Sunday, January 29, 2006

Weekend joy, grief for new NRI minister / Kerala tribals get a Jeevani jolt

Weekend joy, grief for new NRI minister

NEW DELHI: The ministry of overseas Indian affairs has a new head in
Vayalar Ravi, a veteran Congress party leader from Kerala and a Rajya Sabha
member, who was Sunday given charge of the portfolio as a cabinet minister.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For Ravi, the weekend was a time of seesawing between
grief and joy - he was attending the cremation of his favourite grandson a
few hours before being sworn in as a central minister.

Ravi came with the body of the six-year-old boy, who died Friday, from
Chennai to his hometown in Vayalar near Alappuzha and soon he received a
message from the Prime Minister's office about his induction in the Central
ministry

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Kerala tribals get a Jeevani jolt
Yoga Rangatia/ New Delhi

For the Kani tribes in Kerala, an American company profiting from their
indigenous knowledge without sharing the profits with them was bad enough.
What is worse is the ominous silence, against the violation, of the
Government research institute in which they reposed faith.

Since ancient times, Kani tribals knew that arogyapacha (Trichopus
zeylanicus) was a stress-buster. After nearly a decade of research, the
Thiruvananthapuram-based Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute
(TBGRI) made a herbal product, Jeevani, from the herb and transferred the
technology to Coimbatore-based Arya Vaidya Pharmacy to produce and market
the drug.

The profit from the licence fee was routed to Kerala Kani Samudaya Kshema
Trust, set up for the welfare of the Kani tribe. The move was hailed
worldwide as a sterling example of successful commercialisation of
traditional knowledge and the benefits were reaped by the tribal community
for sharing their knowledge with the world.

That was the story until Great Earth, a US nutrition store, discovered the
benefits of Jeevani. The American company is selling the drug under its own
brand name - Jeevani Jolt 1000 - without having the permission to do so.
Surprisingly, there have been no protests from those who incurred financial
loss as a result of the trademark violation.

The controversy has raised concerns about the real commercial value of
Jeevani. The technology transfer from the institute to the pharmacy cost the
company Rs 20 lakh. The pharmacy has requested licence renewal for another
three years. "It is a clear violation of trademark. The name is already
existing and has been incorporated in the patented Jeevani. It should be
contested. TBGRI should take it up with the US authorities," said Dr P
Pushnangadan, director of Lucknow-based National Botanical Research
Institute, who helped develop Jeevani.

But the Kerala administration is clueless how it should protect its
intellectual property. "The (American) company is buying the product (from
retail market) in India and reselling it in the US. We do not have a
trademark right in the US. It costs Rs 30-40 lakh to contest (the
violation). Who will give the money, The Indian Government is not giving the
money," TBGRI director S Ganesan said. TBGRI says it will speak out only
after the process of licence renewal is settled.

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