Murder, Most Foul

Some newspapers reported supply of ‘sub standard’  drugs to government hospitals in Kashmir. But, these papers were wrong- the drugs supplied were not ‘substandard’ by any measure- they simply weren’t drugs at all! And while this scam highlights the abysmal level of depravity exhibited by those who manufactured these spurious medicines, it also exposes the total absence of human conscience and complete lack of accountability amongst those well-paid government officials responsible for ensuring quality control. What is most disturbing is the impunity with which this scam was perpetuated on the poor for so long and so, this is not the time for explanations or playing the ‘blame game’. On the contrary, it calls for not only stern but also prompt action against the perpetuators of this ghastly crime!

We are not new to the menace of adulteration or sub standard products- we have by now got used to the idea of living in a world where virtually everything is either adulterated or sub-standard in quality. Infact, over the years our body seems have adapted itself well, to the extent that consuming un-adulterated milk today may perhaps give us a severe case of diarrhea. So, one can grudgingly accept an unscrupulous producer indulging in a little bit of adulteration or not putting the stipulated measure of the active ingredient in medicines. But, one just can’t fathom as to how a person can have the gumption to produce medicines, and that too life saving antibiotics, which have a ‘zero- presence’ of the basic ingredient it is supposed to contain- not unless he is sure that it will pass the quality control checks! And this seems to be exactly what has happened.

Merely black listing manufacturers and ordering inquiries are no solutions. What has happened is no ordinary thing- it is pure murder. And that too, murder of the poor, who have no option but to consume medicines provided to them by the government hospitals and dispensaries. Inquiries are merely tools to placate a restive public and this is certainly not the correct prescription for this unusually abnormal case. The facts of the case are crystal-clear- that spurious medicines did find their way into government hospitals and dispensaries and that this was not an isolated incident but an ongoing practice, which clearly indicates that it was a pre-meditated and devious conspiracy involving persons holding very responsible positions in the Health Departments! So, it is time for alarm and as these are desperate times, they call for desperate measures and not just explanations or inquiries. And this is where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has to intervene, as it is not the manufacturer but the quality control apparatus of the State Government that has failed the poor!

Ask any manufacturer and he will tell you that while cost cutting is an important factor in the manufacturing process, consumer acceptability remains his major concern. For, if his product does not measure up to consumer expectation, then it’s ‘curtains’ for the manufacturer. And this is more pertinent in this case - as unlike other sub-standard or defective products, which can still be sold at a discount, they are no takers for sub-standard medicines! And so, even without awaiting an inquiry, one can say with complete conviction that if the manufacturer produced spurious medicines, he would have only done so with the implicit approval of those who were charged with the duty of ensuring quality control. And the fact that an anti biotic sold under the brand name ‘Maximizin 625’ which is supposed to contain 625 mg of Amoxcicylin, was found to have no trace of this compound whatsoever, clearly establishes the culpability of the Health Department authorities. So, is an inquiry still required?

With the manufacturer categorically denying that it had produced spurious drugs that were supplied to Government hospitals, this scam has taken a turn for the worse by adding the unbelievable dimension of ‘imitation’ drugs having found their way into the government medicine supply chain. But could this be the work of some small- time criminals? Certainly not! Knowing the bureaucratic procedures of the government that follow a step- by- step and clearly defined process, right from the procurement to the distribution stage, which is meticulously recorded, it requires no Sherlock Holmes to investigate the case for establishing that the rot lies within the corridors of the health Department itself! And, we must not forget that the drugs in question were not vitamins or tonics- they were antibiotics, which could well have made the difference between life and death for many patients. So, with the records of these transactions endorsed by concerned Health officials with their own blood stained hands available in files, is an inquiry still required?

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