Health infrastructure crumbles, State struggles for Remdisivir and oxygen supplies
Geetanjali Minhas | April 18, 2021 | Mumbai
A political war erupted between the centre and Maharashtra over supply of essentials including medicines and oxygen as the state struggles to control the raging Covid-19 amidst scarce health infrastructure.
Maharashtra has seen a consistent rise in Covid infections and recorded 67,123 new cases and 419 deaths on Saturday. The state has contributed to a case load of 25.67% of new cases. There is shortage of normal and ICU beds at public and private hospitals and it has been red-flagging severe shortage of vaccines, essential medicines like Remdisivir and oxygen to the centre.
On Saturday Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and state minister Nawab Mallik said 16 export oriented units in the country are holding stocks of 20 lakhs vials of Remdesivir as the government has now banned exports. These units are now seeking permission to sell this medicine in the country but are not being allowed by the centre and were warned that if they sell it to Maharashtra their licence will be cancelled. “This is a dangerous trend and under the circumstances Maharashtra govt will have no choice but to seize the stock of Remdisivir from these exporters and supply it to the needy. The govt says it should be sold only through seven companies that are producing it.”
Malik also put out a letter of approval dated April 12 by the Commissioner, Food and Drugs Control Administration, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, to one of the export companies to supply stocks of Remdisivir to the state of Gujarat only. “Here is another proof of this is step-motherly treatment given by central government to #Maharshtra,” he tweeted.
Malik also said that if vaccination certificates carry prime minister Narendra Modis’s photo then death certificates of Covid-19 victims must also carry his picture.
Earlier in the day, union minister Piyush Goyal had attacked chief minister Uddhav Thackeray terming his claims of oxygen shortage as ‘gimmicks’ and said that Maharashtra had received the highest quantity of oxygen.
Goyal said that Maharashtra is suffering from inept and corrupt govt and the centre is doing its best for people. “People of Maharashtra are following Majha Kutumb, Majhi Javabadari dutifully. It is time the CM also follows his duties in the spirit of ‘Majha Rajya, Majhi Javabdari’. The Govt of India is ensuring maximum oxygen production in India and currently producing 110% of oxygen generating capacity and diverting all available oxygen from industrial use to medical use. The centre is in daily touch with state govts to assess their needs and help them in best possible manner,” Goyal tweeted.
Mansukh Mandaviya, MoS for chemicals and fertilizers, said that Mallik is not aware of ground situation and telling half-truths and lies and these are unacceptable. “As per GoI record only one unit of EOU and one in SEZ. We have reached out to all manufacturers of Remdisivir and no such consignment is stuck,” he tweeted.
In a video conference with industrialists and representatives of trade bodies like FICCI and CII, Thackeray said he had tried to contact PM Modi on phone regarding supply of oxygen to the state but he was told that the PM was not available as he was busy campaigning for West Bengal elections. He also said that the centre was cooperating with the Maharashtra government.
Late last night former chief minister and leader of opposition Devendra Fadanavis and BJP leader Praveen Darekar rushed to Vile Parle Police station after learning that a director of Bruck Pharma, a Daman-based pharmaceutical manufacturing company, had been summoned for questioning about a huge quantity of the drug stored in Mumbai.
Fadnavis said, “Four days ago, we had requested Bruck Pharma to supply a stock of Remdesivir vials to Maharashtra. They said they only had export licence and unless they received permissions they could not give their stock for domestic use. I spoke with union minister Mansukh Mandaviya and got food and drug administration (FDA)'s permission so we can immediately take the supplies for Maharashtra. We were also in talks with permission from state FDA. We were to get available stocks for Maharashtra.”
Fadnavis said that the OSD of the FDA Commissioner called and threatened officials of Brock Pharma after which at 9 pm the police got the director to the police station.
He added later DCP Manjunath Singe told them that they received inputs that some exporters of Remdisivir had 60,000 vials and they only wanted to verify the same.
“We showed FDA permission letter to police and the DCP said it had not been communicated to them earlier.” Fadnavis said that Mandaviya had actually asked the pharma company to supply stocks to Maharashtra after increasing their production capacity but the state was indulging in politics. He said that Malik and some other leaders are doing dirty politics; they have no concern if people live or die and that they only want to set a narrative.
The police allowed the director to leave after he produced necessary documents.
Condemning interference in police questioning by BJP leaders, Sachin Swant, spokesperson Maharashtra state Congress committee, said that police had intelligence that a large stock of 60,000 vials of Remdesivir was hidden with exporters of Bruck Pharma. “After export ban, the company must inform CDSCO and state FDA details of stock left with them. Mumbai police had called director for inquiry but he kept evading. After two days he came. But BJP leaders became so upset that they personally rushed for his support,” he tweeted.
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