IT’S IPL MESS ALL OVER! COULD YOU HEAR THEM SPEAKING OF THE DPCO?

It has swept over the thinking horizon. A mercurial, controversial but a glamorous cricketer, a high-octane, high-decibel but low-sportsmanship spirit form of the gentleman’s game, a manifestation of the perennial human greed again and a hyperactive Indian media in an over-competitive market – the last week has been a potboiler with minute-by-minute coverage of what we know as ‘the Indian Premier League Spot Fixing scandal’, that the efficient-but-reckless-but-insensitive Delhi Police, by chance, came to know and pursued and dug more. The revelations are still a work-in-progress.

That is good. Cricket ‘was’ like a religion in India. Millions would sleep and get-up remembering and analysing the last seen game. Even now, if it is an India-Pakistan game, the whole nation still comes to a standstill.

But, the sorry state of affairs is, we cannot write now something like this – ‘cricket has been like a religion in India’ –that we used to read and write so frequently in the past!

And the major factor behind it is the credibility crisis that began to erode with the match-fixing scandals the first big casualties which were the likes of Mohammad Azaharuddin, seen as one of India’s most successful captains. Since then, cricket-fixing (betting) has taken away the sheen from the game. Cricket is now no more a game of flow of emotions. Rather, it has become a form of calculated, commoditized entertainment to be purchased, much like an IPL tournament.

Nothing wrong in that! Existence of the human mind needs entertainment but why to get swept away in the wave. Except that we are slipping in the quagmire of the misplaced priorities!

The IPL spot-fixing story has pushed everything else to the periphery as if nothing else is moving in this country of over a billion. In all this business of market sentimentalism and priority-shopping, a very important development was left almost untouched, very comfortably.

The development has the potential to change the lives of the millions, millions of the Indians who cannot afford the healthcare due to exorbitantly high prices of medicines.

The development is a must for a developing country like India which has the world’s second largest population.

The development is a must for a country like India where the majority of the population is quality-illiterate, where school dropout rate is a national shame, where education and healthcare, though necessary, are seen as additional burden-heads on the monthly household budget.

The government on May 16 cleared the long pending Drug Price Control Order 2013 (DPCO) under the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2012 to bring 348 essential medicines and 652 formulations under a controlled-pricing mechanism.

The DPCO that is to come into force in July is expected to bring down the cost of the essential medicines by 20-25 per cent and in some case, like the anti-cancer drugs, by 80 per cent.

27 therapeutic areas that are to be covered under it include cardiac, pain killers, anti-allergic, gastro-intestinal, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-leprosy, anti-tuberculosis and anti-hypertensive medicines.

The DPCO has the mechanism to keep the prices in check with only annual price-revision allowed and that too, has to be a market-based revision unlike the cost-based one that is in practice now. Another good aspect is the prices of the imported drugs, too, would come under this pricing-control regulation.

Now, this is a significant social empowerment milestone. Increased access to the essential medicines for millions means improved health of the nation. It is a good beginning and it is needed to be talked, discussed and spread if we intend to build further on it.

Increasingly, we have seen the governments come easily under the pressure of the industrial lobbies and we have all the reasons to think that this watchdog too, would be vulnerable to manipulations. We need to develop a vigilant voice to keep a check on it and that needs a healthy tradition of debate over it.

Non-governmental organizations and various social groups have been fighting for the controlled-pricing mechanism to regulate prices of the essential and life-saving drugs and this is indeed a significant victory. But there are many other necessary requirements on the agenda. There have been debates on introducing and promoting generic versions of the costly medicines to meet the healthcare demands of the majority of the Indians and that has to be implemented on priority.

The DPCO notification could well have been an opportunity to extend such debates from the environs of the social groups to the larger public sphere to make the ‘populations’ a direct stakeholder in the process.

But the speakers of the public interest didn’t see a glamour-quotient here and such an issue of social vitality was conveniently buried under the debris of the IPL mess.

When would we understand to prioritize? Why do we need some Aamir Khan to push us to act on the matters of social relevance?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/