Remdesivir row: BMC chief denies Oppn charges

A day after the Opposition accused the BMC of paying Rs 18 crore more than the market price for acquiring stock of Remdesivir vials, the civic chief Iqbal Singh Chahal on Thursday refuted all allegations stating the move was meant to save lives.

“There is an acute shortage of Remdesivir vaccine in the entire country. Remdesivir vials have not been supplied to Haffkine yet since companies have expressed their inability to supply the vials at once. On April 1, 2021 Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation placed orders for 57,100 vials of Remdesivir at the rate of Rs 665 per vial. However, it is a fact that till today the said order has not been entertained by the supplier," said Chahal.

"Dynamics are changing every day. The rates of Remdesivir change every day since it is a warlike situation due to massive surge in the number of cases. On April 5, 2021 BMC floated a bid for purchase of 2,00,000 vials of Remdesivir which was due on April 7, 2021. However, only one bid was received from Mylan till April 7, 2021 evening. The stock position of BMC on April 7, 2021 happened to be 10,471 vials which would have been sufficient for only 3 to 4 days. On April 7 2021 morning, we spoke to Cipla and explored the possibilities of getting supplies of around 10,000 more vials. However, Cipla expressed its inability to supply any vial immediately. Due to supply constraints, no other company showed interest in this bid. The only bidder, namely Mylan refused to reduce the bid price of Rs. 1,568 inclusive of GST," Chahal clarified.

The BJP has, meanwhile, sought a probe by the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) into the BMC’s purchase of Remdesivir vials at 2.5 times the price at which the state run Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation (HBPCL) has bought in the same period.

Chahal however said, the move to pay more and acquire the stock was only meant to save lives, as 17,000 patients required Remdesivir at BMC hospitals.

“We can’t let the patients die in the hospitals. The Pune divisional commissioner has requested BMC to spare 20,000 vials from our pool of two lakh vials bought for Rs 1,568 per vial to save lives in Pune. We have only bought these vials since no other company was willing to supply two lakh vials. So we had to secure the vials first, that was the only intention," he added. (Chahal has shared all the bills, communications mentioning the cost of Remdisivir Vial at Rs 1,568).

BJP corporator from Malad Vinod Mishra, however, pointed out that on April 7, Chahal had stated in an interview that the BMC had a stock of 36,000 vials. “The Central Purchase Department (CPD) on April 7 the same day noted that there was stock of only 10,471 vials. The BMC should have mentioned in the work order that it reserves the right to increase or decrease the price. By buying at Rs 1,568, the BMC has hiked prices for all agencies,” Mishra said.

However, Chahal still maintained that the civic body has taken the lead in placing the order at the earliest keeping in view the interest of Mumbaikars and at prices comparable with various other cities of India.

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