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Sangh Parivar affiliate pans draft IPR policy

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Don’t dilute Patent Act, blogs Swadeshi Jagaran Manch co-convenor

In a hard hitting two page letter to Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Ashwani Mahajan, Co-Convenor, of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) has delivered a detailed critique of the draft IPR policy.

Since the draft IPR policy is considered to have Prime Minister Modi’s blessings given his push to improve relations and increase business prospects with the US and other Western nations, industry observers have been (pleasantly?) surprised that the SJM, considered to be the economic wing of the Sangh Parivar, the mother organisation of the ruling BJP party, would take what is definitely a contrarian stance.

While the letter is undated, Mahajan’s blog post of March 24 is even more unambiguous in his stance on IP. Titled ‘Don’t dilute Patent Act’, he recalls PM Modi’s statement while addressing CEOs of US companies that “India is willing to accept the suggestions of a joint Indo-US working group on intellectual property rights” and asks what contentious issues need resolution and whether resolution of these issues is in the best interest of majority of India’s population.

Going to the crux of the matter, Mahajan makes the point that if Section 3(d) is diluted, then it may impact the prices of many drugs and thus the healthcare of 127-crore Indians and people around the globe.

In his letter to the Minister, Mahajan mentions the ‘undue hurry’ in which the think tank was formed, and blames this haste as the reason why it ‘does not reflect the development realities and needs of India’ and in fact ‘seriously undermines India’s technological progress in critical areas to address the development challenges of the nation.’

Citing Japan, South Korea and more recently China as examples of countries which ‘emulate technologies as strategy for technological catch up in order to move away from the technology dependency to technology generation’, Mahajan’s letter points out that ‘a domestic IP regime tilted towards protection and enforcement of IP rights without optimal use of limitations and exceptions would retard the attempts of technological catching up.’

Alleging that the draft IPR policy ‘proposes an IP maximalist agenda’, the letter warns that if implemented, it would further the technology dependency. The draft IPR policy does not gel well with even with the Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, according to the letter.

The letter then goes on to list five major issues that the SJM has with the draft policy, ranging from a lack of analyses and identification of India’s development needs, a disconnect between these needs and the six objectives outlined by the think tank, a contradiction between the draft policy and other initiatives like the ‘Make in India’ campaign, the lack of proposed flexibilities to achieve national goals and lastly, the conflict of interest among the members of the think tank.

The SJM’s letter then ends with four suggestions to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to rectify these shortcomings. Reconstitution of the think tank takes prime importance, with the suggestion to ensure the involvement of academics especially with exposure to development economics, industrial policy, technology policy and innovation.

The second suggestion is to reorient the approach of the think tank and national IPR policy to address the technological and development needs of the nation, the third suggestion is to forgo the haste to formulate this policy and instead commission studies and consultations to identify the development and technological needs of the nation.

The last suggestion to the Minister of Commerce and Industry is to direct the reconstituted IP think tank to identify the suboptimal flexibilities in the national IP regime and make recommendations to optimise the use of flexibilities.

EP News BureauMumbai

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