Saturday, 18 August 2007

Illegal Exaction Ceased Medicine Supply to Indian State

Illegal Exaction Ceased Medicine Supply to Indian State

Medicine shipments to a revolt-hit state in India's northeast have dried up after pharmaceutical firms were told to pay 250,000 dollars in extortion money, officials said on Thursday.

Separatist rebels in Manipur ordered all pharmaceutical companies operating in the state to pay militants a total of 10 million rupees (250,000 dollars).

The extortion demand was telephoned in to local newspapers in Manipur in early August and appeared as news reports.

The reports did not specify in detail who made the extortion demand, gave no deadline for payment and did not specify the consequences if no money was paid.

However, the state's top health official said the government was taking the demand seriously and was working with drug companies to encourage them to resume supplying Manipur.

"We're negotiating with companies to resume supplies very soon and have assured them of full protection and security," Manipur Health Minister Parijat Singh told AFP by telephone from state capital Imphal. "

There's no need to panic and in a day or two we shall ensure supplies of drugs," he said.

Among the thousands affected as drugs became scarce were many people living with AIDS in a region where HIV-infection rates are high.

"I have been without ART (anti-retroviral therapy) for the last four days -- there are no medicines available," Bimla, an HIV-positive woman, told AFP.

Pharmacy stores reported they were running low on many drugs and basic materials like syringes and bandages.

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