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NRIs demonstrate against proposed amendments to Patents Act:

Washington, Mar 1, 2005

Braving the chilly weather, NRI students, health activists, professionals and doctors rallied in front of the Indian Embassy here during the weekend protesting against the Centre's decision to amend the Patents Act.

The rally, organised by Association for India's Development Inc (AID) and Global AIDS Alliance (GAA), was conducted as part of a Global Day of Action in solidarity with protests held in India against amendments to the Act, which was slated for discussion in the ongoing Budget Session.

India is under pressure to comply with the Trade Related Aspects of International Property rights (TRIPS) agreement, as dictated by the WTO and is changing its patent laws even beyond the requirement of TRIPS to favour a few multinational pharmaceutical companies, the protestors alleged.

As a result of these amendments, majority of poor people in India and in about 200 other developing countries who can barely afford medicines and healthcare, would be severely affected, they claimed.

If the proposed amendment is passed, the cost of medicines "would be dictated by a few multinational companies in US and Europe, and borne by those suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, malaria and other life-threatening diseases," the organisers said.

The movement will be intensified to pressurise the Indian government to "listen to people's voices" and reject the amendments, Vineeta Gupta, a physician, human rights lawyer and AIDS volunteer, said.

An online petition by the campaign attracted signatures from more than 1,500 people from all over the world, and is being submitted to the Centre, organisers said. PTI