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Ramesh Shankar
Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

As part of its efforts to make the country self-reliant in the pharmaceutical sector, the Department of Pharmaceuticals had come out with a notification in July, 2020 for Rs. 3,000 crore bulk drug parks’ promotion scheme. Though the country has, over the years, adorned the epithet of ‘the pharmacy of the world' as it has been exporting life-saving medicines to the entire world, the fact remains that India has been critically dependent on Chinese imports for basic raw materials that are used to produce some of the life-saving medicines. By introducing the bulk drug parks scheme and other Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes, the Indian government wanted to end this scenario. Of course, the government has taken a welcome step as it is intended to restore the Indian API Industry’s past glory. It would be worthwhile to mention here that till two decades ago, the country has been producing most of the APIs required in the country and even exporting a major part of the same to Europe and the US. But, the high cost of production because of comparatively low scale of operations and higher input costs rendered the domestic active pharmaceutical ingredients production economically unviable. And stringent environmental regulations added fuel to the fire, forcing the pharma companies to turn to China which emerged as a producer of cheap APIs with huge capacities and lower cost of production. Now, under the bulk drug parks scheme, the government is facilitating setting up of three bulk drug parks in the country. The financial assistance by the centre is subject to a maximum limit of Rs.1000 crore per park. For the three parks, the Department of Pharmaceuticals had received proposals from 13 States which include Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha. After evaluation of the proposals, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have been given the final approval to develop the bulk drug parks.

It is sure that only three bulk drug parks will not be adequate to meet the production needs of bulk drugs in the country. Ever since the notification of the scheme, there has been demand from various states as well as industry associations for extension of the scheme. Besides, a Department related Parliamentary Committee had also earlier last year opined that three bulk drug parks are not adequate to meet the production needs of bulk drugs in the country. The Committee in its report, which was tabled in Parliament, recommended that more bulk drug parks may be set up in all the aspiring States. But, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya’s recent statement has come as a spoilsport. In a statement in response to a query by two MPs in Lok Sabha, the Minister categorically said that there is no proposal to expand the Scheme for promotion of bulk drug parks to other States.  Given the ever deteriorating Sino-Indian border relations, there is need to expand the Scheme to ensure drug safety in the country. If the intermittent border skirmishes between India and China reach a flashpoint and as a retaliatory measure China decides to stop export of APIs and other raw materials to India, the result would be disastrous for the country as the industry does not have any alternate sources to procure these basic raw materials. This would mean that production of several essential and life-saving drugs required within the country will be in trouble. In such a background, the government should seriously think of expanding the Scheme for promotion of bulk drug parks to other States.


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