A couple of health groups have expressed concern at the "misuse" of the public-funded Pradhanmantri Bharatiya Jan Aushadi Pariyojna, a flagship scheme of the Centre to make available quality medicines at affordable prices, for "promotion" of the ruling BJP.
The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a health movement, and All India Drug Action Network said it was unfortunate that the labels of drugs dispersed through the Pradhanmantri Bharatiya Jan Aushadi Pariyojna highlights the name of the BJP in saffron colour.
"The Jan Aushadi scheme's website also highlights the first letters of Pradhanmantri Bharatiya Jan Aushadi Pariyojna in saffron. Clearly a government website and products distributed through a public funded scheme are being used to highlight the name of the political party -- the BJP.
"This represents gross misuse of public funds and is a willful disregard of Supreme Court directions on government advertisements," they said in a joint statement.
Observing that the BJP is conflating the government's "achievements" with one political party, the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan urged the Centre to immediately revert to the earlier nomenclature of the Jan Aushadhi Scheme and recall the drug labels highlighting the name of BJP.
It also sought reissuance of medicines without highlighting the name of a particular political party on them and also to change the scheme's logo on the website.
"Further we urge the government to take appropriate steps to strengthen the Jan Aushadhi scheme so that real benefits accrue to a much larger number of patients," they said.
The health groups also said contrary to claims being made, the Jan Aushadi scheme "falls far short of the laudable intent to provide relief to poor patients reeling under the impact of spiralling drug prices".
While there are over 6 lakh chemist outlets in the country, only a little over 3,000 outlets have been rolled out under the scheme, they said.
"This represents just 0.5 per cent of chemist outlets in the country. Reports also suggest that many of the outlets under the scheme face serious stock outs of important medicines.
"It would have been far more desirable if more energy had been expended in strengthening the scheme rather than in finding ways to make the scheme a part of the propaganda campaign of a particular political party," the statement stated.
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