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Current Affairs 2023

Shashi Tharoor and Nirmala Sitharaman Set Aside Political Differences for Noble Cause

Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor recently shared an incident of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman granting a GST exemption on life-saving injection for a minor cancer patient, on his request.

Mar 29, 2023

3 min read

The Indian political landscape is often marked by strong rivalries between parties, often leading to heated debates and confrontations. However, a recent incident shared by Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor has shown that political differences can be set aside for a noble cause.


It all began when a young couple approached the Thiruvananthapuram MP, seeking help for their baby girl who was suffering from a rare form of cancer — 'High-Risk Neuroblastoma' (Stage IV). The only way to save her life was a shot of Dinutuximab Beta (Qarziba), which cost ₹10 lakh per vial and the total cost of her immunotherapy cycle was estimated at about ₹63 lakhs.


The parents somehow managed to raise the required money, after having the drug imported, but were asked to pay ₹7 lakh as GST which they could not afford. The life-saving vials were stuck at the Mumbai Airport as the Customs would not release the consignment till the GST payment was made.


That's when Mr. Tharoor wrote to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 15, requesting an exemption in GST on 'humanitarian grounds'. Mr. Tharoor rang her up and explained the situation. Within half an hour of his telephonic conversation with the Finance minister, the Congress leader said he received a call from Ms. Sitharaman's personal secretary Sernya Bhutia.


The Congress leader was informed that the situation has been discussed with the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, and by 7 pm on March 26, a GST exemption was granted on the release of the life-saving injections. Mr. Tharoor expressed his gratitude to Ms. Sitharaman for setting aside political differences and granting his request. He expressed that such incidents restore his faith in government, politics, and humanity.


This incident has proven that no matter how strong the political differences may be, leaders from rival parties can come together for a noble cause. It is heartening to see that the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor were able to put aside their political differences and work together to save a life.


What is High-risk neuroblastoma?


High-risk neuroblastoma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer that occurs in nerve tissue, typically in young children. It is considered high-risk because it has a higher likelihood of spreading to other parts of the body and is more difficult to treat than other types of neuroblastoma. High-risk neuroblastoma often requires aggressive treatment, such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplant, and has a lower survival rate than low or intermediate-risk neuroblastoma.


What is Dinutuximab beta?


Dinutuximab beta, marketed under the brand name Qarziba, is a monoclonal antibody used in the treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that mostly affects children. It works by binding to a specific protein called GD2, which is found on the surface of neuroblastoma cells, and activates the immune system to attack and destroy these cancer cells. Qarziba is typically given in combination with other chemotherapy drugs and is administered via infusion into a vein. It is approved for use in Europe, Canada, and other countries, but it is not currently approved for use in the United States.


Image: Lok Sabha Secretariat

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