In a very notable development, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), an economic wing of the Sangh Parivar, has raised serious concerns with the draft IPR Policy including concerns over its constituent members. Before I mention what the concerns were, I’ll put forward some background to place these comments in context: The Sangh Parivar is a group of Hindu nationalist organizations (which include the ruling party BJP) that have been founded/inspired by members/ideas of the RSS. While these different organizations within the Sangh Parivar are independent with their own mandates, it does raise eyebrows when there are vocal disagreements within it – to the extent that just a few days ago, the RSS had to go on the defensive, explaining that disagreements do not mean organizations are ‘attacking’ the ruling government. In fact, the perceived ‘grandparent’ nature of the RSS to the Sangh Parivar was made clear soon after the BJP came to power, when the SJM asked for an advocacy mechanism in the form of the RSS, to put forward its concerns to the BJP:
“”After a long time, they all feel that there is a friendly government in place. They have high expectations. Though they are free to approach the government directly, they think that using RSS, the mother organisation as a conduit, may be more effective,” disclosed another RSS leader.” (source)
In this context, the strong letter of concerns regarding the draft IPR policy and its constituent members takes great significance.
In a tightly written, hard hitting 2 page letter (available here) addressed to the minister of commerce and industry, Nirmala Sitharaman, the SJM (through its co-convenor, Ashwani Mahajan) made 4 requests:
- “Reconstitute the Think Tank to remove the conflict of interest and also to ensure the involvement of academics especially with exposure to development economics, industrial policy, technology policy and innovation
- Reorient the approach of the Think Tank and National IPR Policy to address the technological and development needs of the nation
- Put an end to the unreasonable hurry in the formulation of National IPR Policy and commission studies and consultations to identify the development and technological needs of the nation
- Direct the reconstituted IP Think Tank to identify the suboptimal flexibilities in the national IP regime and make recommendation to optimise the use of flexibilities”
The letter makes no bones of the fact that it views the policy as one that encourages IP maximalism, without placing IP in the context of the developmental needs of India. It not only says that the draft’s six objectives are problematic, it stresses that some of them are outright dangerous. These pinpointed were Objective 1(Awareness and promotion), Objective 2 (Creation of IP), Objective 3 (Legal and Legislative Framework), and Objective 6 (Enforcement and Adjudication).
It also asks for a re-constitution of the Think Tank, stating,
The Convenor of the Think Tank Mr.Y K Sabarwal, an ex WIPO bureaucrat, is the Convenor of the IPR Committee of FICCI, a body dominated by Multi National Companies. His membership in the Think Tank compromises its neutrality. Similarly another member Smt. Prathiba Singh appears for telecom and pharmaceutical multinational firms also raises serious concern of conflict interest. The conflict of interest of these members of the Think Tank would act a s a barrier to draw a National IPR Policy to address the development needs of the nation.”
It’s not the first time these concerns have been raised. Indeed, many of the comments that went in to the draft (we’ve collected a list of comments here) brought up several of the points regarding the substance of the draft, while there are a few articles linked here on the issue of the constitution of the IPR think tank. As far as I know, the DIPP has not made any comment on any of these issues after the draft has been submitted. Given that there is constantly increasing pressure against this draft IPR policy, it will be extremely interesting to see how the DIPP decides to proceed.
Update: We’re told that SJM did in fact make a submission to the IPR think tank’s call for comments earlier last month. This puts a higher significance to the fact that they’ve now gone ahead with a public statement as well!
Follow up reads: