Islamic Voice
Zul-Qada / Zul Hijja 1422
February 2002
Volume 15-02 No:182

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Features


Where has the Fizz Gone?


Where has the Fizz Gone?

While the ban by Muslim hoteliers on Coke and Pepsi is fizzing out, the boycott call on drugs from American pharma companies had a lukewarm response.

M. H. Lakdawala

Drug

The three-months long boycott by Muslim hoteliers in Mumbai on US and British products, especially soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi, and pharmaceuticals products appears to be fizzing out. Several hotels and joints have already started serving the ‘banned’ drinks.

Shahabuddin Shaikh, who is president of the Indian Hoteliers Association (IHA) and who spearheaded the boycott, said: “A section of people had joined in for publicity, while others realised they were losing profits because of the boycott. They realised that sticking with the ban is not lucrative for them.

There are hypocrites in every movement.” He was however quick to add that the boycott had been issued on a temporary basis. The boycott of US and British products had come following a series of meetings by several Muslim groups, especially hoteliers, to protest the killings of civilians during the US bombing of Afghanistan. The IHA had joined the agitation and exhorted its member hotels to stop stocking and serving US products. 
 

The Darul Uloom at Deoband issued a fatwa banning US and Israeli products. From October 28, 2001, the ban had become total with most Muslim localities and shops clearing the products off their shelves. Restaurants in Dadar, Kurla, Andheri and even the main food bazaar at the Minara Masjid area in Mohammad Ali Road have started stocking and serving Coke and Pepsi now. Close on the heels of boycott of American and British products by the hotels owned by Muslims in Mumbai, doctors of the Muslim Medico’s Association (MMA) began boycotting pharmaceutical products of American and British pharmaceutical companies.

images/pepsi.jpg

No doubt, hegemony of the multinational companies is the serious issue. Also the control of the world assets and economy by the trans-national companies has become quite alarming. But the approach of boycott is not the solution, and remains a symbolic protest.



The doctors - including surgeons, paediatricians and general practitioners, formed an association called the Muslim Medicos Association (MMA). They decided to stop prescribing drugs made by American and British companies with immediate effect. But the boycott did not apply to crucial life-saving drugs whose substitutes are not available in India.The doctors had formed a 12-member committee, that chalked out a list of companies and products to be boycotted. Two companies mentioned were Glaxo and Pfizer. The boycott did not include life-saving drugs. According to MMA president, Dr. Y. A. Matcheswala: “It is a protest against the indiscriminate bombing of Afghanistan by US and UK, resulting in killing of innocent civilians,” he said adding that the companies whose drugs have been boycotted include pharma major Glaxo and Pfizer. Dr Matcheswalla, a visiting psychiatrist at JJ and Masina hospitals, said there was no need to worry about the boycott depriving patients of crucial drugs. “Ninety per cent of the medicines required by patients are made by Indian companies. In some branches, like psychiatry, all our drug requirements can be taken care of by Indian companies,” he said. Association secretary Dr Azimuddin said that about 5000 doctors including general practitioners and specialists are participating in the boycott besides para-medical and medical stores. Dr Azimuddin, a general practitioner from Mahim, said, “The drugs made by American-owned companies operating in India are completely boycotted. If there are no Indian substitutes available for American drugs, we prescribe drugs made by joint ventures between American and Indian companies.”

Dr Imamuddin Undre, consultant surgeon with the Prince Aly Khan and Masina hospitals, said: “We condemn the September 11 attacks that killed thousands of innocent people. We have no love for the Taliban, but what America did in Afghanistan is international terrorism. They have bombed hospitals and civilians. We want to register our protest in a peaceful manner.”

A random survey by Islamic Voice revealed that the boycott has received a lukewarm response from the Muslim doctors in the city. Most of them are quite apprehensive about the boycott and feel that it is a useless exercise, having just symbolic values of registering the protest. Dr Shahid Baig, a General Practitioner at Bandra said: “I just cannot take my patients for granted .My patients come to me as they have complete faith in me. I just cannot let my views and emotions with respect to war in Afghanistan affect their faith in me. I will prescribe drugs which are best suited to my patients irrespective of the company.” Dr Rias Baig, an Ophthalmologist, believes that the boycott of multinational Pharma companies is senseless. “If one has to boycott, then one should boycott all the drugs invented by them. Why use their discoveries”, he argues. “This is not possible. Where are the original research products from Indian pharma companies. All are copycats. The multi-national companies have done research and invented many life- saving drugs.Why should I boycott, just because few of the Muslim Doctors decide to do so?” Dr. Gazala Darvesh,a cardiologist also does not agree with the boycott. “What explanation should I give to my patients who are already on the anti hyper-tensive drugs manufactured by multinationals? It is against the patient’s interest to change the drug midway,” she said. Asfaque Mulla, a tuberculosis patient, undergoing treatment at the Habib Hospital in a Muslim dominated locality, said he is not bothered about the boycott by the Muslim doctors. “I want to get cured as early as possible, whether the doctor prescribes Indian made medicine or US brands, I am not bothered” he said. Sagufta Narvekar undergoing treatment at Noor Hospital in south Mumbai, for Hernia has some useful advice for the doctors. She says: “I also sympathised with the innocent Afghan people. “I don’t believe in protest or agitation, or boycott. Instead, these doctors should contribute a substantial fund for the relief of the poor Afghan refugees. The boycott by MMA is more of a political stunt rather than any concrete action.”

No doubt, hegemony of the multinational companies is the serious issue. Also the control of the world assets and economy by the Trans-national companies has become quite alarming. But the approach of boycott is not the solution, and remains a symbolic protest. The community should instead look at ways and means of extending their support to the millions of Afghan refugees who are on the streets now after the Taliban went out of power. This requires to be given a serious thought and will be far more productive than hastily taking a reactionary or proactive action against the US and the multi-national companies. The community needs to introspect on this, as keeping off Coke, Pepsi or Glaxo is not going to give the helpless Afghan refugees their food clothing and shelter to lead a dignified life. The community can as well go to the grassroots level and provide for the basic requirements of the Afghan refugees by way of funds that will help them rehabilitate themselves.



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