The issue of fake or counterfeit products is now reaching dangerous proportions—especially with pharma drugs, which have life saving or in case of fakes, life-threatening capabilities
The recent seminar organised on World Anti-Counterfeiting Day by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in Delhi on the 13th June was an excellent effort to bring up the issues surrounding one of the biggest problems facing all of us, not just in India, but also globally.
The opening discussions were as usual conducted by senior government people, followed by corporate executives as well as 'activists', with conversation in this case meandering towards the dangers of third world people selling fake and counterfeit Gucci bags and single malts. The session was chaired by Rajeev Batra, Group Head - Corporate Affairs, Hindustan Unilever, who brought up the issue of counterfeits and damage to brands. Pankaj Agrawala, special secretary in Department of Consumer Affairs, made a fervent plea for the consumers-asking industry to also play its role here. Bejob Misra, a professional consumer activist, lauded everybody else and himself most of all, especially for the progress made in working against pharma counterfeits. And William Dobson of the ICC-BASCAP, walked the audience through proposed steps.
To listen to this part, one would think that it was all simple shut down the last point in the chain, the poor person selling the fake, and matters would be solved. Or as the consumer activist put it so blithely, remove all taxation and import duties, and counterfeiting would come down. There are no tangible or cogent estimates on the size of this global business, but it is a simple truth-counterfeits are all around us, and increasingly, easily available too.
Obviously, this does not always happen without the involvement of a full supply chain, often related to the original manufacturer. A speaker from HP, for example, told the audience that they were looking into the affairs of their sub-contractors to ensure that printer cartridges remained genuine. The case of Adidas/Reebok in India, and the more recent episode at Britannia, are fresh and still being investigated. Maruti-Suzuki revealed that one major worry of counterfeit spares was the reason more customers were ordering spare-parts online-prepared to wait for a few days to ensure genuine parts reached them.
While the Indian Customs and Central Excise presentation on fighting counterfeiting brought out technical issues of interest to the importing and legal community, it was the last session which really worked towards trying to understand the whole issue from an Indian perspective also, what is known as the demand-supply equation. After all, for every consumer of counterfeit goods or services, there is also a supplier. And this supplier is always technically and commercially capable of meeting the genuine manufacturer and supplier head on-at a lower cost. Quality of the product being often an issue, but increasingly, that is also debateable. Hats off to Manish Mani Tewari from the CBEC for his presentation on the steps taken by the Indian Customs and Central Excise on protecting IPR, details of which can be sought from any Customs House in the country. This, to a large extent, would block the entry of counterfeit goods through the import route into India-but here again, it was pointed out that the importers had a role to play in ensuring that their IPR was protected in the first place.
This is where the conflict between the definitions of counterfeit, copyright, spurious, copyright brand violation, impersonation and simple crime were also brought up. For example, if a soft drink or soap or drug of a famous international brand sells an inferior product in India, like is known to happen with almost all products, then what is it-counterfeit, spurious, copyright, brand violation, impersonation or simple crime?
This question was put by Moneylife to Sanjeev Batra of Hindustan Unilever, since Lux soap carries different qualities under a similar brand and packaging for different countries. There was no clear answer. The quality of a global product should be the same worldwide, otherwise how do you differentiate between genuine and counterfeit? An MNC corporation that claims to want to protect its brand from counterfeiters is obliged to provide the same product under the same brand globally-or make it clear that the product is different-for whatever reason.
The second major issue brought up was the increasing suspicion in people's minds that counterfeiting of products and services simply could not happen without the participation of the manufacturer or service provider corporate concerned. Here again, inputs from the enforcement agencies provided ample scope to suspect tax evasion and mis-declaration as a compelling reason for the large number of really good quality 'counterfeits' available, often also at authorised outlets. There was a point of view on this aspect from both Indian Customs and Police Departments which suggested that there was a much larger chain of connivance in this business.
What do you, dear reader, have to say about this subject? The issue of fake products, for whatever reason, is now reaching dangerous proportions-especially with pharma drugs, which have life saving or in case of fakes, life-threatening capabilities. It is no longer a question of only being ripped off-it is now your life and mine.
One suggestion was provided by the speaker from the Police Department-the Economic Offences Wing of every state police is geared up to handle such issues. Write to them. Whether you are a manufacturer or a consumer. Or, better still, write to us and we shall let FICCI know. They put up a wonderful show on a subject, which is of importance to all of us.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love-writing.)
Some 200 students of IIT Roorkee won the ministry of science & technology’s Scholarship for Higher Education, part of the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research scheme, but have been receiving only a partial amount. They used the RTI to find out the status
With the commencement of the new academic year, a host of scholarships in different categories are announced for meritorious students who join colleges in different streams, across the country. However, in many cases, they turn out into hollow promises or are partially given. Students express helplessness as they are given evasive replies when they approach their college office.
However, in January 2012, RTI Anonymous, an online service, through which any Indian citizen can file Right to Information (RTI) applications, took up the cudgels of 200 students of the prestigious IIT Roorkee who are recipients of the esteemed SHE-INSPIRE awards—Ministry of Science and Technology of India’s Scholarship for Higher Education (SHE), part of the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) scheme.
This scheme offers 10,000 scholarships every year at Rs80,000 for each student for pursuing Bachelor and Masters level education in the Natural & Basic Sciences. Those eligible for these scholarships are the 10,000 top rankers in the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) of IIT, 10,000 top rankers in AIEEE and 10,000 top rankers of AIPMT and who also opt to study Natural and Basic Sciences in any academic institute or university leading to a graduate and post-graduate degree.
Besides the delay in receiving the scholarships, the 200 students of IIT Roorkee were receiving only Rs60,000 against their rightful Rs80,000 per student. RTI replies revealed that the IIT Roorkee authorities illegally kept aside Rs20,000 per student meant to be consumed for the student for ‘mentoring’ in any institute during summer/winter. The RTI query also revealed that IIT-Roorkee was not utilising the entire funds meant for disbursing of this scholarship (which it has asked for as per the list of selected scholars) although the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has been releasing the funds as per schedule. Therefore, many of them were not getting their scholarship money. Such lethargy is seen in many educational institutions across the country and at the receiving end is the meritorious student.
Let’s see the efforts that RTI Anonymous took to help the IIT Roorkee students to empower them through RTI to take their fight further with the college authorities. Now, they have documentary evidence in their hands.
On 19 January 2012, RTI Anonymous filed a RTI application to Lt Col AK Shrivastava (retd) who is the registrar as well as the public information officer (PIO) of IIT Roorkee. Simultaneously, a RTI application was also submitted to the DST, INSPIRE division.
The first reply that RTI Anonymous received was from DST on 25th February by PIO Dr AK Mukhadhyapay, head of INSPIRE. His replies made it clear that the entire amount of Rs80,000 is meant for the student and that it has been releasing scholarship funds to IIT Roorkee regularly.
Dr Mukhodhyapay provided the following details:
1. The DST-INSPIRE programme transfers funds to the Registrar, IIT Roorkee, for disbursing INSPIRE scholarships to INSPIRE scholars. The office of the Registrar, IIT Roorkee handles INSPIRE
2. Every year after the completion of admission of students, IIT Roorkee provides DST-INSPIRE the list of students who join IIT Roorkee through the IIT-JEEE process in the science courses only like Physics, Chemistry, Maths, etc. Based on the list of students made available by IIT Roorkee to DST-INSPIRE, funds are transferred to IIT-Roorkee for disbursement of scholarships to eligible students.
3. The SHE-INSPIRE scholarship is valued at Rs80,000 annually out of which Rs.60,000 is paid in cash for annual scholarship @ of Rs5,000 per month and Rs20,000 is earmarked as mentorship cost for summer/winter research activities in any institution
4. Funds for IIT Roorkee are granted annually on the basis of Rs80,000 per scholar. IIT Roorkee was never instructed by the DST to retain Rs20,000 provided as mentorship cost
5. During the year December 2008 to December 2011 on financial year basis, 417 scholarships were given. (79 in 2008-09; 117 in 2009-10; 115 in 2010-11; 165 in 2011-12) for eligible students of IIT Roorkee for pursuing Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry
6. During the year 2008-2011, Rs219.14 lakh were disbursed to IIT Roorkee—Rs156.8 lakh in 2008-10; Rs62.6 lakh in 2010-11 (adjusted with unspent balance)
7. There is no pending grant to be released between 2008 and 2011. Hence, in the financial year 2011-12, IIT Roorkee has been asked to utilise the balance amount initially before any fresh release in this year.
States Ritesh Singh, who runs the RTI Anonymous website along with Anand Sharma (residing in the US) and Avnish Singh, “this is the first time, Department of Science and Technology (DST) accepted officially on paper that they are giving Rs80,000 per student to the IITs. DST has also clearly accepted that the IITs haven’t been asked to retain Rs20,000 of each student. It is also well known that the IITs are giving only Rs60,000 per student.”
RTI Anonymous also received a reply from Col Shrivastava, PIO of IIT Roorkee, on 11th April wherein the information revealed under-utilisation of scholarship funds but the student scholars were not given their scholarship dues. Col Shrivastava stated, in his reply, stated that:
• As against Rs94.80 lakh received from DST in 2008-09, only Rs7.20 lakh was given away as scholarship money by IIT Roorkee
• As against Rs62 lakh received from DST in 2009-10, only Rs21 lakh was given away as scholarship money by IIT Roorkee
• As against Rs62.60 lakh received from DST in 2010-11, Rs66 lakh was given away as scholarship money by IIT Roorkee, and in 2011-12, Rs60.90 lakh was given away as scholarship money
• The number of students selected for the scholarships was: 31 in 2008, 38 in 2009, 67 in 2011 and none in 2012.
Armed with this valuable information, the students have taken up the issue strongly with IIT Roorkee. You can do the same for any scholarship you may have been selected for, but have not received.
Sample of RTI to the PIO, IIT Roorkee:
Sub: Application under the Right to Information Act (RTIA), 2005
Provide the following details relating to the distribution of INSPIRE (Innovation for Science Pursuit for Inspired Research) Scholarships in IIT Roorkee since 2008 to till date.
1. Please provide the Name, Branch, Year, Roll number of all the students who are eligible to receive the above mentioned scholarship”. Please tell the amount of the scholarship, which all the above mentioned students should receive.
2. Have the above mentioned students in question 1, already been given the scholarship amount for the year 2011-12 according to your records?
If yes, then provide an attested copy of the related documents/registers which contain the above mentioned details.
3. How many students received the scholarship in the year 2009-2010 and 2010-2011?
Provide an attested copy of the receipt register which contains the signatures of the students.
4. What is the basis on which the distribution of scholarships to the students is decided? Are there any rules and regulations for such scholarship distribution? Provide an attested copy of all related governing orders/directions and laws.
5. What is the total amount of funds allotted by the government for the distribution of scholarships to various students?
6. Has the department made any arrangement/system for fair and just distribution of scholarships to the deserving students? Provide an attested copy of the related documents.
7. If any student has not been given the scholarship during the year 2011-2012, then specify the reason for the same. Provide an attested copy of the related documents.
8. Provide a list of all such students who have not been given the scholarship yet with the following particulars:
• Name of the student
• Father’s name
• Reason for not being given the scholarship
9. Specify the names and designation of the officers responsible for non-payment of scholarships on time. What action will be taken against such officers according to departmental rules and regulations? When will this action be taken?
Also as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 please provide the details (Name and Designation) of the first appellate authority with respect to your department with the reply to the above request, where I may if required file my first appeal.
(For more details log on to: http://getup4change.org/rti/9373/)
(Vinita Deshmukh is the editor of Life 365 (www.life365.in). She is also the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The CIC directed the home ministry to disclose file notings and correspondence related to mercy petitions of all death row convicts including Afzal Guru
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to disclose copies of the file notings, not forming part of the ministerial advice to the President of India, related to mercy petitions of all convicts on death sentence including Afzal Guru and others.
Sushma Singh, Central Information Commissioner, in an order dated 26th June, said, “the Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the MHA should provide the file notings after severing all the names and other references regarding the identities of the public servants those file notings and making those correspondence”.
The CIC also asked the ministry to disclose the copies of the correspondence made by MHA to the President’s Secretariat from time to time in connection with the mercy petitions.
Right to Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, along with Venkatesh Nayak, Suchismita Goswami and Nandita Sinha filed the second appeal before the CIC, after the concerned authorities failed to disclose the information sought by him. In the application, they sought following information:
1. Copy of complete correspondence/file-notings/documents, etc, relating to mercy-petitions of Afzal Guru and other convicts of death sentence whose files have been forwarded to the President’s Secretariat by Union home ministry after rejection of mercy petitions of Devindersingh Khullar and Mahender Nath Dass by the Honourable President of India.
2. Complete and detailed information together with correspondence/file-notings/documents, etc, including list of convicts of death sentence whose mercy petitions are decided by the Honourable President of India after rejection of mercy petitions of Devindersingh Khullar and Mahender Nath Dass by the Honourable President of India.
3. Complete updated detailed list of pending mercy petitions at any stage like at Union home ministry and President’s Secretariat or with state governments, etc, by persons convicted of death sentence.
4. Complete updated list of mercy petitions sent finally by Union home ministry with its recommendations/comments, etc, to the President’s Secretariat/Honourable President of India for final disposal mentioning also recommendations made by Union home ministry and dates of recommendations sent by Union Home Ministry.
5. Any other related details.
6. File-notings on movement of this RTI petition as well.
The CPIO, in his reply, refused to disclose information related with point no 1 saying that it cannot be disclosed under Section8(1), (a), (g) and (i) of the RTI Act. In reply to point no 2, the CPIO said, “Two mercy petition cases i.e. cases of Murugan, Santhan & Arivu of Tamil Nadu and Sattan & Guddu of Uttar Pradesh, have been decided after the decision of mercy petition case of Devender Pal Singh. Documents of the case of Murugan, Santhan & Arivu cannot be disclosed under section 8(1)(a),(b) & (g) of RTI Act. However, some pages of the mercy petition case of Sattan & Guddu can be furnished on the payment of Rs82 for 41 pages (Rs2 per page)”.
However, Mr Agrawal felt that it is unjustified that exemption may be sought only for some selected cases while file notings are allowed on rest other cases. “(The) CPIO has also not mentioned any court order prohibiting disclosure of file notings as claimed under section 8(1)(b) of RTI Act. Rather it is a matter of great public interest involving even life and liberty of certain individuals that too at a time when demand for abolishing death sentence is worldwide, including even in India,” he said.
While no decision has been taken on the mercy petitions of several convicts on death sentence, there is one case of Ram Chander Ravji, whose fate was decided in record six days by the President of India, says Mr Agrawal. “File-notings disclosed in case of one Ravji @ Ram Chandra decided in record six days by the then President of India with final hanging done in less than three years of committing the crime (murder) had shocked even many legal luminaries and those in judiciary, and even rules were changed thereafter to decide mercy petitions on basis of the date of the trial court judgment rather than earlier system of deciding according to dates of filing mercy petitions,” he said.
“Providing file notings on mercy petitions can effectively check any such repeat of wrong decision on mercy petitions like was admittedly done in supersonic hanging of Ravji @ Ram Chandra in record shortest period as referred above,” said the RTI activist.