Though the same Manmohan Singh government is all set to continue in the office after its thumping victory, the much awaited national pharmaceutical policy which has been pending since 2002 will have to go through another full circle of process and all progress made so far will have little impact.
With Ram Vilas Paswan, who has been pressing for the policy for long, is most unlikely to stay as chemicals minister under the new dispensation, the note on policy should be prepared by the department again under the new minister and be forwarded to the cabinet for consideration.
"The whole process will begin afresh now. If the new minister wants to have discussions with the industry again on the topic, the draft would be submitted to the cabinet only after that. The cabinet can then take the final call, including referring to another Group of Ministers or approving it," sources in the pharma department explained.
As the GoM headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar held four meetings but could not finalise its recommendations, it will not have a say on the policy to be moved afresh. However, the department sources said the observations made by the GoM could be considered and included in the note for the cabinet if the new minister wants so.
The indications are that the policy, which was supposed to come out in 2006, should be overhauled and would be moved afresh, thus necessitating a full cycle of process yet again from the very beginning. It also means another long period before it will be implemented.
After the draft was prepared by the chemicals ministry and submitted to the Cabinet in December 2006, the cabinet set up the GoM for examination in January 2007. So far, four meetings of the GoM were held on 10 April 2007, 12 September 2007, 30 January 2008 and 30 April, 2008. Though the next meeting of the GoM was expected to finalise the policy, it never did take place, leaving the much-awaited policy in limbo.
Paswan, who wanted to bring 354 drugs under price control against the present set of 74 through the policy, has been pressing for the same as one of his pet agendas and emerge as a champion for the masses. He had so far written several letters to the GoM and twice to the Prime Minister urging for an early call on the policy. Now the fate of the proposal, strongly opposed by the pharma majors, will be decided by the new government.