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Govt opened floodgates for firms like Patanjali to deprive local communities: Congress

The opposition party's sharp reaction came after the Supreme Court came down heavily on yoga guru Ramdev's Patanjali Ayurved.
Last Updated 27 February 2024, 15:59 IST

New Delhi: The Congress alleged on Tuesday that the Narendra Modi government has done away with the fair and equitable benefit-sharing provision for the users of codified traditional knowledge and AYUSH practitioners, and opened the "floodgates" for firms like Patanjali to deprive local communities of the commercial benefits derived from their resources.

The opposition party's sharp reaction came after the Supreme Court came down heavily on yoga guru Ramdev's Patanjali Ayurved on Tuesday for prima facie violations of an undertaking given by it in the court about its products and also about statements claiming their medicinal efficacy.

A bench of justices Hima Kohli and A Amanullah issued a notice to Patanjali Ayurved and its managing director, asking why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them.

Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was a landmark, path-breaking law.

In accordance with the United Nations' Convention of Biodiversity, it ensured protection of India's endangered biodiversity and equally significantly, mandated fair and equitable benefit sharing (FEBS) between corporations selling products using biological resources and local communities who have protected and maintained the planet's biodiversity through the ages.

"The fees levied on companies selling products using biodiversity resources are generally a meagre 0.1-0.5 per cent of sales. The Modi government, on the instigation of a well-known businessman and yoga guru who has expressed support for the BJP in the past, has done away with the FEBS provision for 'users of codified traditional knowledge and AYUSH practitioners'," the former Union environment minister alleged.

By deliberately avoiding a definition for codified traditional knowledge, the BJP-led Centre has opened the floodgates for firms like Patanjali to deprive local communities of the commercial benefits derived from their resources, Ramesh claimed.

"Today, even the Supreme Court has taken cognisance of the Modi government's beimaani. It observed that the Modi government was 'sitting with its eyes closed' despite the blatant 'misleading and false' advertising that Patanjali had engaged in. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has been raising the issue of this fraudulent advertising for many years now, especially since it often targets allopathic medicine and practitioners," he said on X.

"For its political and financial gain, the Modi government will sell out just about any community -- be it allopathic doctors or Adivasi communities. Modani is a well known business name. It is now beginning to get some competition from Modanjali!" the Congress leader alleged.

Ramesh also tagged his post on the microblogging platform from September 10 last year when he had shared his statement on Prime Minister Modi's remarks on environment during the G20 summit.

In that post, Ramesh had said, "The PM's statements at the G20 and other summits globally are sheer hypocrisy. While destroying protections for India's forests and biodiversity, and diluting the rights of Adivasis and forest-dwelling communities, he talks of environment, climate action and equity."

The apex court bench has cautioned Patanjali Ayurved and its officers from making any statements adverse to any system of medicine in the media, both print and electronic, in any form as they said in their undertaking before the court earlier.

On November 21 last year, the counsel representing the company had assured the apex court that henceforth, there shall not be any violation of laws, especially relating to advertising or branding of products, and no casual statements claiming medicinal efficacy of Patanjali products or against any system of medicine will be released to the media in any form.

The apex court had then cautioned the company, co-founded by Ramdev and dealing in herbal products, against making "false" and "misleading" claims in advertisements about its medicines as a cure for several diseases.

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(Published 27 February 2024, 15:59 IST)

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