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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Patiala herb scam: rights bodyseeks report from health dept

Navrajdeep Singh , Hindustan Times  Patiala, December 21, 2013
First Published: 22:02 IST(21/12/2013) | Last Updated: 22:03 IST(21/12/2013)

Taking a serious note of the purchase and supply of spurious herbs and medicines by the department of Ayurveda, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has sought a detail report from the Punjab health and family welfare department over the issue by March 24.

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The PSHRC orders came in the wake of former medical superintendent (MS) of the government Ayurvedic pharmacy and store here lodged a complaint with the rights body, alleging the department of Ayurveda of adopting “misdeed” in the purchase of herbs for preparation of medicines at its pharmacy.

“After going through the details furnished in the complaint, the commission found a prima facie case and sought a report from the director of the health department under Section 17[i] of the Protection of Human Rights Act,” said a PSHRC communiqué.

Importantly, the report of a high-level inquiry marked by the then health minister, Satpal Gosain, into a multi-crore herb scam involving the Ayurveda department in 2011, is yet to be submitted to the state government.

Apart from purchasing drugs at higher rates, in 2011, the Ayurveda department has also been alleged of purchasing poor quality herbs for the preparations of Ayurvedic drugs.

It has been alleged that the department had purchased spurious and low quality herbs and ready-made medicines worth lakhs under two different grants - Rs. 81.5 lakh and Rs. 98.7 lakh - by the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

In his complaint, former Patiala MS Dr Shivraj Singh, a whistleblower in the case, who was posted with the department when the scam broke out, stated that contradicting the reports of the Pharmacopoeial Laboratory for Indian Medicine (PLIM), Ghaziabad, the health department gave its nod to use the spurious herbs available at the Ayurvedic pharmacy drug store, claiming that out of 124 samples of several drugs collected, only 23 drugs were found to be substandard.

The drug store, which was sealed following the scam, has been re-opened around three months ago.

“However, the analysis report submitted by the PLIM, which was later procured by Dr Singh through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, made shocking revelation - only 23 samples out of 124 were found to be standard, while 47 samples were spurious; while 51 samples were found without approved limits,” Dr Singh said.

In his complaint, Dr Singh also cautioned that re-opening of the pharmacy store posed a serious threat to lives of people, as the experts would again start preparing medicines from the alleged spurious herbs, which would be supplied to different state-run Ayurvedic dispensaries and hospitals.

“Even though 'Sitopladi Churun' was found substandard at a government drug testing laboratory, around 27 quintals of it was supplied to various dispensaries for use,” Singh said.

Baljinder Singh Thakur, member of the PSHRC, said: “The matter is in our notice, and we have sought report from the health department following which further action will be initiated.”

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