ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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The Capitulation

The Capitulation IT is not even that times are a-changing; times have changed. In earlier seasons, official decisions on basic issues of policy would be announced, preferably in parliament, by ministers who were politically sufficiently weighty. Such conventions have obviously been given the go-by. Or it could be that the ministers are much too ashamed to disgorge unpleasant tidings. A civil servant, holding charge in the union ministry of commerce, due to retire by the end of this month, was chosen to inform the nation about the government's intention to accept the norms and standards laid down by the Dunkel draft on trade-related intellectual property rights. The government, according to this spokesman, has also decided to bow down to the Dunkel demand to extend patent rights up to 20 years. The transnational cartels could now breathe freely: the New Delhi decision to embrace the Draft all the way would not make an exception of the drugs and pharmaceutical industry either. It is a question of faith; as the commerce secretary took pains to explain, the government simply does not believe that drug prices in the country would rise by 500 or 1,000 per cent as a result of the transnational invasion following the acceptance of the Dunkel regime. There is, in his view, a lot of 'exaggeration' indulged in by the campaigners who claim that acceptance of the GATT secretary-general's proposals would compulsorily subject plant seeds and genes to the tyranny of foreign patenting; India should be able to evolve a sui genaris system of protection in this area and conserve the rights of indigenous farmers, research workers and scientists. The civil servant expatiated at great length on one particular point, this country will have a grace period of 12 years to sort things out; after all, the implementation of the GATT proposals could be held back till 2005. The hint was dropped that confidential talks have already been initiated with representatives of the US trade department; since we have effected total surrender on major issues, minor concessions hopefully were bound to come India's way. One of the concessions the government is evidently aiming for is some relaxations in the patent provisions for seeds and plants. The commerce secretary used up several hundred words to emphasise the governments eagerness to lobby intensely with the lords and masters in Washington, DC, and other western capitals so that a crucial footnote could be added to the Draft Final Act of the Dunkel text; it would suggest that the act be read in conjunction with Article 5 of the Paris Convention which in certain instances allows compulsory licensing of patents. The civil servant sounded jubilant in advance: if only such a footnote would be added, foreign parties would not be able to mulct our consumers and farmers at will.

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