Want to Sell Banned Drugs – Come to India

Source: BBC News

India has more than 10,500 drug makers with a domestic turnover of nearly $9bn.

Yet, something is rotten with the way drugs are tested and sold in the country.

A parliamentary panel investigation has found serious issues with the way approvals for foreign drugs are given and clinical trials are being carried out. Here are some of the startling findings:

  • Of the 42 drugs picked up randomly for scrutiny by the panel, the health ministry could not provide any documents on three drugs – pefloxacin, lomefloxacin and sparfloxacin. Reason: their files were untraceable. The documents related to sponsors, clinical trials, overseas regulatory status, names of experts consulted and post-marketing safety reports. “All these drugs had been approved on different dates and different years creating doubt if disappearance was accidental,” says the report, adding that all these were “controversial” drugs: one was never marketed in the US, Canada, Britain, Australia and other countries, while the other two were discontinued. All three drugs are being sold in India.
  • Of the 39 drugs on which information was available, the panel found that in the case of 18 drugs, adequate clinical trials had not been conducted – many of the drugs had been tested on fewer patients and in fewer hospitals than what is legally mandated.
  • There are 13 drugs which were not sold in much of the developed world, and the report said none of these drugs “have any special or specific relevance to the medical needs of India”.
  • In the case of 25 drugs, the opinion of medically qualified experts was not obtained before approval.
  • A total of 31 new drugs, by the health ministry’s own admission, were approved between January 2008 and October 2010 without conducting clinical trials on Indian patients. The ministry says that the authorities have the power to approve drugs without clinical trials in the public interest. “No explanation,” the report says, “is available as to what constitutes public interest.”
  • Every month, on average, the authorities say, one drug is approved in India without trials.
  • A review of expert opinion on various drugs showed that an “overwhelming majority are recommendations based on personal perception without giving any hard scientific evidence or data”. More shockingly, the panel found adequate evidence to conclude that “many opinions were actually written by the invisible hands of drug manufacturers and experts merely obliged by putting their signatures”.
  • The panel believes that there is “sufficient evidence to conclude that there is collusive nexus” between drug makers, authorities and some medical experts.

This is not all. The panel expresses concern over the continued sale of potentially harmful drugs in India years after such products were banned or withdrawn in developed countries and the prevalence of “sub-standard” – 7-8% of total sales – in the market. Is India condemned to becoming a dumping ground for drugs?

PS: The government has now announced an investigation into the workings of India’s main drug regulator, days after the panel’s report. Three experts have been appointed to “look at the scientific basis of approving new drugs without clinical trials” and recommend ways of improving the way the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSO) works. One report says that global drug makers could also face new US scrutiny following this damning 78-page report.


Begging Mafia

NEW DELHI // A year after her now eight-year-old daughter disappeared, Raj Rani saw a rag-clad little girl begging outside a temple in Amritsar in India’s northern state of Punjab. “My neighbour pointed out that the girl resembled Priya. I stopped and stared at her. My heart was pounding as I recognised her,” said Mrs Rani, who had suffered from depression after she lost her daughter. She called her husband and other relatives, who arrived soon after, and then approached the girl, who did not initially recognise her mother. “I ran towards Priya – the beggars grew suspicious and became alert. However, I caught hold of the child, who had started crying. I told her that I was her real mother and had lost her. Then she quickly clung on to me.”

As you read this, another half dozen or so children will have disappeared around the sub-continent. Although Mumbai has developed the dubious accolade of being the country’s capital for child abduction, it happens everywhere. Delhi, by sheer virtue of its size, has the largest number: 6227 a year on average. In total across the six main cities of the subcontinent, the average is 15,674, the population of a small town.

This is probably a vast understatement if one looks beyond the main metropolitan centres. The last reliable figures were published in 2005 as part of a major report on trafficking of women and children in India prepared by PM Nair, a former CBI officer who is now with the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). His figures show 44,476 children disappeared in 2005. Of the average 15,000-plus missing from major cities, Nair found over 11,000 were still missing a year later.

The old story is vanishing children. The new one is that the Indian parents who are the victims are getting a hearing not only in the media but finally in government too.

Pushpa Devi lives in Laxmi Nagar not more than half an hour from Nithari. Like millions across the country, she saw the details unfold as children’s remains were found; limbs, organ, pieces of bone. Her daughter, Poonam Lal went missing 10 years ago when she was 17. Her mother was told that Poonam had probably run off with a boyfriend and was not therefore missing. Poonam was eventually traced but her mother knows the heartache and it was she and her husband who pushed for a set of do’s and don’ts which the Supreme Court produced. The main points are obvious: mandatory display photo images in public places like railway stations, in newspapers and on television and at inter-state bus stops; making proper and extensive enquiries among possible leads and between states and offering a reward but it doesn’t happen. The 12 point list gathers dust as police forces across states plead helplessness when asked the question: Where have the children gone?

If they had been snatched by aliens the police could hardly have been more dismissive. While this particular group of unfortunate youngsters have ended up in back gardens and stream beds around Nithari, thousands of others end up as cheap labour in roadside shops, prostitutes in a brothel, exploited in the child porn industry, kidnapped by the beggar mafia or even trafficked abroad.

It is impossible to get accurate statistics. None of the police forces across the various states have any means of collating their separate databases of information and even where they have those, the details are sparse and often inaccurate. A child disappearing is a parental problem and a minor one at that. He’ll turn up or he won’t turn up. Nothing we can do to help.

Justice AS Anand is former chief of the National Human Rights Commission in India. Of the missing children, he says: “They have obviously not vanished into thin air. Children are our assets and we only do lip service to the problem of missing children. Even when a report of a missing child is lodged with the police, it is treated as a minor offence.” Yet no one in Government seems to know how many children go missing or even very clearly into whose portfolio the issue might fall. The Minister for Child and Women Welfare is Renuka Chowdhary says she is “apprehensive” that another Nithari could happen if action isn’t taken urgently.

It is here that the old and the new stories converge because the truth is that there is no real surprise about the deaths in Nithar, for all the shock factor. “It’s only a symptom” says Director of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). “Nithari shows the larger malaise and a failure of the system to respond. There has been a serious failure on every count. Nithari happened because the police failed at the first point of delivery of justice, the administration failed to deliver a just response thereafter and because society as a whole proved to be insensitive.”

A few articles of interest:


Reports of rising beggar mafia in Kerala has forced the government authorities to take steps to ban begging in the state. Law Minister K M Mani has handed over the draft bill to legally ban begging in the state to Social Justice Minister Dr M K Muneer. A similar font SHOULD be adopted by all states to curb down this social evil of Inda…

Indian Rape Festival


Punjab, INDIA — Men in India are already beginning to celebrate as the annual Punjab Rape Festival is just days away. Every non-married girl age 7-16 will have the chance to flee to safety or get raped.

Madhuban Ahluwalia who heads up the annual festival told reporters why the event is so important. “This is a long time tradition in Punjab dating back thousands of years,” says Ahluwalia. “We rape the evil demons out of the girls, otherwise they will cheat on us and we will be forced to kill them. So it is win-win for everyone.”

The Punjab Rape Festival began in 43 BC when Baalkrishan Tamil Nadu raped everyone in his village of Ludhiana. Baalkrishan Tamil Nadu is remembered every year at this event, in fact the trophy given to the man with the most rapes is called ‘The Baalkrishan’.

23-year-old Harikrishna Majumdar tells reporters that he has been training all year for this event. “I’m going to get the most rapes this year. I’ve been practicing raping my sister and her friends every day. I will be rape superstar number one! I will get the Baalkrishan prize this year for sure!”

11-year-old Jaitashri Majumdar told reporters she almost did not get raped at last year’s festival. “I came so close to not getting raped. I almost got to the ‘rape-free-zone’ at the edge of town, but at the last minute 12 men jumped on me and raped me. Luckily I am just recovering now so I can participate in this year’s events, otherwise I would be put to death bystoning.”

34-year-old Paul Horner from Toronto who is visiting Punjab on business told reporters he will be missing the festivities this year. “I’m getting the f*ck out of this backwards country tonight.”

India is second in reported rapes in the world only behind the United States. For more information on the festival or if you would like to participate, please call the 24-hour Punjab Rape Festival hotline at (785) 273-0325.


Success Story of May: A village in Rajasthan

In an atmosphere where every morning, our newspapers greet us with stories of girls being tormented, raped, killed or treated like a doormat in one way or another, trust India’s “village republics” to bring in some good news from time to time.

One such village in southern Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district is quietly practicing its own, homegrown brand of Eco-feminism and achieving spectacular results.

For the last several years, Piplantri village panchayat has been saving girl children and increasing the green cover in and around it at the same time.

Here, villagers plant 111 trees every time a girl is born and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girls grow up.

Over the last six years, people here have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the village’s grazing commons- inlcuding neem, sheesham, mango, Amla among others.

On an average 60 girls are born here every year, according to the village’s former sarpanch Shyam Sundar Paliwal, who was instrumental in starting this initiative in the memory of his daughter Kiran, who died a few years ago.

In about half these cases, parents are reluctant to accept the girl children, he says.

Such families are identified by a village committee comprising the village school principal along with panchayat and Anganwadi members.

Rs. 21,000 are collected from the village residents and Rs.10,000 from the girl’s father and this sum of Rs. 31,000 is made into a fixed deposit for the girl, with a maturity period of 20 years.

But here’s the best part.

“We make these parents sign an affidavit promising that they would not marry her off before the legal age, send her to school regularly and take care of the trees planted in her name,” says Mr. Paliwal.

People also plant 11 trees whenever a family member dies.

But this village of 8,000 did not just stop at planting trees and greening their commons. To prevent these trees from being infested with termite, the residents planted over two and a half million Aloevera plants around them.

Now these trees, especially the Aloevera, are a source of livelihood for several residents.

“Gradually, we realized that aloevera could be processed and marketed in a variety of ways. So we invited some experts and asked them to train our women. Now residents make and market aloevera products like juice, gel, pickle etc,” he says.

The village panchayat, which has a studio-recorded anthem and a website of its own, has completely banned alcohol, open grazing of animals and cutting of trees.

Villagers claim there has not been any police case here for the last 7-8 years.

Mr. Paliwal recalls the visit of social activist Anna Hazare, who was very happy with the progress made by the village, he says.

“But Rajasthan is quite backward in terms of village development compared to panchayats in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra etc. So we need to work hard towards creating more and more empowered villages,” says the former sarpanch, hoping the government listens to him.