Probe Demanded into Foreign Health NGOs in India

Raising a red flag against foreign NGOs including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) on Friday demanded central and state governments to review their work for conflict of interest in India’s health sector. “Review working of international NGOs like BMGF and Global Health Strategies (GHS) for conflict of interest and pursuing commercial interests in India’s health sector,” SJM All India Co-Convenor Ashwani Mahajan asked all state and central governments in a release. Mahajan said many NGOs like BMGF, GHS and Program for Appropriate Technology for Health (PATH) are already facing the allegations of conflict of interests and promoting the interests of certain pharmaceutical companies manufacturing contentious vaccines.

The department of financial services is investigating the appointment of the BMGF’s national head on the board of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which is also a regulator to monitor foreign funds. “Serious charges of conflict of interest of a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health, appointment on a panel of GHS have been reported,” he said. The same Joint Secretary was responsible for the National Immunization Program and GHS has been lobbying for use of vaccines such as the HPV vaccine. “Obliviously, questions are raised about the influence of the pharma giants on the National Immunization Program. The track record of GHS is also not clean,” Mahajan said. The Parliament’s Standing Committee on Health in 2013 observed serious lapses on part of PATH in taking informed consent of parents, the process of taking regulatory clearances as well as conflict of interest of the NGO with certain quarters of the government, he said.

“The committee had also recommended strict action against the NGO. But nine years hence, far from getting penalized, these individuals continue to work freely with the Government of India influencing our policies and programs as they did a decade ago,” he said. Further, Mahajan said that there are reports that these organizations, through direct and indirect representatives, consultants and public policy professionals are pushing their agendas in various states circumventing the laws of the land to influence policy making. SJM highlighted that these foreign NGOs have been working in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Mahajan said the MoU between Uttar Pradesh and BMGF is up for renewal and the state government should come out with a whitepaper on the progress.

“There is an urgent need to take a relook and ensure Indian organizations are given due weightage. The BMGF also uses serving and retired IAS officers on high salaries for influence peddling,” he said. SJM added that while BMGF, which works with various states and premier research institutes, has Cabinet approved MoU with only the Ministry of Women and Child Development, SJM added that while BMGF has Cabinet approved MoU with only the Ministry of Women and Child Development, it works with various states and premier research institutes like Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which works on new vaccine introductions. “It will be appropriate, if the state, as well as, central agencies issue advisories and immediately stop interacting with them. There is a strong case for reviewing their functioning and programs these outfits run,” Mahajan said. – Business Standard

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