Updated: July 22, 2021 3:00:58 am
With a number of cases of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) patients seeking financial assistance to get the expensive Zolgensma drug, lawmakers are approaching the Union government for help. They point out that the SMA medicine, which is not available in India, costs Rs 18 crore, of which 23% is import duty and 12% is GST, which amounts to around Rs 6.5 crore. When Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden (in picture) approached Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya for tax exemption for the drug, the ministers promised that the Centre can give exemption to particular cases. Although a complete duty and tax exemption to the drug import is not possible without a policy decision — which has to be taken at the GST Council — SMA patients can get the duty waived if MPs bring the cases to the Centre’s notice.
Although the Congress is keen to keep the Pegasus row alive and has decided to take out demonstrations to Raj Bhawans in all state capitals Thursday, the party may not be able to raise the issue in Parliament the same day. With protesting farmers’ groups set to take out a march to Parliament Thursday, most opposition parties are of the view that farmer’s issues should be raised in a big way in both Houses in solidarity with them. Some parties are likely to stage a dharna in Parliament premises. Members of many opposition parties have given notices seeking suspension of all business to discuss the farmers’ agitation.
The US on Wednesday issued a security alert for its citizens in India, advising them to avoid prominent areas, crowds and demonstrations along with taking steps for their safety in view of the farmers’ protest in New Delhi. “US Embassy New Delhi is aware of media reports of possible demonstrations in and around New Delhi on July 21 and 22 by farmers and counter-protesters. Previous such protests have sometimes led to violence,” the embassy said.