- Enabling research on a common intellectual property platform
- The village is still relevant
- The virus knows no caste or creed
- A time for planetary solidarity
- Enacting a law barring appointment of retired judges
ENABLING RESEARCH ON A COMMON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PLATFORM
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
India’s reputation in the medical field
India’s reputation as the ‘pharmacy of the world’, which was acknowledged by the Supreme Court in Novartis vs UOI in 2013, is affirmed once again.
India continues to manufacture and supply reasonably priced medicines and diagnostic kits matching international standards for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis B and C, dengue, chikungunya, SARS, H1N1 and so on.
Intellectual Property war
- New ventilators, diagnostic kits, vaccines, management techniques, therapies, IT solutions and medicines are being developed.
- The intellectual property (IP) being generated can be protected.
- Recent media reports suggest that there are attempts to gain control of IP rights. Thus, an IP war is brewing.
What can be done about it?
- Conflicts relating to IP in the 1980s were on the need for strong IP regimes.
- The Trips Agreement as part of the WTO negotiations was an outcome.
- However, even there, public health was always a priority as is evident from the ‘Doha Declaration on Public Health’ which emphasised the need for access to affordable medicines.
- Recent developments have however shown that the WTO may no longer be the preferred forum.
- Some countries/ regions now prefer bilateral agreements, with clauses dealing with IP. Multilateralism could be giving way to bilateralism.
- The current lack of a consistent global policy on IP and health, despite the massive outbreak, would result in further delays for production of vaccines and medicines.
- Thus, there is an emergent need to create a platform which would enable and also share research. India needs to lead the way.
How can India lead the way?
- One of the important goals as set out in India’s National IPR Policy released in May 2016 was to create a platform for sharing of research.
- It called for creation of a public platform to function as a common database of IPRs. Such a platform can help creators and innovators connect to potential users, buyers and funding institutions.
- It would also be helpful in scouting the technology landscape to identify white spaces and thereby help promote innovative activities in uncovered areas.
pools’ are recognised methods of enabling and sharing IP. Thus, there is an imminent
- Create a public platform of all stakeholders including researchers and manufacturers to share research, collaborate and communicate.
- Facilitate researchers to file for patents including by granting exemptions/ postponement from payment of official fees, depending on their needs.
- Make information readily available on the areas of on-going research and the kind of products being developed – without compromising on IP filings.
- Create a platform where Indian IP can be licensed for domestic and global scaling up.
- Enable conduct of clinical trials.
- Enable expedited approvals of products.
- The IP system has to gear up to this calamity which can be turned into an opportunity.
- Once the platform is created, it can be scaled to a global level with cooperation of like-minded countries and international organisations.
- Collective combating of diseases would achieve the selfless goal of researchers for the benefit of one and all.
THE VILLAGE IS STILL RELEVANT
Focus: GS-II Governance
The State taking the back seat
- The new buzz was public-private partnership. It covered everything from roads to schools.
- The form it took made it amply clear that the state would take a back seat after issuing a set of rules for private operators while the state’s own infrastructure will shrink.
- Soon enough, cost-effective measures became the priority in both health and education.
- As we begin to imagine the post-coronavirus scenario, a key question to contemplate is whether we should revisit the policies put in place during the 1990s.
Villages are dying?
- For a long time, a view had been gathering support that villages were no more viable as sites of public investment.
- Providing basic amenities such as running water, electricity and jobs to rural people becomes easier if they move to a city.
- Modernisation was a dominant paradigm of social theory that saw nothing wrong in the growth of vast slums in mega-cities and depletion of working-age people in villages.
- Some social scientists did not mind declaring that the village as we had known it in Indian history was on its way to extinction.
- All such arguments and the data they were based on provided a comfortable rationale for policies that encouraged emigration of a vast section of the rural population to cities.
- It was something ‘natural’ that happens in the course of economic development in countries like ours.
- Acceptance of historical destiny implied that we could simply sit back and let history take its familiar course.
- The only thing the welfare state might do was to mitigate the misery of the masses.
Imbalance and invisibility
- This general framework justified discriminatory funding in every sphere, including health and education.
- Stuck between state minimalism and commercial entrepreneurship, villages lost what capacity they had for regenerating their economy or intellectual resources.
- The novel coronavirus has demonstrated how unsustainable this socio-economic arrangement was, apart from being ethically indefensible. It was characterised by sharp and growing regional disparities.
- Once upon a time, there were debates over the nature of India’s rural society — on whether it was intrinsically good or bad, which are now irrelevant.
- The village is, however, still relevant, at least for the vast number of urban workers.
- They deserve to have new sites and forms of livelihood.
- They also deserve systems of health and education that are not designed as feeders to distant centres.
- Initiatives in this direction will make both cities and villages more sustainable and capable of coping with the kind of crisis we are currently facing.
THE VIRUS KNOWS NO CASTE OR CREED
Focus: GS-II Social Justice
- The COVID-19 pandemic has fanned the flames of communalism instead of dousing them, as it has compounded economic woes.
- Countries and societies can no longer afford to face off with one another and the future can be secured only through togetherness and resilience.
- The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the UN expressed concern over stigmatisation, in India, of a particular community.
- India sought to reject these concerns as external interference.
- There have also been reports of religious discrimination towards patients.
- The situation was aggravated when a vocal section of the Indian diaspora, often touted as proponents of India’s interests in their host countries, was seen as Islamophobic in the UAE.
- Many have lost their jobs for posting hateful content and this culture of diatribe now looms over a critical bilateral relationship.
- The narrative of the pandemic as a communal conspiracy against the nation began to take shape immediately after a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi in March turned out to be a prodigious source of the contagion.
In an environment that is already rife with fear and uncertainty, the official communications strategy must focus on building trust and offering reassurance.
The extremely inadequate messaging has led to stigmatisation of patients and their families, and despicable incivility towards even the bodies of unfortunate victims.
A TIME FOR PLANETARY SOLIDARITY
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
- For knowledge workers, one of the new social norms being created is extensive Internet use for learning and work.
- In certain sectors such as accounting, desk-based research and software development, working remotely turns out to be profitable to companies.
- There are some guidelines to infer from this. The drastic reduction in flights, for instance, has affected the airline industry adversely but also highlighted the fact that many flight trips during ‘normal’ times are in fact unnecessary.
- Online schooling and college education without paywalls is already available, but if it were expanded to develop open access schools and universities, the scam of high admissions fees can be altogether eliminated.
- Life under lockdown has already demonstrated that there are essentials, superfluous items and luxuries. Responsible consumer action and new social norms to limit the last two can make a dent on greenhouse gas emissions while promoting simpler and potentially happier ways of life.
Fundamental change – Way Forward
- There are many encouraging signs of truly ‘green’ alternatives to the current economic system and the beliefs that govern it.
- Becoming sustainable is vital for ensuring that the worst effects of climate change — another planetary crisis lurking just over the horizon of the present one — also do not fall on the already underprivileged.
- Sustainability will need not just decoupling economic growth from pollution but ultimately decoupling planetary welfare from economic growth while fostering social progress.
- What is also quite clear, and shared with the climate change crisis, is that if you ignore science, it will hurt you.
ENACTING A LAW BARRING APPOINTMENT OF RETIRED JUDGES
Focus: GS-II Polity, Governance
Privileges of the Judiciary in the Constitution
- Constitutional appointees to the Supreme Court have been guaranteed several rights in order to secure their independence.
- Chapter 4 of Part V of the Constitution deals with the Supreme Court, and Chapter 5 of Part VI deals with the High Courts.
- The salaries of judges and their age of retirement are all guaranteed in order to secure their independence.
- They cannot be easily removed except by way of impeachment under Articles 124(4) and 217(1)(b).
- They have the power to review legislation and strike it down.
- They can also question the acts of the executive.
- All this makes it clear that the framers of the Constitution envisaged an unambitious judiciary for which the only guiding values were the provisions of the Constitution.
Post-Retirement life of Judges
- It was thought that on retirement from high constitutional office, a judge would lead a retired life. Nobody ever expected them to accept plum posts.
- But the clear demarcation between the judiciary and executive got blurred as many judges over the years began to accept posts offered by the government.
- A few years ago, a former Chief Justice of India (CJI) was made a Governor.
- Now, we have the case of a former CJI, Ranjan Gogoi, being nominated by the President to the Rajya Sabha and taking oath as Member of Parliament.
Impact of such appointments, and Gogoi’s interview
- People are fast losing confidence in the so-called independent judiciary.
- An interview that Justice Gogoi gave after assuming office as member of the Rajya Sabha made the situation worse. When asked whether his nomination was a quid-pro-quo for his having delivered judgments in favour of the Central government, his answer, that he was not the only judge but there were other judges too, was damaging.
- His view that membership of the Rajya Sabha was not a job but a service, and that once the President nominated him the call of duty required him to accept it, only created the impression that the judiciary is pliant.
- A bare reading of Article 80(3) of the Constitution only envisages the President to nominate “persons having special knowledge… in literature, science, art and social service” as members to the Rajya Sabha. It is difficult to imagine that the Constitution-makers had in mind a retired CJI when framing this provision.
Time to enact a law – Way Forward
- Therefore, appointments of persons who have held constitutional office will undermine the very constitutional values of impartiality in the dispensation of justice.
- It will also go against the clear demarcation of separation of powers.
- If post-retirement appointments are going to undermine confidence in the judiciary and in constitutional democracy, it is time to have a law in place either by way of a constitutional amendment or a parliamentary enactment barring such appointments.
- Judges can be compensated by being given their last drawn salary as pension.
- Also, the age of retirement for judges can be increased by a year or two.
- This will undo the damage caused by post-retirement jobs.
- It is important to remember that judges are constitutional servants, not government servants.