the morality of life saving drugs

Imagine a scenario with a quarter of  the world dying of treatable diseases while the cure is held closely by a few hugely rich corporations that refuse to dispense the medicines at a price that is affordable to the poor.  Sounds like stuff for a ‘oh my God’ sci fi movie ?

Sorry, but that is the situation right now in the world. Diseases like Hepatitis, Heart Diseases, Diabetes and Aids – all that have drugs to control them and often cure them are available.  But the patent to those life saving drugs belong to massive multinational corporations that refuse to allow ‘generic’ drugs to be manufactured cheaply in (say) China and India and distributed to save lives.

The argument of course is cost of development of these drugs. “How will the drug companies survive to do further research and go on producing life saving drugs of the future if they has sell their drugs at a loss ?”  It’s a strong argument that on the face of it seems absolutely reasonable.  But that in the word ‘cost’ and ‘loss’ lies the fallacy of the argument.

Looks deeply into the ‘costs’ of the major drug companies and you will find hidden it huge profits for the shareholders. Huge costs of highly paid lawyers to protect the patents. Highly paid scientists vying with each other to take out and protect their patents. Huge salaries to CEO and the management team with attached bonuses etc.  Huge marketing costs too. Add it all up and you will soon see that the what we call simply protection of ‘costs’ is actually often protection of ‘wealth’

And then the issue of morality kicks in.  What is the ‘cost’  of development of drugs that is fair for the populations of the world that desperately need them ?

Nor does the idea that “it mine and I can do what I want with it”  work.  We live in a global world and the fundamentals of globalization is fairness and equality. Otherwise Globalization is skewed in favour of the rich nations, and the rich within poor nations.  Globalization will then lead to conflict and war. Also the Western nations and /or the multinationals have for long had a policy of attracting the best scientific talent to themselves by higher pay scales. Its a skewed immigration policy that for years created a ‘brain drain’ that worked against scientific development in developing countries.  Thankfully that is being reversed now.

I do not deny the incredible innovation (say) in the US.  It’s ability to provide some of the best minds in the world with some of the best environments to develop their products in.  Its admirable.  But either we are a global community or we are not. And if we are, then at least availability of life saving drugs must not be used to support an ‘oasis of wealth’.

Ayurveda is a case in point. For centuries the knowledge and wisdom of Ayurveda was available free to the people. The best practitioners would dispense their knowledge and healing abilities free , being supported ore by the rich that could afford to do so.  Now suddenly there is a scramble to ‘patent’ Ayurvedic ideas and medicines.  Those that for centuries have been available free.

This has been a raging arguments – especially in light of drug companies in China and India that are producing generic formulations of drugs that were created by multinationals to be distributed at cheaper and affordable prices to those that would die without them. Gradually these ‘generic’ drug manufacturers are creating their own molecules and soon will file their own patents.  Hopefully they will turn out different,

So what is more moral. To infringe patents and save lives, or to hold on to the law of patent as a more moral stance – and lives be damned ?  I invite those with greater knowledge than I into this argument …

let the memory of love pass..

responding with grief

to moments of joy

shared with loved ones

that are suddenly

no longer with us,

is memory so fickle

that it turns from love and joy

in an instant to grief ?

the purity that lay in that moment

altered and prejudiced forever

by ever changing forms

of memory

by fear of emptiness

by fear of loss.

hoping the tears

will wash away

those fears,

leaving behind

just purity

of love

unfettered by loss,

for

the mystery of death

being no greater than

that of birth

like two eternal lovers

entwined,

one has no existence

without  the other,

but birth

brings no memory

no carbuncles on its hull

but only wonder,

and death

leaves a lifetime of memories

of associations

of fear

of loss,

let the memories

be dissolved

in my tears

leaving an

overwhelming

sensation

of love

like birth

let the memory pass..

responding with grief

to moments of joy

shared with loved ones

that are no longer with us,

is the memory so fickle

that it turns from love and joy

in an instant to grief ?

the purity that lay in that moment

altered and prejudiced forever

by ever changing attitude

of memory ?

by fear of emptiness

by fear of loss,

hoping the tears

will wash away

those fears

leaving behind

just purity

of love

unfettered by loss

for

the mystery of death

being no greater than

that of birth

like eternal lovers

entwined

one has no existence

with the other,

but birth

brings no memory

no carbuncles on its hull

but only wonder

and death

leaves a lifetime of memories

of associations

of fear ,

of loss,

let the memories

be dissolved

in my tears

leaving an

overwhelming

sensation

of love

like birth

We the People

While the world’s attention was held by scenes of violence in Libya and elsewhere, it completely missed one of the most significant movements in a Democratic governance any where in the world.  An experiment, if it works will be a model for the rest of the world to follow. An experiment in which Civil Society has an active say over governance above the Parliament not just once every 5 years, but continuously over the term of a government in power.

It may be an experiment that is just too complex to handle given the bureaucratic tangles of the Indian Political and Administrative system. Or it may just work.  The Jan Lokpal Bill as it is called has still to be passed by Parliament. Has a Parliament anywhere in the world voted for strong strictures on it’s own functioning?

It might just. Why ?

Because the Bill, or at least a more lenient version of it has been outstanding for over 40 years with no Government in power actually havig the gumption to push it through. But right now there is a chance of it being pushed through not because the Indian Politicians have had a sudden change of heart.  But because one 74 year old activist took up a revered method of protest in India and galvanized large populations all over India in protest s that spilled over into the streets.

He went on a hunger strike for 12 days. And while the Government thought they would solve the problem by throwing him and his core team into prison, all they were effective in doing was galvanizing even more popular support for him. For 12 days it was a ‘see who blinks first’ contest between the Government and 74 year old Anna Hazare.  And fearing large scale violence in the event of Anna Hazare’s death the Government blinked first.  And the people rejoiced.

And while hunger strikes are not an uncommon method of protest in India, ( ‘Iron’  Sharmila Chanu has been on one for 11 years, being force fed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irom_Chanu_Sharmila ) , Anna Hazare’s tool was a simple, effective and hit the depths of almost every Indian’s consciousness. Like Gandhi’s simple message to the British of ‘Quit India’, Anna Hazare’s message was an ‘anti corruption movement’.

Corruption has been at the heart of Indian Political, Administrative, Police and Judicial system, certainly since Independence 65 years ago, maybe before. The presence of which has been resented by those that are victims of it (almost 90% of India) , and celebrated by those that manage to benefit from it.  But its the sheer size of it that has suddenly brought it into focus, with amounts moving into Billions of Dollars and arising from a vast network of Political/ Business alliances.

Some say it is a cultural trait.  I have different reasons.

The Indian Constitution was written for a population at that time of 350 million people. For a largely middle aged, and mostly rural demographic. In a world which did not change much over the five year tenure that a Government had.  It was also written at a time where the general perception was of a populations resistant to change, that lacked mobility, and one where the Founding Fathers assumed would need to be led and nudged into modernity.

If some one had told the Founding Fathers that time that India would head towards a population of 1.3 Billion with 65% under the age of 25, aspiring to modernize, urbanize and partake of a world that was constantly changing on a dime, perhaps they would have thought differently.

Though it was not the principles laid down in India’s constitution that were wrong.  In fact it is reputed to be one of the fairest, most just and precise Constitutional document’s in any Democracy.  The problem lay in the Political, Administrative and Judicial systems that were set up to support that constitution. Systems that were reflective of the Inertia of those times. An Inertia that over time has come into increasing conflict with modern India. Overloaded, unresponsive and uwilling to change, the people responded with the only way they had to overcome the wall of Inertia they faced in their every day lives.  Bribing their way to either survive, to get justice , or to gain vast favors for themselves.

We must wait to see if Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill manages to control corrupt practices or just adds another layer to a large inert bureaucratic machine. But even of the bill does not go through Parliament, Anna Hazare’s movement has achieved huge success. It has brought notice to the Members of the Parliament that their decisions are not just unto themselves. That however effective or ineffective the final Bill maybe it has put all members of the Political Class on notice. But more…

The movement has raised the people of India from their slumber. Not just the disenfranchised, the poor and the hungry, the hopeless.   But the vast middle classes of India who took to the streets. The educated, the students, the ones with jobs to lose, the ones with hope in their future. Who walked together with their domestic help, with the people they would normally bypass without a glance

And that woke the vast Indian Political system from it’s slumber.  Because the urban and semi urban middle classes of India that usually are the bulwark of stability in any Democracy, were screaming on the streets asking almost to overthrow the political system.  No Government, current or the future,  could be safe if that happened. Howls of protest from within the walls of the parliament shouted hoarse that to strike at the Parliament meant a strike at Democracy.  That Anna Hazare’s movement was undemocratic.  They were wrong.

The Parliament is a political  system designed to serve the principles of Democracy laid down in the Indian Constitution. It is not Democracy in itself.  And the Founding Fathers got this one completely right.  The first words in the Indian Constitution are ‘ We the People of India’, and the rest followed. Anna Hazare’s movement had used protest as a tool to make the largest Democracy in the world far far more vibrant,

And the World did not notice that this was done with not shot fired, not an ounce of violence. India’s  second coming was completely peaceful.

Passing of a friend

I went to Jag Mundhra’s funeral expecting grief. What I felt was a warmth.  Almost as if the warmth he exuded all his life exploded out and permeated the molecules of the air around us.  I met his wife, Chandra and through her tears her first words to me were ” What a history we have all had together. What incredible moments”.

Truly. Happy moments to be thankful of. Unforgettable moments shared that  gave life the joy it is supposed to have.

The laughter in times of sadness.

Almost as if the laughter continues through the passing away of a friend.

Its what friendships are meant for. To bind all the ups and downs in life into one idea of shared adventure.

Through life. And through death.

RIP Jag. And thank you for the laughter.

Are you cool ?

Getting to grips with a the media hype of the modern world that is completely designed to make you feel a lack of self worth unless you are ‘cool’ and ‘with it’ is a loosing battle, Simply because there are too many marketing ideas designed to make money based on the psychology of guilt

Oh my god you say – is the train leaving ? should be jumping on ? and then you look around yourself and see a hundred trains leaving with beautiful girls and incredible goodies and the promise of legions of sexy virgins, and a future full of fulfillment of dreams and fantasies.

which train do you get on ?

simple

none, because none of them can actually leave without you,

you have the power over them

when did u leave ?

the wrenching away

of your hand

the

pushing away

from my embrace, the

scream that rose from deep within

the

ugliness of words

desperate

for conviction, the

slamming of the door

an illusion

of permanence

your image through the window

like a shadow

a half self

the other half

breathing

throbbing

living

loving

inside

my heart

when did you

ever leave ?

Imprints

searching for imprints

that i left

when I was with you

the imprint

that I am now

reconfigured

as is yours

matching imprints

of moments

of memories

like

matching waves in an ocean

from one moment

to the next

we together

the ocean

memories

the waves

A mandate to govern or the right to rule ?

There is so much being said on TV and press about the unconstitutional nature of protests over the Jan Lokpal Bill.  It is important for every citizen to read the Constitution to decide for themselves. However the system is not the Constitution. The system is merely an administrative interpretation of the Constitution. So to say the system is corrupt (which in my view it is) is not saying that the Constitution is.

Here is my point of view :

Our Constitution allows the Government of India to govern through a mandate given to it by the citizens of India.  The mandate is not just to those in the governing party.  It is a mandate given to all the members of our Parliament sitting in Opposition too. The mandate is a fiduciary and moral responsibility of each member of the Parliament to represent the wishes of the very citizens of India that have given them that mandate. If the wishes of the citizens of India are not being represented in the Parliament, then the Citizens have a right to protest and an absolute right to redress the the wrongs being committed in the Parliament.

Notice that I have not used the word ‘ ruling party’. Because too often the mandate to govern is used as a mandate to rule. It is not. The sitting members of Parliament continue to be representattives of the people.  Nothing more. And when they cease to represent the people, as is pretty obvious in India right now, they have a moral duty to quit.

Here is a link to the Constitution of India, which each member of Parliament has taken an oath to protect and abide by.

http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/welcome.html

Anna Hazare : Is political power to the Civil Society a threat to Democracy ?

There is debate raging, or perhaps more than debate -a revolution -seething in India that could redefine the relationship between a People and it’s democratically elected Parliament and Government.

Does Power once given to the elected Government and Parliament for it’s term ( in India 5 years) effectively take all Power away from the Citizens of India over governance for that period ?  The movement led by Anna Hazare who is on a hunger strike right now to institute his version of a long standing bill in Parliament that will put a Civil Society watchdog over the workings of the Parliament has caught the imagination, and huge support amongst the aspirational and educated class in India.  A class that has so far been content to be part of the great hope of better standards of living through economic growth. A class that is often accused of not even voting, is now coming out in droves on the streets to be heard. (and since I wrote this 15 hours ago, massive sections of India’s population from all classes have joined the movements on the streets)

To be heard against what they see as the greatest cancer that exists in India.  One that is not only unfair, unjust, illegal, but patently immoral. The cancer of corruption. While the Government and the economists tout growth rates in the economy as a show of success, the people feel that those in the Political Class and others with access to the political class have unfairly usurped a far far larger share of the potential growth in India.  Not only that, they have, under the watch and encouragement of the Political Classes, stolen huge wealth in terms of mineral resources and public money from India for themselves.  A large share of which goes back to the Political Classes and so the cycle continues.

The Government has been caught off guard.  Not used to being challenged like this by the people who it thought politically uncommitted.  Already facing an armed insurrection by the so called rural ‘maoists’ in rural and tribal areas. The so called ‘Middle Class’ is considered in any democracy the biggest supporters of stability. Ones who will not  shut shop to take to the streets. Simply because they have too much to loose through disruptions.

Well, they have.  And a Government is floundering.

While the Opposition has chosen to actively support the movement, it seems just a ploy to flog the current Government. It remains to be seen what teeth  the Civil Society bill called the Jan LokPal Bill the opposition will finally vote for too.  Are they willing to curtail themselves if they form the Government ?

Ask any Indian what the greatest problem they have faced all their lives, and will continue to fact all their lives, and they will say that one word ‘Corruption”. It touches us all on a day to day, sometimes hour to hour basis.  We have learnt to live with, and more dangerously, accept it as part of our culture.  We have learnt to condone it and many see it as their only way to economic success.

But very high profile cases within the Government in power, assuming mind boggling numbers in a Nation where half of the population lives below the poverty lines staggered the nation and caused huge outcry.  Not only because of the scale of corruption. But because the sheer arrogance with which the Political Classes in collusion with their associates have been looting the country.

Has the Political class in India become so arrogant in its assumption of Power that it sees itself as unquestionable and above the law ?  Have the assumed checks and balances within a Parliamentary broken down ?  Is the Political class as a whole corrupt ? Why is the greatest (and public)  defence of the Government in Power against charges of corruption from the Opposition ” YOU DID IT TOO !”

There is a serious loss of faith in the Political System amongst the people. That is very very dangerous.  Not just from the dispossessed, but from the educated, not just the jobless but from those that have taken leave from their jobs to join the mass protest.

Is this the begininngs of the break down of the Democratic System as many suggest ?

I would argue that it is not. I would argue that this is an evolution in Democracy.

The Indian Democratic System was adapted from it’s former colonial masters, into a brilliant but adaptive Constitution.  But the system installed to support the fundamentals of the Constitution were designed for India’s population at time of Independence. A mere 350 million.  For a demographic far far older than we are now. No one at that time could have dreamt of a nation of 1.2 Billion people with 60 % of the population below 25. Soon India will hold 15% of the world’s teenage population.  India’s Political, Social, Judicial systems could not have predicted a a young, aspirational, entrepreneurial, technologically adept population we have today. They could not have predicted that at the end of each 5 year political term, the world would be barely recognizable.

India’s endemic corruption is not a cultural imperative.  It is the result of a slow, unresponsive, antiquated system that is at odds with challenges of Modernity. A system protected by those that are personally benefiting from it at the cost of the aspirations of the People of India.  Forgetting that the first words of the Indian Constitution are not ‘WE THE GOVERNMENT’ or ‘WE THE PARLIAMENT’,  but :

‘WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA’

I support Anna Hazare and a strong version of the Jan Lokpal Bill provided that in its execution it does not become as squeaky as a massive old door that consistently need to be oiled and pushed to make it budge as many of the rest of Indian systems.

The Principles of Democracy are not changeable. But the systems supporting them must be willing to change and adapt.