Mumbai The clash between the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the supply of Remdesivir to Maharashtra again intensified after state minority affairs minister and chief spokesperson of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Nawab Malik on Tuesday alleged that Shirsh Chaudhari, a BJP leader from Jalgaon in north Maharashtra, bought thousands of vials of the drug from Daman-based Bruck Pharma, and sold and distributed it in Jalgaon, Dhule and Nandurbar districts.
Malik also released pictures and videos that allegedly showed the distribution of Remdesivir.
While BJP leaders claimed that they want to procure 50,000 vials for Maharashtra, Chaudhari bought a stock of 20,000 vials in the first week of April and kept at his Nandurbar hotel, from where the vials are being black-marketed in Nandurbar, Jalgaon and Dhule, Malik told reporters, adding that the BJP leader himself claimed to have distributed 700-800 vials.
“We want to know if Chaudhari has obtained any licence from Maharashtra or Diu and Daman FDA,” the minister asked.
Maharashtra FDA has now written a letter to Nandurbar collector Rajendra Bharud, asking him to take action against the people concerned. Anil Bhaidas Patil, a legislator from Amalner, Jalgaon, too, has demanded action against those illegally selling Bruck Pharma’s Remdesivir. He had written a letter to state FDA minister Rajendra Shingne in this regard on April 14, Malik said.
Shingne also clarified that the drug can be procured only by the state government.
“I have been reading news reports in which BJP leaders have been found to have claimed that they were trying to procure Remdesivir for Maharashtra. I would like to clear as FDA minister that no individual, party or organisation has the right to buy or donate the stock of Remdesivir. As of now it can be procured only by the state government,” the FDA minister said in a video message.
According to Malik, BJP was trying to create a perception that the MVA government is a failure and could not even make available Remdesivir, an antiviral drug used for Covid-19 treatment, to patients. He alleged that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Diu and Daman did not allow Bruck Pharma to supply vials manufactured for exports to Maharashtra.
“After Maharashtra FDA permitted Bruck Pharma to sell Remdesivir, Diu and Daman FDA told the firm that they cannot supply the stock to Maharashtra. Diu and Daman is a Union Territory. When I raised the issue on Saturday, Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan dialled chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and assured full cooperation, but the situation is yet to be changed,” Malik said.
Later, when Mumbai Police called the firm’s director for questioning on the illegal sale of the stock out of the country despite a ban on its export, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the police station and advocated on his behalf, Malik alleged.
“It is clear that some BJP leaders are active to defame MVA government. We want action against those involved in the illegal sale and black marketing of Remdesivir,” the NCP spokesperson said, pointing out that the company’s officials were arrested in Valsad for their alleged involvement in black marketing of the drug.
Fadnavis had said BJP was trying to procure the antiviral drug for the people of Maharashtra, when it was targeted over his visit to the police station.
“…Even this time, we were trying to ensure that the stock of Remdesivir is procured for the people of Maharashtra. It was not meant for the BJP, but for the patients in the state,” said former CM.
Meanwhile, Malik also questioned how BJP are leaders getting stock of the antiviral drug, pointing out to an alleged incident last week where BJP’s Surat office (in Gujarat) was also found distributing Remdesivir vials to the people. He further said that both Chaudhari and the firm are involved in the illegal sale and black marketing of the drug, and thus the offence which attracts action.
Congress, too, has demanded that Chaudhari and the firm be booked for their “involvement in black marketing” of Remdesivir.
“When the Maharashtra government was not getting adequate supply of these injections, how come Chaudhari got so much stock to sell it illegally and privately? It is clear that BJP leaders and Bruck Pharma were colluded in black marketing of Remdesivir and therefore, immediate action should be taken against them,” said Sachin Sawant, general secretary and spokesperson, state Congress.
BJP hit back saying Chaudhari is a distributor of the export firm and was trying to save lives of the people by providing them the drug. Pravin Darekar, leader of Opposition in the legislative Council alleged that MVA government is targeting Chaudhari to hide its own failure. He also alleged that NCP legislator and grandnephew of party chief Sharad Pawar Rohit Pawar as well as NCP Welfare Trust, too, have received the stock of Remdesivir vials.
“If someone has done something illegal, then there is no reason to support him. But to my knowledge, Chaudhari is a distributor of the export firm and he procured the stock before the ban was imposed by the central government. He was trying to help people and is being targeted by MVA to hide their own failures. If Chaudhari is guilty then how come Rohit Pawar and NCP Welfare Trust have got Remdesivir vials stock?” Darekar said.
Maharashtra FDA has permitted three firms — Bruck, BDR Pharmaceuticals and Nixi Labs to sell Remdesivir in the state.