra
* 1977 onwards: Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh established; unequal wages, women’s retrenchment, sexual division of labour attacked
* 1970s: Custodial rape of Mathura (a young tribal girl); teachers challenged the Supreme Court judgement; state forced to recognise custodial rape as a crime
* 1980s: massive participation of women in Chipko and Appiko environmental movements
* 1992: woman activist gang raped in Rajasthan; Supreme Court framed Vishakha Guidelines, predecessor of  Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace 2012
* 2009: Delhi High Court decriminalises consensual, adult same-sex relationships
History of the International Women’s Day

* 1857: thousands of women workers in the New York garment industry took to the streets against unfair wages, 12-hour work days and sexual harassment in the workplace
* 1910: Clara Zetkin’s gave a call in Copenhagen, Denmark to establish an “International Women’s Day
* 1911: on 19 March, more than a million women and men marched together
* 1911: On March 25, a fire in a sweatshop in New York killed 145 female garment workers. In solidarity, 80,000 workers marched to attend the mass funeral
* 1912: 14,000 textile workers went on strike with the slogan “Better to starve fighting than starve working”
* 1913-1914: the International Women’s Day also became a day for protesting against the First World War and for world peace.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE-Women from India Demand for End to Gender Violence as the 57th Session Starts of UN Commission on Status of Women #womensday


 

For immediate release

 

 

7 March 2013, 1 pm to 3 pm at Geneva Conference Room, Bahai United Nations Office,866 UN Plaza,Suite 120,New York NY 10017 & 12 March 2013, 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm at Conference Room, Bahai United Nations Office, 866 UN Plaza, Suite 120, New York NY 10017

 

New York,7 March 2013: 1 Billion Rising campaign states, “One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime”. According to UNDP, “72 million children “ 54% of them girls are out of school” and about billion women fall short of economic potential. According to UN Women 50% of women who die from homicides worldwide are killed by their current/former husbands/ partners.Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn only 10% of the income. According to World Bank,” Eliminating all forms of discrimination against women in employment could increase productivity per worker by up to 40 percent”.Feministing states 40% of the child soldiers of the world are girls. According to the Control Arms 26 million people are forced to flee their homes every year due to armed conflict. UN Women states approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in the 1994 Rwandan genocide and in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence, mostly involving women and girls, have been documented since 1996, though the actual numbers are considered to be much higher.

 

In north east India, armed violence has taken its toll on the very notion of “normal civilian life” and led to innumerable instances of violations committed against civilian populations particularly women by both state and non-state actors. In most operations, be they cordon and search, combing, arrests, searches, or interrogation, the armed forces have, under the aegis of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) done away with the basic, minimal safeguards accorded to women suspects by the Criminal Procedure Code as well as the SC directives. Arrest by male security personnel, interrogation in army camps and police stations, torture and sexual abuse including rape by security personnel in custody has become routine. In Jammu & Kashmir mass rape of Kashmiri women by security forces was first documented in the Chapora (Srinagar) mass rape incident on March 7, 1990. Violations of women have also been reported from non-state groups. The Hmar Women Association (HWA) submitted a memorandum to to government where “the plights of Hmar tribal women in Tipaimukh sub-division of Churachandpur, Manipur, India  who were raped and molested by two armed groups during January 2006.

 

In short women are facing violence and discrimination both in conflict as well as non conflict areas and the number is increasing.

 

At the backdrop of recent rise of women in India and around world on ending violence and the convening of fifty seventh session of UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW), Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network and Control Arms Foundation of India are hosting a  panel discussion on the theme “Six Decades of UN Commission on Status of Women: Status of Women Now Worldwide and Evolving New Strategies to Ensure Elimination & Prevention of all Forms of Violence against Women and Girls” on 7 March 2013, 1 pm to 3 pm at Geneva Conference Room, Bahai United Nations Office,866 UN Plaza,Suite 120,New York NY 10017 .

 

Distinguished panelists of the event will  include Ms Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate & co-chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict; Dip. Minou Tavárez Mirabal, Chair-Foreign Affairs Committee, Chamber of Deputies, Dominican Republic & Chair-International Council, Parliamentarians for Global Action; Ms Rashmi Singh, Executive Director, National Mission for Empowerment of Women ,Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India; Mr Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil, Deputy Minister, International Development, Norway; Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder,Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network & Control Arms Foundation of India.

 

On 12 March 2013, we are also hosting another panel discussion on the theme “Women, Peace and Security: Strategies To End Violence Against Women In Armed Conflict Areas And Leading Humanitarian Disarmament Efforts” , 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm at Conference Room, Bahai United Nations Office, 866 UN Plaza, Suite 120, New York NY 10017. The event will be chaired by Dr. Swadesh Rana, Former Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch in the United Nations Department of Disarmament Affairs. Distinguished panelists will include Ms May Malony & Sharna de Lacy, Young Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom YWILPF, Australia; Dr. Angana Chatterji, Co-chair of Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights, Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, University of California, Berkeley; Ms Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch; Dr Walter Dorn, Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group & Professor, Royal Military College of Canada and Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network & Control Arms Foundation of India. As we believe that gender equality is, first and foremost, a human right. Women are entitled to live in dignity and in freedom from want and from fear. Empowering women is also an indispensable tool for advancing development, peace and reducing poverty. Kindly join the event.

 

 

 

 

For more information, please contact:

Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network & Secretary General, Control Arms Foundation of India. Email: Binalakshmi@gmail.com. US mobile number: 3472165709

B 5/146, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi-110029, India Phone: +9-11-46018541, Fax: +91-11-6166234. Websites: www.cafi-online.comwww.womensurvivorsnetwork.org

 

Justice Katju bats for sacked DRDO scientist


New Delhi, March 7, 2013

Special Correspondent, The Hindu

Former employee of DRDO Aijaz Ahmed Mirza who was arrested on terror charges addressing a media conference in Bangalore. File photo

The Hindu Photo Library Former employee of DRDO Aijaz Ahmed Mirza who was arrested on terror charges addressing a media conference in Bangalore. File photo

The PCI chief wrote to Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Karnataka Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar, regarding the sacked DRDO scientist who was released as NIA failed to file chargesheet against him

Press Council of India Chairperson Markandey Katju has asked Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar to look into the case of Aijaz Ahmed Mirza, who was sacked as DRDO scientist after having been implicated in a bomb blast case.

In his letter to them, Justice Katju said media reports indicated that no evidence had been found against Mr. Mirza by the National Investigation Agency, which also refused to file a charge sheet against him.

If no evidence is found, “he should be reinstated forthwith in the post he was holding before he was sacked.”

Justice Katju also asked that adequate compensation be paid, and an open apology be tendered by the Central/State government to Mr. Mirza for the ‘torture and indignities in jail’ he suffered.

The letter comes a day after Justice Katju’s appeal to the media to exercise restraint in their coverage of blasts, and to refrain from falsely implicating Muslims even before investigations are complete.

 

PRESS RELEASE- Demand for compulsory licensing for Trastuzumab, a life-saving drug for women with HER2+ breast cancer #womensday


CAMPAIGN FOR AFFORDABLE TRASTUZUMAB

8 March 2013

 

The Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab has called on the Commerce Minister to mark International Women’s Day 2013 with an announcement of compulsory licensing for Trastuzumab, a life-saving drug for women with HER2+ breast cancer. Trastuzumab, the patent for which is held by Swiss pharma giant Roche, is currently priced at Rs.6-8 lakhs for a full course of 12 injections, and is out of reach for all but the most privileged. An estimated 25,000 new cases of HER2+ breast cancer are recorded in India every year, with younger women in the majority among patients.

Trastuzumab has been recommended for compulsory licensing by an Expert Committee set up by the Health Ministry. The recommendation is currently under the consideration of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in the Ministry of Commerce.

The Campaign has urged the Minister to issue a notification under Sections 92 and 100 of the Indian Patents Act, which will end Roche’s monopoly and open the door for local manufacturers to enter the market with affordable biosimilar versions that can compete with Roche’s product.

The letter cites evidence to show that Roche’s pricing policy is irrational and unethical, reflecting its strategy of pushing the pricing envelope to the maximum extent possible.

The Campaign has also cited compelling evidence to show that measures such as negotiated price reductions and voluntary licensing floated by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers are weak in comparison to the option of compulsory licensing, which can bring prices down four times more than price negotiations. Moreover, while negotiated prices will apply only in India, Indian generics/biosimilars have the potential of increasing access across the developing world.

The letter expresses concern at the Government of India’s apparent reluctance to use the compulsory licensing option to ensure access, even though this measure is available under the Indian Patents At which was amended in 2005 to make it TRIPS-compliant. The first compulsory licence awarded in India – for production of a generic competitor to the liver cancer drug Sorafenib – has been recently upheld by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board.

The Campaign is endorsed by more than 150 Indian and global groups of cancer survivors, health rights activists, women’s groups, treatment activists and public interest organisations.

The full text of the letter is given below.

 

To the Hon’ble Minister for Commerce, Government of India

 

Compulsory licensing for breast cancer drug Trastuzumab

Respected Minister,

Greetings from the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab on International Women’s Day.

We are writing to you to enquire about actions taken by your Ministry on the recommendation from the Expert Committee set up by the Ministry of Health to explore the possibility of issuing compulsory licences (CLs) for encouraging the entry of low-cost generic/biosimilar versions of cancer drugs in cases where patents and predatory pricing policies of multinational pharma companies continue to block access to these medicines for the vast majority of patients in India.

Breast cancer drug Trastuzumab on short list for compulsory licensing

Trastuzumab, a patented drug that can save the lives of women suffering from HER2+ breast cancer, has been recommended for compulsory licensing by the Expert Committee set up by the Health Ministry. The patent for the drug is held by Roche and is valid for another seven years. This patent, weak though it is, is discouraging local manufacturers from investing in the development of biosimilars of Trastuzumab that can provide affordable alternatives to Roche’s product.

The recommendation for compulsory licensing of Trastuzumab was welcomed by us as a huge relief to the thousands of women with HER2+ breast cancer whose lives can be saved by Trastuzumab, but who are unable to access this drug because of predatory pricing by Roche.

We surely do not need to remind you that breast cancer is now the second most common form of cancer in the country, and that young women constitute the majority of those affected by the aggressive HER2+ variant of the disease. An estimated 25,000 new cases of HER2+ breast cancer are reported each year.

Trastuzumab, often called a miracle drug for its efficacy in preventing recurrence and extending life in cases HER2+ breast cancer, is currently priced at between Rs.55,000/- and Rs 75,000/- per 440 mg dose, and is therefore out of reach for all but the wealthiest. An oncologist at the Tata Memorial Cancer Centre has been quoted as saying that less than 10% of the patients he sees are able to afford Trastuzumab at all, and even fewer are able to complete the recommended course of 12 injections. This is borne out by the testimonies of other survivors and their families1.

The recommendations of the Expert Committee were under consideration by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) under your Ministry. Since then, we – and thousands of women who are battling HER2+ breast cancer – have been waiting for a notification from DIPP that will open the door for domestic manufacturers to invest in the development, testing and marketing of biosimilars of Trastuzumab.

We are mystified by the delay in the issuance of a notification under Section 92 of the Patents Act to initiate the process of compulsory licensing for Trastuzumab. The case for compulsory licensing presented by us in our letter to the Prime Minister in November 2012 (see attachment) have been endorsed by over 150 organisations and citizens including cancer survivors, women’s groups, human rights organisations, health NGOs and treatment activists from around the world and eminent jurists. Our argument has now been validated by the recommendations of the Expert Committee of the Ministry of Health.

Discount schemes are no match for generic competition

There is plenty of evidence to show that Roche’s pricing and marketing policy is completely arbitrary and unethical. The so-called “voluntary price reductions” announced by Roche – from Rs.1.2 lakhs to Rs.92,000/- and then to Rs.75,000/- – each time the issue of over-pricing is raised, are merely pre-emptive measures to ward off competition and retain their control of the market. Roche is also using market segmentation to protect its monopoly. Trastuzumab is being sold under two different brand names – Herceptin (Roche) at Rs.1.2 lakhs for 440 mg, and Herclon (Emcure) for Rs.75,000/-.

There is also evidence of a nexus between Roche and doctors in private hospitals – patients are being pressurised to buy the drug from the hospital pharmacy at the official price of Rs.75,000/- per dose, rather than from retailers and agents who offer the drug at prices as much as 25% lower than the MRP.

The Indian Railways has been procuring Trastuzumab for the last three year at Rs.86,957/- per dose2. This is also the amount reimbursed under the CGHS3.

These figures leave little doubt that Roche’s pricing policy is determined primarily by their assessment of how much they can push the price envelope rather than by the idea of an ethical profit margin.

Perhaps the Honourable Minister for Chemicals & Fertilisers was not aware of these details when he stated in the Lok Sabha that Roche would be bringing the price of Trastuzumab down to Rs.75,000/- per dose4 under an upcoming deal with Emcure for local manufacture. Considering that the present MRP of the drug is Rs.75,000/-, and it is already being offered by retailers for 55,000/- per dose, we fail to see anything to cheer about in the Roche-Emcure deal. In fact, there are reports that Roche has imposed anti-competitive terms such as a ceiling on volume of sales and a mandatory minimum price.

Negotiated prices do not expand access

Respected Minister, you are no doubt aware that the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has recently released a report by a committee set up to examine the issue of price negotiations for patented drugs. We are concerned about the fact that this report being released at a time when a compulsory licence for Trastuzumab is under active consideration by both the Health Ministry and your Ministry.

While Roche’s actions in blocking any attempts at competition are understandable even if not justifiable, we are shocked that a government entity should seriously propose to negotiate with pharma majors without any reference to other concerned Ministries, and in complete disregard of global experience, which confirms that measures such as negotiated price reductions do not result in any significant expansion of access, since prices continue to remain beyond the reach of most citizens. Generic competition on the other hand can bring prices down to four times lower than negotiated prices 5.

Apart from yielding only limited benefits, time-consuming price negotiations with pharma companies can delay action on more rational options such as compulsory licensing, thereby putting thousands of lives at risk. The Government of Thailand, which began issuing compulsory licences in 2007, noted that “Prior negotiation with the patent holders is not an effective measure and only delays the improvement in access to patented essential medicines and puts more lives in less healthy or even dangerous situations.”

What is more, negotiated price reductions will be applicable only in India – a biosimilar of Trastuzumab from Indian manufacturers on the other hand have the potential for a global impact and can expand access to this life-saving drug across the developing world. India’s scientific and technical capacity in this sector is well recognised. The announcement of a compulsory licence for Trastuzumab will encourage local pharma firms to step up their investments in ongoing research projects for biosimilar development, and will facilitate the speedy entry of biosimilars into the market.

We have been greatly encouraged by the recent decisions of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) in revoking the patent for the Hepatitis-C drug pegylated interferon Alpha 2A, and now in upholding the compulsory licence for a generic competitor to Sorafenib. These decisions have been applauded and welcomed by health rights groups and public interest groups around the world, for whom they are an assurance of India’s political will to resist arm-twisting by pharma companies.

When India amended its patent laws in 2005 to make them TRIPS-compliant, there was widespread concern about the possible adverse impacts of this move on access to treatment. The then Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Shri Kamal Nath had said at the time that “the government has built in enough safeguards in the Patents (Third Amendment) Act 2005 passed by Parliament to protect the interests of consumers by ensuring availability of medicines at affordable prices6. We are disappointed that eight years later, despite sharp increases in the number and prices of patented drugs, the Government of India is so reluctant to use the provision of compulsory licensing under Sections 92 and 100 of the Patent Act to expand generic competition, bring down prices and expand access.

We urge you to mark Women’s Day 2013 with the announcement of a compulsory licence for Trastuzumab – a progressive and principled step that will bring relief to thousands of Indian women and their families who are struggling to deal with HER2+ breast cancer and its economic, social and personal costs.

Thousands of lives are at stake – we look forward to your immediate and decisive action.

 

KALYANI MENON-SEN (on behalf of the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab)

1See for instance an interview with the husband of a cancer survivor who describes his experiences in accessing Trastuzumab. <http://newsclick.in/india/recounting-personal-experiences-accessing-herceptin>

2http://www.scr.indianrailways.gov.in/cris//uploads/files/1327919951035-ami2011-2012polist.xlsx.pdf

3 http://cghs.nic.in/Life%20Saving%20Medicines.htm

4http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/roche-to-produce-two-cancer-drugs-locally-with-emcure-113030100297_1.html

5See attached press note for details.

6 ‘ENOUGH SAFEGUARDS IN PATENTS ACT TO PREVENT PRICE RISE’, Press Release, Ministry of Commerce,  04 April 2005, http://commerce.nic.in/pressrelease/pressrelease_detail.asp?id=1610

 

KV students to get med, life insurance cover #goodnews


Christin Mathew Philip TNN

Chennai: Kendriya Vidyalayas, long known for quality education at affordable cost, will be offering accident and life insurance cover for all its students from the coming academic year.
Sources said the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) will set apart Rs 4 crore as annual premium for its 11 lakh-odd students in the 1,086 schools across the country. Each student will have a cover of Rs 2 lakh in case of an accident and Rs 3 lakh in case of death.
“We may charge Rs 70 to Rs100 per student per year towards premium. The exact amount will be decided after we get expressions of interest from insurance companies,” said a KVS official.
KV school heads and students’ parents have welcomed the move. In Tamil Nadu, there are 40 KV schools and each class has 40-45 students. “We’ve received the notification and it’s a fantastic initiative,” said Prasanna Kumari, principal of KV, Ashok Nagar. “It will encourage students and parents to be associated with KV schools.”
With students spending most of their time in school, their safety has become a big concern for school managements. Some private schools in cities have introduced accident and illness insurance cover for students with a ceiling of up to Rs 10,000, but none covers life and for such an amount as KVS proposes to do.
“Every parent is worried about children running into some trouble,” said Meena Kumari, the mother of class IX student. “An insurance cover is a financial solace,” she said, for middleclass families as hers. Her son had met with an accident recently and she had to foot a hefty bill.
An insurance company official said his firm has got inquiries from private schools, too. “So far, we have been tying up with schools for medical check-ups and insurance. Life insurance for school students is an emerging trend,” he said.

#Mumbai- Shot in the arm for autistic pupils #goodnews #disability


Shreya Bhandari, TNN

Mumbai: Two years ago, the state board allowed autistic students to appear for Class X and XII board exams.
After granting various concessions to students with learning disabilities (LD), the state board has decided to permit students to opt for an exam centre closer to their residence. “Our aim has always been to ensure that students’ stress is reduced. We started this option last year where students with autism or learning disabilities could apply to us and ask for an exam centre close to their homes,” said Krishnarao Patil, state board secretary.
“Last year, few parents knew about this measure, but now more students have approached the state board,” he said. He also added that the state board has recently released a circular making it clear that students with autism and LD will be allowed to use calculators in their maths and science board papers (Class X and XII).
The option of changing centres has come in handy for students who need a writer for their exams. “There was some confusion if all students had to take this option but the board has made it clear that only those students who are interested can apply to the board and avail of the facility,” said Fr Francis Swamy, principal of Holy Family High School.
Students appear for SSC English paper
Mumbai:Nearly 3.82 lakh SSC students in Mumbai division appeared for their English paper on Thursday. “Students are slowly settling down well so the number of calls to the helpline has reduced. Very few students call with queries these days,” said Balasaheb Hyalij, a state board helpline counsellor. TNN

 

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