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Friday, May 07, 2021

An open letter to Julio Ribeiro from Devendra Fadnavis

We did not expect that our genuine effort to help in a crisis will be politicised. Fake and forged videos and stories were circulated by supporters of the MVA government and political parties such as the AAP.

Written by Devendra Fadnavis |
Updated: April 27, 2021 10:03:33 am
A vial of remdesivir (File photo)

Dear Julio Ribeiroji,

At the outset, I would like to thank you for the kind words you have expressed about my tenure as Maharashtra chief minister. These words will inspire me to do better in my life. I also want to express my utmost respect for you. We may agree to disagree on certain fundamental issues, but I have always been impressed by your straight-forward approach and professional integrity.

I’m not writing this letter to counter the views expressed in your article. I take the constructive criticism in the right spirit. I’m writing this letter only to clarify certain facts, which have been twisted and spread as truth by the fake narrative factory of the constituents of Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA).

First and foremost, we (I and leader of opposition in the Legislative Council) were not procuring even a single vial of Remdesivir injection for the BJP. In fact, we stated in our letter to the food and drugs administration (FDA) minister that we were only trying to facilitate and the FDA should procure it. We also offered that if there was any procedural problem, we would bear the cost. The LoP, Legislative Council, personally met the FDA minister along with the manufacturer to finalise the modalities of supply. An official letter was thereafter issued by the FDA to the same manufacturer, permitting him to supply the said drug exclusively to the state of Maharashtra. So, no way could they have supplied the drug to anyone other than Maharashtra. Eventually, in an interview, the FDA minister has also conceded as much and said that the quota was meant for Maharashtra.

Why did I visit the DCP office? One of the directors of the manufacturing company had got a call that day from the OSD of a minister asking him how he was providing the drug on the request of the LoP. The director replied that he was giving it to the government and the matter had been discussed with the FDA minister. The same evening, an assistant police inspector in civil dress went to him to lay a trap by asking him to supply Remdesivir, which he flatly refused. After this trap failed, a group of 8 to 10 policemen and an officer visited his home. They confiscated his phones and took him to the police station. The LoP, legislative council, met me and expressed the apprehension that some foul play was on.

I narrated the developments to the Joint Commissioner of Police more than once. Subsequently, I tried to contact the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai on his landline, mobile phone and through smses, but there was no response. However, I did manage to speak to various officers and figured that it was a planned action conducted as per the instructions of political bosses in the government. It was at this point, as you rightly said, I found it my moral obligation not to let a person be victimised for agreeing to legally supply the much-awaited drug to Maharashtra.

I didn’t go there unannounced. I had texted the CP about the developments and had informed him that I was personally visiting the DCP office since there was no response from him. I had also informed the joint CP, additional CP, and DCP. We submitted the FDA order to the DCP who conceded that he had no knowledge of the order. I asked him whether they have specific intelligence that this company is hoarding the export stock to which they said there was no specific intelligence input. I told him to take action if they have evidence or input of wrongdoing. Video footage of the entire episode is available.

The joint CP and additional CP also reached the venue in 10 minutes. The officers privately discussed the issue with the CP on the phone and subsequently allowed the director of the company to leave with the instruction that if required he would be called again for questioning.

It can be debated whether a former chief minister should visit a police station or a DCP office. I took a conscious decision to go to stop the victimisation of a person just because he had agreed to help the state on our call and not on government’s call which never approached him.

As home minister, I never compromised the dignity of the office. Let me assure you that I would not hesitate to apologise to even a police constable if I have wronged him. I appreciate and respect your views and will try to handle such incidents differently in future. I would certainly try to moderate my impulses as suggested by you.

We believe that as the Opposition, we should not merely point fingers but also try and help the state in a crisis, using our resources and contacts. It is with this intention that the LoP, Legislative Council, went to Daman to meet members of the industry. I spoke to the concerned Union minister to help the manufacturer obtain a loan licence with an agreement that the major share of the drug will be delivered to Maharashtra. We did not expect that our genuine effort to help in a crisis will be politicised. Fake and forged videos and stories were circulated by supporters of the MVA government and political parties such as the AAP. I will be initiating legal proceedings against them.

This column first appeared in the print edition on April 27, 2021 under the title ‘Dear Julio Ribeiroji’. The writer is a former chief minister of Maharashtra.

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