Friday, October 28, 2011

Customs in Delhi

A friend of mine recently ordered a consignment from abroad and found, on its arrival, that it had been torn and that two of the three products were missing. The letter accompanying the parcel enumerated the three products that were ordered, but only one item remained inside. The postal worker who brought the parcel to him said that it was a case of theft and he could not be held accountable, and complaints ought to be lodged at the customs headquarters.

So, as you can see, in our eminently civilized country, you should not make the mistake of putting anything through the customs service. Do not ever make the mistake of ordering anything online that requires international shipment. The corrupt officers who hold customs jobs in our country cannot restrain themselves from tearing into the property of other people and pouncing on whatever they can get their grubby paws on like a pack of dogs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

NC Worker Death

The custodial death of the National Conference party worker in Srinagar, purportedly at CM Omar Abdullah's residence, has led to very desperate denials of involvement from the Abdullahs and their party. The fact of the matter is that eyewitness accounts state explicitly that Abdullah was present at home and that Syed Yousuf was demanding cash payments for a seat in the legislative council at his behest when he was taken away by policemen and beaten to death. The NC government is rotten to the core. How else would Omar be in a position to claim that the autopsy report specifies a heart attack as the cause of death three days before the autopsy itself, and in spite of eyewitnesses who saw Yousuf bruised and beaten?

Also disturbing is the unprofessional and incompetent anchoring of a CNN IBN news anchor, Rajdeep Sardesai, who made a mockery of his interview with the son of the deceased. His stupid questions and his trivialization of the issue were really poor.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Drugs and FDI

The other day, whilst buying Zincovit multi-vitamin tablets from the university pharmacist, I noticed that the packaging had changed and the price had gone up - the difference was around fifteen rupees, if I'm not mistaken. I wondered at it. It was only a month or so earlier that the Supreme Court had deferred judgment in a case involving multinationals and anti-retroviral drugs, challenging the sale of cheaper alternatives in the Indian market, and the African market via the Indian market.

However, a report in the current issue of Outlook is instructive in this case. 100% FDI permissibility in the pharmaceutical sector has been the policy in the drugs market since 2001. Over the years, seven top Indian companies have been taken over by multinationals. The current debate revolves around whether this investment policy has led to an increase in the prices of Indian generic drugs. (Generic drugs are drugs that are produced and sold cheaply and locally in the event of the expiry of the copyright of the original formula.) Evidently, it has. Prices have gone up 5%-23% in 2008-11. Both the Indian pharma lobby and the multinationals' lobby are interested in current policy debates in this sector. Some sections of the government (health ministry, commerce ministry, etc.) want discretionary powers and a case-by-case review of investments to ensure the prices of drugs do not put them out of the reach of the Indian consumer, especially the poor, but fear government intervention would lead to greater corruption and bad competition. Other sections of the government (finance ministry) want the sector to be "freely competitive". The debate continues.

The Indian pharmaceutical sector, from the end-user's point of view, has been largely conducive to large-scale availability and affordability. It would be undesirable to manipulate the price mechanism in place in this sector. Therefore, it would be desirable for the Indian pharma lobby to secure investment caps and protection? I would think so.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Until My Freedom Has Come

Currently reading Until My Freedom Has Come, a collection of essays and personal accounts of the summer of 2010 in Kashmir, edited by Sanjay Kak. Most of the writers either grew up there and currently live elsewhere, or still continue to live and work there. However, there is an acute sense that most of the writing emerges from a distance engendered in the writers' minds because of their dislocation from the epicentre of violence and dissonance that is their original homeland. Last summer was a particularly volatile period in the history of the valley, which has, for the last three decades, been overpowered by a helpless civic and political breakdown. The discovery of the bodies of three civilians shot in a false "encounter" killing in Machil - purportedly buried in an unmarked grave by paramilitary soldiers, who sought to win some monetary reward by passing their bodies off as the bodies of militants - sparked off large-scale protests, where further violence and the shooting of unarmed protesters led to protests, strikes, more violence and the use of greater military force against the restive populace. The book is written by a generation of writers who have grown up against the backdrop of a militarily "occupied" Kashmir, and their stories are brutal. There is so much hope in their writing, it makes one not wonder but shudder at the status quo.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I am confused sometimes by the clash of the trivial and inane, and the profound in our daily existence. I wish we could separate them, so that we have one set of rules to deal with one and another set of rules to deal with the other. As it happens, they occur simultaneously and confuse us with their variety and disparity. The profound is never overshadowed by the inane. The magnitude of the first cannot be affected much by the smallness, the insignificance of the latter. Yet, they affect us at the same time, and we sometimes brood over their untimely clashing, their coincidence.

I am filled with resentment toward those that unnecessarily intrude in our lives, albeit briefly, to touch us with their negativity, futility and insecurity. You are not needed here. You don't belong here. When you hear the voice of love and concern at night, the last voice you hear before you sleep, you want it to overflow into your thoughts and dreams, to flood your consciousness. You don't want the brittle voice of malice you encounter in insignificant persons to interfere with that.