NEW DELHI: Public health activists have criticised the government for using the Jan Aushadhi scheme to “advertise” the name of the Bharatiya Janata Party. All medicines being sold through this scheme across the country carry a logo that highlights the Hindi letters “Bha”, “Ja” and “Pa” in saffron in the scheme’s acronym (see image).
Not only all medicines, even the website of the scheme carries this official logo. “A scheme run using government funds is being used to advertise the name of a particular party,” said Dr Amit Sengupta of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan. “This is nothing but surrogate advertising for BJP with public money”.
Interestingly, the Jan Aushadhi scheme was launched by the UPA government in 2008 to provide “quality medicines at affordable prices”. The project was to ensure sale of generic medicines through exclusive outlets named “Jan Aushadhi Medical Stores” in various districts. In September 2015, the scheme was revamped as the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana (PMJAY). Just a year later, in November 2016, it was again renamed as the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
“It looks like the name of the scheme has been intentionally altered to make it PMBJP. Renaming it to add ‘Bhartiya’ otherwise just doesn’t make any sense,” said Chhaya Pachauli of Prayas, an organisation working on public health in Rajasthan. Attempts to get a response from the government on the charges being made by the activists proved futile.
The scheme is being implemented through the Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India, under the Department of Pharmaceuticals. According to the scheme’s official website, as on March 15, 2018, 3,200-plus Janaushadhi stores were functional offering more than 700 drugs and 154 surgicals & consumables. However, reports from the ground suggest problems of availability of drugs at these stores.