April 21, 2021 2:46:41 am
The political spat over Remdesvir continued on Tuesday with BJP, NCP and Congress trading charges and giving multiple and contradictory versions of a purported arrangement – allegedly done by former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis – for supply of the anti-viral drug between the state government and Bruck Pharma Private Limited, a manufacturer of the drug.
On Sunday, a new political row had broken out between the Maharashtra government and Fadnavis over the latter’s apparent involvement in procuring supplies of Remdesivir through Bruck Pharma – a pharma company based in Daman – and his intervention to prevent the Mumbai Police from questioning a director of the company.
A statement issued on Tuesday by Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Minister and NCP leader Rajendra Shingne raised more questions than it answered. In a recorded video message circulated by the minister’s office, he said, “No political party or organisation can procure Remdesivir injections from any company suo motu. It will have to be routed through proper government channel. I hear from the media that BJP wanted to buy the stock. I am not aware. I can only state that Remdesivir export is not allowed and only the government is entitled to get the stock through proper procedure.”
He did not explain his meeting with BJP leader Pravin Darekar – Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Council who accompanied Fadnavis to the police station – and a Bruck Pharma representative recently. Nor did he clarify if the state had an agreement with the company to supply the drug to licensed stockists and hospitals. He also did not explain if, as Fadnavis has been claiming, the BJP had facilitated any arrangement between the company and the government.
Shinge also skipped the mention of the April 17 FDA nod received by Bruck Pharma to deliver the stock, though according to Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil, the firm had backed out of a pact to supply the drug to the state.
Later on Tuesday, NCP Minister Nawab Malik said that former BJP MLA from Jalgaon-Alamner, Shirish Chaudhury, had stocked Remdesivir and distributed them to the people in Nandurbar, Jalgaon and Dhule. “The BJP leader and the owner of Hira Group had stocked Remdesivir injections at Hira Executive Hotel in Nandurbar,” Malik told mediapersons.
He added that Chaudhury had hoarded Remdesivir, a drug that is in short supply and is being desperately sought after by Covid-19 treatment despite its questionable track record in combating the illness. The government has banned the export of the drug.
“’Only for export’ was written on the stock. Yet, on April 8, Chaudhury was seen distributing the same… Since weekend lockdown was in force, the distribution was stopped. But the stock was again distributed on April 12. Almost 700 to 800 injections were distributed,” claimed Malik.
“A political party’s leader and a former MLA illegally procures a stock of 20,000 injections and publicly distributes some of them. After that, Leader of Opposition leader in Legislative Council, Praveen Darekar, took Chaudhury to meet FDA Minister Rajendra Shingne seeking official permission to get stock from the company. Till April 17, no permission was given by the state. Still, the injection was stocked and distributed,” Malik alleged.
Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant urged the government to file a criminal case against Bruck Pharma and BJP leaders for “striking a deal” regarding Remdesivir. “On April 8 and April 12, Shirish Chaudhary sold thousands of injections when the state government was not getting adequate supply of these injections. This stock was entirely for export. How did they distribute these drugs privately when they were banned by the state?”
On Monday, the state FDA wrote to the Nandurbar district collector seeking action against Chaudhury.
Darekar, meanwhile, said: “The allegations against Chaudhury are factually incorrect. From what I gather, Remdesvir was procured by an authorised distributor much before the export ban or shortage of drugs.”
“As a public personality, if anybody has tried to help patients in need there is nothing wrong. Yet, if there is a violation of rules, let law takes its course,” he added.
“MVA leaders are nit picking on BJP to hide their failures. Why are they not raising questions about NCP MLA Rohit Pawar, who under the wing of the NCP Welfare Board, along with Congress’ Prashant Babar and former corporator Deepak Raj, had distributed Remdesvir. Where did he procure the stock? Was it legal or illegal?” asked Darekar.
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