The Remdisivir shortage amid rising Covid-19 cases turned into a full-blown political controversy between the Shiv Sena led Maha Vikas Aghadi government and the BJP led government at the Centre. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is a sharing power with Shiv Sena and Congress in Maharashtra, on Saturday alleged that the BJP led government at the Centre has warned the exporters of Remdesivir vial not to supply to Maharashtra and if they do so, their licenses will be cancelled.
NCP chief spokesman and Minister of Minority Affair Nawab Malik claimed, “It is sad and shocking that when the government of Maharashtra asked 16 exporting companies of Remdesivir, we were told that the Central government has asked them not to supply the medicine to Maharashtra. These companies were warned, if they did, their license will be cancelled.” Malik said if the Centre does not supply Remdesivir, the stock with companies in the state will be seized.
However, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Ports, Shipping and Waterways Mansukh Mandaviya has denied Malik’s charges of the Centre putting up roadblocks in the Remdesivir supply to Maharashtra. In a tweet, the minister said, “Tweets by @nawabmalikncp are shocking. It is full of half truths and lies and the threats issued are unacceptable. He is unaware of the ground situation. GoI has been in active contact with officers of GoM and is assisting with supply of Remdesivir in every manner.’’
Earlier, Malik said there are 16 export-oriented units in India that have 20 lakh vials of Remdesivir, since exports are now banned by the Centre, these units are seeking permission to sell this medicine in the country but the Centre is denying the same.
“The government says it should be sold only through 7 companies that are producing it. These 7 companies are refusing to take responsibility. This is a decision-making crisis. While there is a requirement of this medicine and. availability too, a quick decision is the need of the hour. This problem must be solved and the vials must be supplied to government hospitals in all states immediately,'' said Malik.
However, Mandaviya in another tweet said, “As per the Government’s record, there is only one unit of EoU and one in SEZ. We have reached out to all the Manufacturers of Remdesivir. No such consignment is stuck.''
“We are doubling the production in the country and have given express permission to more 20 Plants since 12-4-2021 to manufacturers. Ensuring adequate supply of Remdesivir to the people of Maharashtra remains our priority,’’ noted Mandaviya.
Interestingly, Minister of Food and Drug Administration Dr Rajendra Shigane said the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner has already issued an order allowing the Remdesivir exporters to sell their stocks in Maharashtra. “I personally spoke to the CEOs of these companies and when asked why they are not selling Remdesivir in the state, they told me that the Centre has warned them not to do so,’’ he added.
Dr Shigane deplored the Centre’s move saying that it was unwarranted when the state is facing acute shortage of Remdesivir amid rising demand due to spurt in Covid-19 cases. He noted that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi also sought his intervention for increasing the Remdesivir supply to the state. As reported by Free Press Journal, the state yesterday received 37,000 Remdesivir vials instead of 55,000 vials. However, Dr Shingane hoped that the supply will be smooth by April 20 as the suppliers have agreed to increase their supplies to the state.
Meanwhile, Malik called upon Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to give details with regard to oxygen supply organised by the Centre to Maharashtra and clear all doubts.
Malik in a tweet addressed Goyal said, “Please enlighten us with some facts. How many metric tonnes of oxygen is produced in our country and how much has the Central Government given to Maharashtra State? Details given by you will clear all doubts and set the record straight.’’