Privatisation of four public sector drug companies

Oppose the sale and privatisation of public property!

On 28 December 2016, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Central government decided to sell off four public sector drug companies. Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd. (HAL), Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (IDPL), Rajasthan Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (RDPL) and Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (BCPL) are among the companies that are being privatised. The government is justifying the sale of these companies by pretending that the money that will flow into its coffers will be used for the welfare of the people.

The government has made it clear that after the creditors are paid off, IDPL and RDPL will be shut down, while potential buyers will be identified for strategic sales of HAL and BCPL.

Privatisation or closure of the drug companies under any pretext is nothing but a direct attack on the rights of the people to having affordable health care. These companies make affordable drugs for several serious illnesses. Medicines disbursed in many government hospitals are sourced from these companies where crores of people suffering from serious ailments receive these medicines for their treatment.

On the one hand, the government is refusing to provide good medical treatment for the people and is slashing the health budget. The real purpose is to shut down these companies. On the other hand, it is to stop the supply of affordable medicines for treatment of serious illnesses and force the people to buy expensive drugs made by the private companies. India is a huge and very profitable market for Indian and foreign drug manufacturing monopolies.

The government is also using the pretext that these drug companies are heavily indebted and the government has no other choice but to privatise them. To justify their sale, they are advancing the argument that “this is the best way to use these national assets for the national good”.

In the decade of the 50s, the claim of the Indian state, in establishing these drug companies, was that drugs are such important items for the society that their production could not be left in the hands of private companies. Providing health care free of cost or at nominal prices and providing convenient treatment facilities for to the people is the responsibility of the state. However, the state is continuously going back on its responsibility. The results of the increasing privatisation of the health care system is there for us to see – workers, toilers and the poor are being left to fend for themselves and forced to become victims of the greed of the private capitalist profiteers.

In actual fact, over a period of time, the state has been directly responsible for making these drug companies loss making and destroying them. Through its policies of privatisation and liberalisation, public assets are sold to Indian and foreign monopoly capitalists at throw-away prices, guaranteeing them huge profits. Privatisation of drug companies is one more step in this direction.

The experience of privatisation and liberalisation shows that the favourite method of our rulers for opening the path for privatisation is to destroy public sector companies and declare them “loss making companies”. This was the method used in 2000 to justify the sale of Modern Foods India ltd. Large scale propaganda campaign was launched claiming that these companies had become a big burden on the treasury. Using this propaganda, public opinion was manufactured in favour of privatisation. The same method is being used today to privatise the drug companies.

Indian and foreign monopolies are eyeing the public sector drug companies. They are hoping that the sale of their expensive drugs can be increased to maximise their profits. They are sitting like vultures hoping to grab the hundreds of acres of land all over India of these drug companies at throw-away prices.

This decision of the government has put the jobs of the workers of these companies in jeopardy and their livelihood has become uncertain. Various schemes like voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) and voluntary separation scheme (VSS) will be implemented for the workers of these public sector enterprises. This is a step to make the workers jobless. Several unions have already started to express their opposition to this.

Privatisation of drug companies is anti-worker, anti-social and anti-national. This is an attack on the working class and the whole of society. Communist Ghadar Party of India strongly condemns the privatisation and sale of public sector drug companies and calls on the working class to intensify the struggle for opposition to privatisation of public property and for the defence of their rights.

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