ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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B K Keayla: A Personal Reminiscence

Bal Krishan Keayla, a key figure in the National Working Group on Patent Law and an indefatigable campaigner for two decades against the GATT/WTO agreement on intellectual property, died on 27 November. A colleague in the working group reminisces.

Twenty-two years ago, but the day is still fresh in my mind. We (Amitava Guha of the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives’ Associations of India and myself) had, with hesitant steps, made our way into the corporate office of Ranbaxy in Nehru Place. We were curious why a director in Ranbaxy would want to meet two anti-corporate activists. That is how I first met B K Keayla, then director, corporate environment, in Ranbaxy. We had gone prepared for a 15-minute meeting and left after two hours. Keaylaji (as he was soon known in our circles) captivated us with his thorough knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, and his deep commitment towards the need to sustain the domestic generic industry. We came away with sheaves of data on multinational corporations operating in India, their sins of omission and commission, but more than that a feeling that we had met someone who we wanted to meet again and again. Later, we pieced together Keaylaji’s history. Keaylaji had spent much of his life in the government and had retired as commissioner of payments. He had been associated with the Hathi Committee in 1974 – which had charted the path for the development of the generic industry in India.

We kept going back to him, because he always had some new insight to offer about the pharmaceutical industry. We developed a relationship that is hard to define – that of very dear friends though Keaylaji was a year older than my father. He was a mentor, a colleague and above all a marvellous human being. When we first met him Keaylaji was nearing 70, but had the energy and patience that all of us envied. Those were the heady days when self-reliance was not a bad word even within government and I ndia was battling it out in the negotiations in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

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