RSS affiliate flags conflict of interest in IPR panel

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by sasi, Apr 2, 2015.

  1. sasi

    sasi Senior Member Senior Member

    Nov 18, 2012
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    NEW DELHI: Several public interest groups have complained about what they say is a conflict of interest of members constituting the government's intellectual property rights (IPR) think tank meant to draft the national policy on IPR.
    The latest to complain is RSSaffiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), which has written to commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying that the conflict of interest of think tank members would be "a barrier to draw(ing) a national policy to address the development needs of the nation". SJM demanded that the think tank be reconstituted to remove the conflict of interest.
    The SJM letter pointed out that the convener of the think-tank, Narendra Sabharwal, an ex-WIPO bureaucrat, was currently chairing the IP committee of FICCI, a body dominated by multinational companies. "His membership in the committee compromises its neutrality ," the SJM letter added. It also pointed out that another member, Pratibha Singh, has appeared for telecom and pharmaceutical multinational firms, which also raised conflict of interest issues.
    Pratibha Singh had appeared for the multinational Gilead in fighting a case to protect its patent on the Hepatitis C medicine Solvadi.Sabharwal chaired a Ficci IP committee meeting as recently as March 13, in which one of the items for discussion was the first draft of the National IPRPolicy .
    "The presence of Sabharwal in the think tank is a clear case of conflict of interest that needs to be flagged.Through him the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) gets guid ed by business interests, ignoring public interest," said Dinesh Abrol, convener of the National Working Group on Patents. Abrol demanded that he resign or be removed from the think tank.
    The SJM, along with asking for reconstitution of the think tank, has asked the minister to ensure the involvement of academics, especially those with exposure to development economics, industrial policy , technology policy and innovation.
    Sabharwal told TOI that he didn't see any conflict of interest. "Yes, I chaired the IP Committee meetings of Ficci. But there are other members in the think tank and a consensus view is taken. All submissions will be taken into consideration. Some submissions don't agree with those made by others. We will weigh all of them and take a decision in a neutral manner in the interest of the government," he said.
    FICCI IP committee members are mostly representatives of multinationals like Microsoft and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and thus submission to the think tank reflects many of the MNC demands.

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