GOVERNMENT ASSAULT ON FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN INDIA

By Moksha Grover

The year 2021 has shown catastrophic effects on India so far. The country has witnessed a devastating second wave of covid-19 which continues to rage on with the official death toll being over 3,50,000[1]. Hospitals in India run out of beds and medical oxygen because of the country’s paralyzed healthcare infrastructure. But the most important point to be noted here is that India increased its oxygen exports by 734 percent in January 2021, and exported around 193 million doses of vaccines[2]. Justifying the export to other countries, union health minister Harsh Vardhan claimed that the country was in a virus endgame. However, at the end of April 24, the total confirmed cases of coronavirus stood beyond 16 million with less than 2 percent of the population fully vaccinated[3].  When the people started questioning the government, the government in response reportedly directed Twitter and other social media platforms to remove over 100 posts and URLs criticizing India’s handling of its second nationwide COVID-19 wave[4].

It forced social media companies, especially Twitter, to stifle expression, and if the companies don’t obey they face the threat of punishment from the government. This is one example of the recent case of assault followed by the Indian government in relation to the freedom of speech in India.

IMPORTANCE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION

Freedom of speech and expression as regarded by Mahatma Gandhi

“the two lungs that are absolutely necessary for a man to breathe the oxygen of liberty”. Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”[5]

The Indian Constitution provides for the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).[6] This right can be restricted on the basis of grounds provided in Article 19(2), which are: in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense [7]. The right to articulate opinions without fear of retaliation, censorship, or punishment carries significance in the life of every human being, thus making the right to expression important for all human beings. Freedom of speech is an important right because a person’s voice is sometimes all that person has. To take away a person’s thoughts and opinions is to strip their life away.

THE CRISIS OF FREE SPEECH                        

   In the last few months alone, Delhi Police has made international headlines for visiting Twitter’s India offices to “routinely” investigate its policies on tagging content as manipulated media. The Union Government has strongly instructed Twitter to remove all the tweets critical of Prime Minister Narendra covid response. Many activists have been arrested by the government for mobilizing support for the farmers’ protests. Multiple FIRs have been filed against journalists for reporting on Covid deaths and oxygen shortages. Last year, two Malayalam news channels were suspended for 48 hours by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for reporting the Delhi riots. This year, a comedian also got arrested and spent the whole of January in prison for the jokes he never cracked. The latest illustration of the assault on free speech is the government’s response to protests against the new farm laws. Instead of allowing peaceful assembly, the government in Delhi started building barriers on protest sides with nail beds or concrete walls. They blocked the protests. Many protesters were arrested. Violence erupted on many occasions and the farmers traveling to Delhi were placed under house arrest in Agra to cut at the root of the protest. Also Recently, three FIRs have been filed against union minister Narayan Rane for his remarks against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray while giving a speech in Raigad district on Monday. His support in Mumbai also clashed and two of his supporters and two policemen were injured in the clash. Furthermore, in an English weekly, Organizer, was said to be publishing communal writings and was ordered by the Chief Commissioner of Delhi to submit all materials for prior censorship There are numerous other cases that depict the crisis of free speech in India.

IS THE ASSAULT FOLLOWED BY THE GOVERNMENT TENABLE?

The failure of the government to control the covid-19 cases in India and handle the pandemic has resulted in us bearing the worst covid surge in the world. However, instead of being accountable for its lapses and listening to its citizens, the government is prohibiting people from even talking about it. It is trying to suppress the voices of all the people who have been affected by the wrong decisions of the government. Such attacks on free speech end in the tipping away of balance from constitutional freedom; of late, the higher judiciary seems to be complicit in this absurd process[8]. One must realize that liberty once lost is lost forever and censorship is undoubtedly against the very foundation of a free society.

THE TWO MAJOR FREE SPEECH CHALLENGES FACED BY THE WORLD

There are mainly two major free speech challenges faced by the world, Today. In most developing countries like ours, the legal system isn’t strong enough to guarantee freedom of speech and needs to be revised. In other developed countries like the U.S free speech is increasingly being mixed up with absolute speech. In developed countries, the fight for freedom of speech has shifted to normalizing hate speech’s and to

 Silence minorities. As said, words always have consequences. One such example was a surge in anti-Muslim attacks in the UK after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called women in burqas “bank robbers”, and similar incidents happened everywhere[9]. In India, the government keeps suppressing its critics and agrees to give a free pass to all those who abide by its values. Hate speeches are allowed to be shown on national television considering, that these hate speeches are directed toward minority communities. Even by the American standard of “imminent lawless action”, chanting “Desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro saalo ko” at rallies would be considered wrong, and yet it seems to be acceptable here[10].

PROTECTING AND PROMOTING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Social Media has given a voice to almost everyone. But the digital world, like our real world, is not a level-playing field and those with power quickly learned how to use it to their advantage. In India, along with direct suppression, indirect suppression is also being followed through the way of troll armies that abuse people and flooding tactics (fake news, propaganda bots, paid commentators) that drown out real voices. Sticks and stones have always broken bones but words hurt twice as much. Social Media companies need to develop good terms and conditions to tackle all the misinformation and hate speeches. Online platforms should make it harder for people to share misinformation. Since women and children are mostly targeted online, companies should ensure to make their platforms a space to share ideas and not to harass people by employing sufficient moderators. We should keep fighting for the right to expression in India but at the same time keep in mind that our right to express opinions should not stifle the voices of other people or put them in danger.


[1] Jacob Mchangama and Raghav Mendiratta, ‘Supporting free speech, but not a criticism of government’, The Indian Express (June 25,2021) <https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/supporting-free-speech-but-not-criticism-of-government-7376023/> accessed 26th August 2021

[2] MD Tasnimul Hassan,’ Latest salvo in the crisis of free speech in India’, The Leaflet ( 27th April 2021) < https://www.theleaflet.in/latest-salvo-in-the-crisis-of-free-speech-in-india/&gt; accessed 26th August 2021.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Sourabh Yadav, ‘Right to free speech is democracy’s precious gift, but not when it stifles others’ voices’, The Print (December 2,2021) < https://theprint.in/campus-voice/right-to-free-speech-is-democracys-precious-gift-but-not-when-it-stifles-others-voices/555715/> accessed 26th August,2021

[10] Ibid.

HOW WILL ASSET MONETISATION HELP THE GOVERNMENT?

By Moksha Grover

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on Monday that the Indian Government intends to monetize ₹6 lakh crore worth of state-owned assets over the next four years under its asset monetization pipeline. The union government has said that they’ll allow the private sector to bid for operating the assets for 25 years, and with a lump sum payment upfront, but without giving away title to the underlying assets. The Centre aims to sell off gas pipelines, roads, railway assets, and warehousing facilities among a host of other assets with the help of the National Monetisation pipeline (NMP).  The private sector can operate these assets for 25 years but they have to calculate what they can earn from it in various ways, over the next 25 years; discount that cash flow to its ‘present value (PV), deduct from that their profit margin, and pay the balance amount as an upfront rental to the government[1].

Lets us assume the value of the said asset is Rs 100. And return to the asset in real terms is 4% per annum (net of inflation)[2]. The present value of the 4% earnings, discounted at the real rate of interest to such an operator, assuming it is 6%, (again real as opposed to nominal rate) would be Rs 51.3[3]. Let us round it off to 50. Rs 50 represents the PV of an annuity of Rs 4, over 25 years, discounted at 6% per annum[4]. In effect for every Rs 100 of assets monetized, the cash flow yield from the asset that the operator can expect is Rs 50[5]. From this, he must deduct the return that he expects from his investment, the risk premium attached to the earning, and the general uncertainty of dealing with a capricious government[6]. Assume the operator wants a minimum of 50% return on his equity[7]. He will then be willing to pay Rs 35 (rounding off the calculation) for the Rs 100 assets[8]. One doesn’t know if the Rs 6 trillion number is indeed the market value of the assets[9]. But assuming it is, then the total value of upfront rental it can expect from such monetization will be in the region of Rs 2.1 trillion or less[10]. In fact, given normal discounting rates of 50% in such cases (100% return on capital), the government should expect no more than Rs 1.5 trillion[11].

WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT DOING THIS?

The Indian government has been facing a silent budgetary crisis. This crisis resulted because of disasters like demonetization, tax cuts for corporates, and GST made by Modi. Because of these serial disasters, the GDP growth of the country has fallen drastically. As a result of GDP falling, Modi had to steeply hike the prices of inelastic commodities like petroleum products to pay for corporate tax cuts. The price hike and hike in direct taxes burden the lower and middle-class people, indirectly, and hence, they have to reduce their consumption. So their consumption falls dragging GDP growth down even further. As a result of all these events, the economy tanked by sinking GDP by 28% in one quarter[12]. The GDP for the full year fell by 7%, the highest of any major economy[13]. All the government revenues are left plummeting and deficits soaring, thus necessitating record borrowings to pay for government expenses. Presently, the government debt as a percentage of GDP now stands in the region of 90%[14]. Government tax and non-tax revenues are expected to be 22.7% of GDP, and the combined government deficit is projected at 6.3%[15]. So, the government was left with no choice introduced asset monetization to fill its coffers. As and when, asset monetization will take place it will add up to the non-tax revenues of the government. All this trickery comes in the backdrop of India’s worsening credit ratings, which are just about a notch above junk, with a negative outlook.

FEW POINTS TO KNOW ABOUT ASSET MONETISATION

  1. Asset monetization involves monetizing brownfield assets and does not include the selling of land.
  2. “Ownership of assets will remain with the government and there will be a mandatory hand-back,” as said by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman[16].
  3. The infrastructure line ministries included the pipeline—Roads, Transport and Highways, Railways, Power, Pipeline and Natural Gas, Civil Aviation, Shipping Ports and Waterways, Telecommunications, Food, and Public Distribution, Mining, Coal and Housing, and Urban Affairs—along with Secretary (Department of Economic Affairs) and Secretary (Department of Investment and Public Asset Management)[17].
  4. The estimated value corresponds to 14 percent of the proposed outlay for the Centre under the National Infrastructure Pipeline ( ₹43 lakh crore)[18].
  5. Asset Monetisation aims at tapping private sector investment for new infrastructure creation.
  6. Asset Monetisation is important for employment opportunities and generation, which will further help in accelerating economic growth and public welfare of the country.
  7.  The top 5 sectors (by estimated value) capture ~83% of the aggregate pipeline value. These top 5 sectors include: Roads (27%) followed by Railways (25%), Power (15%), oil & gas pipelines (8%) and Telecom (6%)[19].
  8. In terms of annual phasing by value, 15% of assets with an indicative value of ₹0.88 lakh crore are envisaged to be rolled out in the current financial year (FY 2021-22)[20]. However, the aggregate, as well as year-on-year value under NMP, is only an indicative value with the actual realization for public assets depending on the timing, transaction structuring, investor interest, etc[21].
  9. A range of instruments is identified through which assets and transactions identified under the NMP are expected to be rolled out[22]. These include direct contractual instruments such as public-private partnership concessions and capital market instruments such as Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvIT) among others[23].
  10. Union Budget 2021-22 had identified monetization of operating public infrastructure assets as a key means for sustainable infrastructure financing[24].

EFFECTS OF ASSET MONETISATION

Privatization of assets will lead to the following outcomes: –

  • Through the way of consumption or investment, privatization will lead to paring down of government instead of a further increase in government expenditure.
  • Efficacy of asset use is improved through lower real interest rates to spur private investment.
  • All the money that comes from asset monetization will go back to the government via a circuitous route.
  • Asset monetization will not result in any addition to the gross domestic in the economy, either by bringing in foreign savings or by attracting a significant synergy premium.
  • Asset monetization doesn’t add up to the share of resources available to the private sector and does not contribute to the growth of the private sector even by a penny.

In conclusion, the idea of selling existing government funds to create new ones is excellent. But in the current situation, there is no such thing, and speaking of the economy as a whole, there will be no other changes except transaction costs go up, and a severely limited government bandwidth is further stretched thin over needless paperwork.


[1] Sonali Ranade, ‘How Will Asset Monetisation Help the Government?’, The Wire (August 26,2021) < https://thewire.in/economy/how-will-asset-monetization-help-the-government> accessed 27th August 2021.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] there will be no other changes except e, th of the private secto even by a penny.  Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

IMPACT OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON CRIME RATE

By Moksha Grover

The Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China was recognized as a pandemic by World Health Organization (WHO). Today, the world is in the fight towards covid wide-ranging consequences. Pandemics have always changed the way human beings interact and covid pandemic is no exception in this case. People are facing collective forms of trauma due to health concerns, negativity caused by the pandemic, loss due to unemployment, false information surfing around social media etc.  Isolation and quarantine increased depression and anxiety among the people. Because of the side effects of the pandemic faced by the people domestic violence, homicide crimes, fraud and trafficking of medicinal products have increased significantly. While, due to lockdown crimes like theft, and robbery has shown a decline.

Domestic physical violence, abuse. Scared little caucasian girl, victim sitting close to a white wall with the shadow of an angry threatening mother with alcohol addiction. Awareness of social problems.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND HOMICIDES CRIME

While the covid pandemic has affected all types of crimes, some crimes have increased and some decreased. It has affected domestic violence and homicide crimes the most. Pandemic has added to the rise in domestic abuse and homicide crime. Due to economic reasons, the victim is forced to remain with the abuser. Some victims get quarantined with the abusers and are prone to sexual assault, partner violence, and child abuse. These people are also left without any access to services.

During the lockdown, many women were trapped in their houses and had to work all day and also become the victims of domestic violence by their husbands.  A study in New Delhi, India shows that by the second week of lockdown domestic violence cases rose from 116 in the first week to 257 in the final week in the month of March[1].  A study by researcher Priyanshi Chauhan found that “approximately 22.5% of married women, as compared to zero men and unmarried women, worked for more than 70 hours per week” during the lockdown[2]. The study also said unemployed women witnessed the highest increase of 30.5 percentage points for those who spent more than 70 hours per week on unpaid work[3].

COUNTERFEITING AND FRAUDS

Counterfeiting and fraud have increased a lot in this covid pandemic. High-demand products during the pandemic, mostly medical products are being counterfeited the most. Virus mitigating products such as face masks, virus test kits, PPT kits etc. worn by frontline workers and medical supplies used for treating COVID-19 patients were also counterfeited. In India, due to the shortage of remdisivir vaccines used for treating covid patients, criminals started selling fake remdisivir injections to people and in return took huge amounts of money from these people.

As the covid-19 pandemic led the way for online shopping, countering in online shopping also rose. Criminals began to exploit a greater use of social media as a medium for sales. The public trusts celebrities and influencers, promote a product and have faith in their recommendations. But this benefit was recognized by criminals and they recruited irresponsible influencers to engage in building interest in cheap and often dangerous fake goods. The covid pandemic is making a way for criminal counterfeiters and increasing the threat to businesses and consumers alike.

CYBERCRIMES

Owing to the shift of focus to a health crisis, cyber defence systems have been lowered. As a result, cybercriminals are attacking the computer networks and systems of individuals, businesses and even global organizations. Cybercriminals have created thousands of new websites for conducting spam campaigns or spreading malware. Various covid-19 maps and websites have been found embedded with malware, spyware and Trojans. Hospitals, medical centres and public institutions are being targeted by cybercriminals for ransomware attacks – since they are overwhelmed with the health crisis and cannot afford to be locked out of their systems, the criminals believe they are likely to pay the ransom[4].

TERRORIST ATTACKS

In comparison with the past, terrorist attacks have been reduced due to the global lockdown. In the past, when in 2013, the emergence of the Islamic state brought a new wave of attacks 2014 in cities around the world[5]. This wave of ISIS terror attacks seems to come to an end now. However, “Coronavirus denier movements” could contribute to the potential of violence since they attracted extremists from various ideological backgrounds[6]. In 2021, may a series of attacks in Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of 56 people[7]. Today, Afghanistan has been conquered by Talibans and now Talibans in association with Al-Qaeda have attacked Panjshir valley, a fight ongoing for two days[8]. Switzerland has warned of terror attacks on Covid vaccine sites[9].

THEORETICAL REASONS FOR THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON CRIME

Overall covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the reduction of crime rates. More stringent restrictions over movement in public spaces due to lockdown have resulted in large declines in crimes like theft, burglary and other types of crimes.  There are mainly 4 causes that have led to a significant decrease in crime rates due to pandemics.

First, restrictions on mobility and reduction in economic and social activities outside of the household leave the criminals with fewer opportunities. These restrictions have also reduced the number of assaults with deadly weapons, robberies, residential burglaries, shoplifting, and thefts as a consequence of a reduced interaction of people in the urban environment. Furthermore, this pandemic has also led to a reduction in the opportunities for potential victims to encounter the potential offender

Second, due to the fear of infection, many criminals have become hesitant to engage in criminal activities. This cause has shown a consequence in the reduction of group crimes. Even if the lockdown is not imposed there are many criminals who do not engage in criminal activities due to the fear of infection.  Various studies propose that the lockdowns specifically lower crimes that are committed in groups. But more severe crimes like homicides fail to decline.

Third, due to the economic problems caused by the pandemic crimes can relatively increase. Individuals losing employment, income, lack of new public policies, weaker public support systems, and a larger informal sector can result in to increase in the willingness of criminals to commit crimes.

PREVENTING CRIME AND KEEPING SAFE DURING COVID-19

Covid-19 has affected the whole world in many ways including the type and number of crimes being committed. Along with focusing on the health crisis, it is the right time now to take steps that can help in the reduction of crime rates to ensure the safety of the people. Here are a few steps that can be taken to reduce crime rates.

  1. Talking about the risk factors associated with crime, our focus should be shifted towards socially vulnerable areas where there is often a combination of risk factors such as high levels of unemployment, mental ill-health and drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Alcohol consumption should be reduced as it can lead to domestic violence and child abuse when stress increases.
  • For reducing cybercrime, people should be taught about the precautions they should take to protect themselves from cybercrimes. These include setting a strong password, updating software, managing social media settings, using a full-service Internet security suite etc.
  • Appropriate policy measures can help a lot in overcoming fraud and counterfeiting of the products.
  • Having a proactive approach and spreading awareness can also help a lot. We should treat violence as a public health concern to ensure the protection of the people.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I would like to say that, although covid pandemic has decreased overall crime rates. However, Covid has not caused a reduction in all kinds of crime nor in all countries across the globe. There are some types of crimes that have increased due to covid pandemic and there are some countries that have seen an increase in crime rates. The focus should be given equally to crime around the world as to pandemics. People should be taught about the precautions they need to take. The world should stand together and fight against all the terrorist activities taking place in this covid pandemic


[1] Bismee Taskin, ‘Increased work, domestic abuse — how Covid lockdown was especially hard on women in India’, The Print (9th February,2021) < https://theprint.in/india/increased-work-domestic-abuse-how-covid-lockdown-was-especially-hard-on-women-in-india/601328/> accessed 3rd September, 2021

[2] Ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ‘COVID-19 cyberthreats’, Interpol < https://www.interpol.int/en/Crimes/Cybercrime/COVID-19-cyberthreats> accessed 3rd September,2021.

[5] ‘Timeline: the Rise, Spread, and Fall of the Islamic State’, Wilson centre (28th October,2019) < https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/timeline-the-rise-spread-and-fall-the-islamic-state> accessed 3rd September,2021.

[6] Thomas Wahl, ‘Council Conclusions: COVID-19 Impact on Terrorism and Violent Extremism’, Eucrim (6th July,2021)< https://eucrim.eu/news/council-conclusions-covid-19-impact-on-terrorism-and-violent-extremism/ > accessed 3rd September,2021

[7] Greg Barton, ‘n COVID’s shadow, global terrorism goes quiet. But we have seen this before, and should be wary’, The Conversation (14th August,2020) < https://theconversation.com/in-covids-shadow-global-terrorism-goes-quiet-but-we-have-seen-this-before-and-should-be-wary-144286> accessed 3rd September,2021

[8] ‘Afghanistan Crisis Updates: Al-Qaeda reportedly joins Taliban in attack on Panjshir valley, fight ongoing for two days’, The Economic Times (05 September, 2021) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/newsblogs/latest-daily-news-and-updates-september-02/liveblog/85854590.cms > accessed 5th Septembter,2021

[9] ‘Switzerland warns of terror attacks on Covid vaccine sites’, Mint (29th August, 2021) < https://www.livemint.com/news/world/switzerland-warns-of-terror-attacks-on-covid-vaccine-sites-11630226544056.html> accessed 5th September,2021

INDIAN PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRIES IN THE TIMES OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC

By: Moksha Grover

As the whole world is suffering against the covid-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical industries all over the world are trying their level best to fight against these unprecedented times. The covid pandemic has actually benefitted the pharmaceutical industry and helped in the growth and development of this industry. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is the world’s third largest drug producer by volume and the country’s market manufactures 60 percent of vaccines globally[1]. This constitutes 40 to 70 percent of the supply to satisfy the World Health Organization’s (WHO) demand for Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DPT) and Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccines and 90 percent of the global demand for the measles vaccine[2]. In this covid pandemic, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has played a vital role in distributing affordable and low-cost generic drugs to millions of people around the globe.

GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF INDIAN PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRIES

The covid-19 pandemic presented several opportunities for the pharmaceutical companies and helped them to think differently. It helped them to act in a sense of urgency for all the patients who were looking for cheap and affordable medicines. In this pandemic, Indian companies have risen and developed in the field of therapeutics by re-purposing the dugs.

This pandemic also gave the pharmaceutical companies opportunities to work in collaborations with some major global companies for the purpose of developing the covid vaccine in turn enhancing the global connections. Serum Institute of India partnered with Oxford University, Zydus Cadila partnered with Gamaleya Institute of Russia, Panacea Biotec collaborated with US-based Refana Inc and there are many other companies who collaborated for the purpose of producing good and effective vaccines against the deadly virus. These collaborations and partnerships helped the companies to make effective vaccines, develop a stand in therapeutics, and also reach the global market.

Indian pharma industry took a proactive approach during the pandemic and also became successful in proving its mettle in complex and specialty generics. These companies also ensured regular manufacturing by not hindering manufacturing even for a single day. With the development in the pharma industry, eCommerce platforms and industries also developed. In the current pandemic, a great deal of motivation was given to E-pharmacy which helped in ensuring that patients received their medication despite lockdown. The domestic pharma market turnover in India has reached Rs. 1.4 lakh crores (equivalent to $ 20.03 billion) in 2019 as per the government data[3]. This is actually an increase from Rs. 1.29 lakh crores in 2018[4].

CHALLENGES FACED BY INDIAN PHARMACY INDUSTRIES DUE TO PANDEMIC

The source of APIs plays a very crucial role in the strategic plan of the Indian pharmaceutical industry to combat covid-19. A major challenge faced by this industry is the supply of APIs. Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) are defined as the active ingredients contained in a medicine. This pandemic has highlighted the dependence of the Indian pharma industry on imported APIs. Today, 60 percent of India’s API requirement is imported[5]. In commonly used APIs, such as cephalosporins, azithromycin, and penicillin, the dependence is as high as 90 percent [6].  Of the total imports of APIs and intermediates into India, China accounts for 65–70 percent [7]. This is a problem faced by almost the whole west depends upon china for their API supplies. This pandemic has also highlighted low healthcare coverage in India. n terms of healthcare spending, India has one of the lowest healthcare budgets with just 1.26 percent of GDP being spent on healthcare[8]. India ranks 155th out of the 167 countries in terms of hospital bed availability (as per the Human Development Report 2020) with just five beds available for every 10,000 Indians[9].  Such a sudden rise in covid cases in India highlighted the shortage of hospital beds, medicines, and availability of laboratory tests. As pandemics have always shifted the way people react. A similar change has been seen in the consumption pattern of various consumers. There has been an increase in the case of online ordering and e-consultations, especially in the case of chronic diseases. These challenges can result in long-term impacts on this industry.

STRATEGIES FOR PROMOTING INDIAN PHARMA PRODUCTION

Initiatives like Production Linked Incentives (PLI) schemes for bulk drugs and medical devices introduced by the government for the industry’s self-reliance have given a major boost to this industry. These incentives are to the tune of INR6,940 crore and INR3,420 crore, respectively, and encompass greenfield projects for bulk drugs and intermediates, and the establishment of three bulk drug parks[10]. In addition to this, the government should take some steps in removing the financial and technical barriers prevailing within this industry. This will in turn help in reducing the dependency of the Indian pharma industry on china for APIs.

The pharmaceutical companies have now identified the importance of backward integration which is expected to bring greater reliability, improve the quality of production, reduce dependence on external sources of supply, and help in increasing the efficacy of manufacturing. Several key representatives from the pharmaceutical industry and NITI Aayog have suggested fostering the approvals of pharmaceutical infrastructure developments, clearance from the environment ministry, and providing tax exemptions and subsidies for the development and promotion of the pharmaceutical industry hubs could benefit the market[11].

Over the last few years, many tourists have been visiting India for their medical treatment. The government has also relaxed rules for the tourists by issuing rapid airport clearances and fast-track medical visas, thus helping in the promotion of this industry.

CONCLUSION

This covid pandemic has been a boon to the Indian pharmaceutical industry. Medicine spending in India is expected to grow between 9-12 percent over the next five years, leading India to become one of the top 10 countries in terms of medical spending[12]. It is now important for all pharmaceutical companies to shift their product portfolio toward chronic diseases like covid drugs, antidepressants, anti-diabetes, cancers, etc. which are on the hike nowadays. Many initiatives have been taken up by the government to reduce healthcare expenses and make it affordable for the whole population of the country. The introduction of generic drugs has also paved the way for the benefit of pharma companies. It is now important to focus on the rural healthcare system and provide the rural areas with the necessary drugs and preventive vaccines. Doing so will help a lot in the development of pharma companies in India and will also lead to the development of the country as a whole.


[1] Dr Abhishek Dadhich, ‘The COVID-19 pandemic and the Indian pharmaceutical industry’, EPR (22 April,2020) < https://www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/article/117413/the-covid-19-pandemic-and-the-indian-pharmaceutical-industry/> accessed 19th September 2021.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Dr Sujith Varma K, ‘Covid-19 impact on Indian pharmaceutical industry’, PHARMABIZ.COM (10th February, 2021) < http://www.pharmabiz.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?aid=135427&sid=9#:~:text=The%20domestic%20pharma%20market%20turnover,actually%20an%20increase%20from%20Rs.> accessed 19th September,2021.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Sanjay Singh, ‘Pharmaceuticals: emerging not just stronger, but better and smarter’, KPMG https://home.kpmg/in/en/home/insights/2021/04/indian-pharma-industry-boom-mantra.html accessed 19th September,2021.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Dr Sujith Varma K (n 3)

[12] Ibid.