From MK Stalin to Nirmala Sitharaman: Support and prayers pour in for baby Mithraa!

Support and prayers are pouring in for baby Mithraa, who is battling a rare disease of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). From national leaders to unknown faces, several people had contributed to her treatment and praying for her speedy recovery as the Union government has repealed the taxes for the medicine, that was imported, for her treatment. 

Mithraa, a baby in Namakkal, Tamil Nadu was diagnosed with SMA on June 4. A drug to treat the disorder 'Zolgensma' was to be imported and it must be administered to children below the age of two. The drug is being considered the most expensive drug in the world - costing $2.125 million. The baby's parents had tried to arrange the funds to procure the drug and to administer it to her before she turns two on July 5. However, it was delayed as there were several formalities from paying tax to paperwork. 

The cost of the drug is Rs 16 crore and when the parents had raised Rs 16 crore for purchasing the drug from the United States, they were pushed to pay the import tax and GST (5%) to the Indian government. The taxes had come to Rs 6 crore, which they couldn't able to pay. The parents had appealed to the government to waive off the taxes on the drug. Several social media users had also requested the government to repeal the tax to ensure that the child gets timely treatment.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and BJP MLA Vanathi Srinivasan had also requested the Union government for waiving off the taxes for the drug. After incessant requests, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had on Wednesday extended her support to the baby by waiving off the import tax and GST for the drug. Tamil Nadu BJP MLA Vanathi Srinivasan has thanked the Finance Minister for repealing the taxes. 

Taking to social media, Vanathi Srinivasan said, "Thank you for waiving the import duty for the life-saving drug of Selvi Mithraa. You have become another mother to the child by repealing the import tax for the drug." The BJP MLA had on June 28 written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to waive import tax and GST on the life-saving medicine and requested assistance from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund. In her letter, she had said that Mithraa's parents Sathish and Priyadharshini have resorted to crowdfunding to save their daughter's life. 

Vanathi Srinivasan has further said, "I request you (Prime Minister) to waive import duty and GST on their life-saving medicine, which amounts to 35% of the cost of medicine, and to grant them assistance under PMNRF." Besides Vanathi Srinivasan, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin has on Tuesday written to Nirmala Sitharaman in which he demanded her to give exemption for the customs duty, GST, and other taxes on import of life-saving drugs for the treatment of SMA. 

The parents had welcomed Sitharaman's decision to waive off the taxes for the life-saving drug. According to reports, the Zolgensma drug is manufactured by Novartis and the drug is one of the very few medicines that would contain the SMA disease from progressing. SMA will cause muscle weakness and progressive loss of movement due to the deterioration of motor neurons. The disease can lead to permanent ventilation or death in 90% of cases by age 2 when it is left untreated.

             File photo: Baby Mithraa with her parents


Besides praying and extending their wishes to baby Mithraa for a speedy recovery, several people had asked why the government can't remove the tax completely on the crucial drugs that are imported to the country. They had urged the Union government to provide an exemption to the life-saving drugs from paying tax and that the government should encourage the production of such drugs within the country.