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akhilesh yadav

MP: Info panel issues notices to 3 food and drugs administration officials

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akhilesh yadav

The MP State Information Commission has taken a very stern view of the failure of the food and drugs administration (FDA) officials to provide information related to adulterated food under the right to information (RTI) Act and issued show-cause notices to three officers.

 

 

During a hearing on Wednesday, information commissioner Atmadeep directed that show-cause notices should be issued to the chief medical and health officer (CMHO) of Bhind district Rakesh Sharma (who is also ex-officio deputy director, FDA) and food security officers of Ashu Kushwaha of Sagar and Shivraj Pawak of Hoshangabad.

 

 

Read at: MP: Info panel issues notices to 3 food and drugs administration officials

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      Ten lakh tonnes of food grains damaged in FCI godowns
       
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      The damages were suffered despite the FCI spending Rs 242 crore while trying to prevent any loss of food grains during storage. Ironically another 2.59 crore was spent just to dispose off the rotten food grains.
       
      These startling facts came in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by a Delhi resident. FCI informed that 10 lakh tonnes of food grain was damaged in the godowns of government owned agency which is responsible for procurement and distribution of food grains across the country.
       
      It comes at a time when a United Nations report has claimed that 63 per cent children in India go to bed without any food.
      The FCI informed that 1.83 lakh tonnes of wheat, 3.95 lakh tonnes of rice, 22 thousand tonnes of paddy and 110 tonnes of maize were damaged between 1997 to 2007.
       
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      "Keeping in view the amount of money spent by the FCI for preservation of food grains in its go-down, the quantum of damage is huge. Is it not a national shame?" the RTI applicant Dev Ashish Bhattacharya said.
      Similarly in eastern India -- Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal -- the damage incurred was 1.5 tonnes of food grains while the FCI spent Rs 122 crore to prevent it from rotting. But the damaged lot was disposed off after spending another Rs 1.65 crore.
      In southern region -- Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala-- the damage incurred was 43,069.023 tonnes despite spending Rs 25 crore.
       
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      "The data given by FCI seems manipulated. In case of Jharkhand, the food grain damage is 3,699 tonnes which is comparatively low than other states. But the money spent to dispose off the damage is Rs 1.4 crore, which is high when compared to the other states," Dev Ashish said.
       
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      As reported by Rahul Jayaram in telegraphindia.com on 18 August 2008:
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      The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority has launched an online redress mechanism that enables consumers to file e-complaints about fake, faulty or overpriced drugs they have purchased. Rahul Jayaram reports

      Are you paying the right price for that painkiller? Is the strip you bought to combat an allergy outdated? Are you sure that the prescribed cough syrup for your bad throat is easily available in the market? No? Fret not. There is a novel way out. Log on to the Internet and punch in
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      Recent measures by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), a government body, may just do to drug pricing what the Right to Information Act has done to information empowerment. In February, the NPPA launched an online redress mechanism enabling consumers to file e-complaints about the drugs they purchased. The complaints can be sent by post as well.


       

      The online format on NPPA’s website is designed to register complaints on topics such as drug overcharging, fake or faulty drugs, non-availability of or lack of medicines. After filling the online form, consumers can send their grievance to the NPPA. The body promises that action will be initiated within 30 working days. The NPPA has also set up a cell to attend to citizens’ grievances at the NPPA office in central Delhi on the first Tuesday of every month between 11 am and 12 noon. It will soon launch a toll free helpline number too.


       

      “These are big steps towards empowering citizens,” explains a senior NPPA functionary. “In many ways it’s a follow-up to the RTI and filing e-complaints is just one of the features. We wanted the process — through which the public could approach us with their objections — to be made absolutely simple.”


       

      The website — developed by the government’s National Informatics Centre (NIC) in Delhi — also provides information on the exact prices of some commonly used drugs such as Vitamins A and C and painkillers, to name just a few. The NPPA has declared a cash award of Rs 1,000 for each complaint that is found correct. “The cash prize will surely elicit more complaints and strengthen our monitoring procedures even in remote places,” says the NPPA official.


       

      The NPPA does not wish to divulge details on how many complaints they have dealt with since they started the service. But NPPA insiders say that in the last three years the body has taken action against drug manufacturers for overcharging. Last month, the NPPA initiated action against major pharmaceutical companies Ranbaxy, Cipla and US Vitamin, India, alleging they were overcharging consumers for medicines that were price controlled. Put together, these firms may have to shell out Rs 1,563 crore if found guilty of the charges. Many of these cases are being fought by invoking the RTI.


       

      These developments have had consumer rights bodies and related experts beaming, but they pitch in with their riders. There’s a big difference between intention and execution, they claim.


       

      Bejon Misra, executive director of Consumer Voice, a Delhi-based consumer rights forum, says Internet penetration in the country — at 3.7 per cent — isn’t something to be enthused about. Traditional media could play a bigger role, he feels, in realising the NPPA’s goal. And the people on the job — the first interface between complainants and the NPPA — “need to be spot on,” he underscores.


       

      “Such initiatives are modern and efficient provided the back end is well-trained and made accountable. The helpline number must be well publicised and seen at all shops and organisations dealing with medicines. It should be seen regularly on TV and read in newspapers and heard over the radio,” he explains.


       

      “The mechanism can be extremely effective provided we really intend to help the poor. Radio is the best medium and there has to be a nodal officer dedicated for this initiative and his or her phone number must be made public, along with the helpline number. The toll-free helpline should be able to handhold the citizen on all kinds of information on price and availability,” Misra adds.


       

      Dr Amit Sengupta, general secretary, All India People’s Science Network, Delhi, gets to the crux of the matter. “The entire point behind this move is to increase the number of essential medicines under the price control band, regulate their pricing and make them available at the correct rate,” he explains. In 1994, the number of price-controlled drugs got reduced from 142 to 73. One of the points on the agenda of the Congress-led government’s Common Minimum Programme was to control the price of more medicines. “It is part of the government’s agenda. In fact, the government needed to have done a lot more on this front,” he says.


       

      Daara B. Patel, secretary general of the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA), Mumbai, a pharmaceutical body that represents the interests of Indian companies, is all for people-friendly measures. But he voices a word of caution. “All these moves are fine and fly-by-night medical manufacturers grossly overpricing their wares need to be brought to book. But we need to be careful. Such measures run the risk of vilifying firms. We need to use this mechanism judiciously,” he says.


       

      Dilip G. Shah, secretary general, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), Mumbai, explains the industry position. Welcoming most of NPPA’s recent measures to create awareness about essential medicines, he puts the affordability factor of the latter on the government’s shoulders.


       

      “In many parts of the country there is a difference between the printed price of the drug and the chemist’s price, so we need such information dissemination moves, but you can’t blame manufacturers for that,” Shah narrates. “Also, the industry feels it should not be burdened to provide medicines to the poor. Our job is to produce drugs. It’s the government’s job to make them accessible to all (including poor) sections. If you can have subsidies for fertilisers, why not for drugs?”


       

      Experts explain that the jousting between the NPPA and drug manufacturers over pricing is as old as the hills. The recent developments were aimed at not only establishing a platform between consumers and the government, but at rebuilding bridges between the government and manufacturers. The senior NPPA official remarks with a touch of irritation, “Pharmaceutical companies only come scurrying to us when prices soar or costs of manufacturing go up, thereby increasing the price of their drugs — as we’ve seen with soaring inflation right now. Outside of public input, the regulatory systems we’ve tried putting in place will try and ensure greater participation by the drugs industry.”


       

      In a bid to expand the ambit of the monitoring process, the NPPA will also conduct a countrywide census on drug firms for providing inputs to the government for future planning and policymaking. Clearly, experts say, it’s a sign of the government reaching out not just to the public but manufacturers as well. The intention is laudable — but, as experts stress, the implementation is crucial.


       

      Consumers, of course, can do their bit by logging in or posting their complaints. So when you next buy a paracetamol and find that it doesn’t work, you know what to do.


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