Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Monday ordered a probe into the tweets done by celebs like Bharat Ratnas Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar, Akshay Kumar, Saina Nehwal and others on the ongoing farmers’ protest.
Terming it a “serious” matter, Deshmukh ordered the Intelligence Department to go into the background of the tweets, many of which were similar in content and posted at the same time.
The development came after Maharashtra Congress Spokesperson Sachin Sawant and other leaders lodged a complaint, demanding to know if “these celebs are under any kind of pressure to post tweets in support of the BJP-led government at the Centre”.
After international pop star Rihanna and environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s posts on the farmers’ protest in India, many Indian celebrities like Bollywood actors and sportspersons, including cricketers, had called for unity through tweets.
Sawant contended that these tweets were a “coordinated effort” as many of them were similarly worded, posted around the same time with common hashtags, which raised suspicions as to whether they were posted under some external pressure.
The celebs used similar hashtags like #IndiaTogether, #IndiaAgainstPropagada etc to counter the tweets posted by foreign celebs, who came out in support of the Indian peasantry.
“Reactions on the farmers protest are coming from across the world and many celebrities have reacted. But you have a question about the timing of these tweets and whether these were made under pressures. The tweets by Akshay Kumar and Saina Nehwal look similar,” Deshmukh said.
Deshmukh pointed out that there was not even a single word that was different in some of the tweets, which was a serious matter.
Government slashes Remdesivir MRP by half, with retro-effect
Spelling huge relief for lakhs of Covid-19 patients, the government has slashed the prices of the ‘life-saver’ Remdesivir injection by nearly 50 per cent, to MRP Rs 2,450 per injection now, according to official sources.
In a missive late on Friday, the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilisers, Department of Pharmaceuticals, NPPA – Advisor (Costs) N.I. Chowdhury has ordered all pharma companies to comply with the revised norms with immediate and retrospective effect.
“Based on the Form-V furnished regarding voluntary reduction in Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of Remdesivir, Manufacturers/Marketers of the Remdesivir are hereby directed to implement the revised MRP throughout the distribution chain w.e.f. 15.04.2021, irrespective of the batch numbers,” the stern notification said.
The decision came barely a day after a Maharashtra Barrister Vinod Tiwari demanded that the Centre should immediately bring Remdesivir under the DPCO regime in view of its alleged shortages, blackmarketing and corruption to the tune of over Rs 25,000-crore as the injection is in huge demand in ongoing Covid pandemic second wave. IANS first highlighted the issue exclusively on April 15.
Welcoming the Centre’s move, Barrister Tiwari said that it is good that the government has realized the agony of the millions struggling to get Remdesivir and are compelled to cough out huge amounts from the black markets.
“Now, with the MPR slashed to half and even lesser by some of the companies, people can breathe easy. It will also leash the pharma sector from exploiting the gullible masses in this critical time,” a victorious Barrister Tiwari told IANS.
The Centre’s orders have been sent to the manufacturers: Cadila Healthcare Ltd., Cipla Ltd., Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd., Hetero Labs Ltd., Jubilant Pharma Ltd., Mylan Laboratories Ltd., Syngene International Ltd.
Sources in the state FDA inform that under the new norms, the pharma companies shall sell even the existing stocks in the market with the revised prices which would hugely benefit the desperate patients or their families, besides the healthcare system.
In his petition to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), a statutory authority under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO), Barrister Tiwari had demanded a high-level probe into the “artificial scarcity, hoarding, blackmarketing and misuse of the drug which could run into a racket of over Rs 25,000 crore under the nose of the NPPA,” in the past ten months since the drug was launched after the pandemic was declared.
Incidentally, Maharashtra was the first state to make efforts to bring Remdesivir under the ambit of DPCO, but it was reportedly stonewalled by the Centre and others, he said.
Questioning why the NPPA did not follow its statutory responsibility to bring Remdesivir under the DPCO regime, Barrister Tiwari pointed out that as per the DPCO Act, 1995, issued under the Essential Commodities Act, the Centre is empowered to include any item of medical importance, like Remdesivir currently, within the DPCO list to control its manufacture, stocking, distribution, sale, etc and make it easily available at a reasonable price to the patients.
“The Covid pandemic is the biggest afflicting mankind since 2020 Why did NPPA wait for so long? Who’s responsible and what were the ulterior motives behind the delays?” demanded Barrister Tiwari.
The peititon was sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Union Ministers D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Harsh Vardhan, Mansukh Mandaviya, Central Vigilance Commission and concerned departments, seeking a hearing.
In a major fallout, the CVC took prompt note of Barrister Tiwari’s petition and asked him to submit more details, even as the country reels under a ‘shortage’ of Remdesivir with the ‘medical mafia’ playing havoc with patients who need the 6 doses (injections) for Covid treatment.
Barrister Tiwari cited examples of how the pharma companies were fleecing people with their different brands of Remdesivir – Cipremi is sold for Rs 4,000 though it is given to the distributor for barely Rs 1,080+GST, Covifar is sold at Rs 5,400 by the stockist who gets it for Rs 935+GST, Desrem bought for Rs 935+GST but sold at Rs 4,800, Redyx bought for Rs 900+GST but sold to the patient at Rs 5,400.
He termed it as “short-sightedness” on the part of the Centre and the powerful NPPA that when the pharma companies were given the advantage of compulsory export obligations, they could have easily offset the costs domestically and Remdesivir could have been provided either free of cost or at a nominal price to Indian patients, but this was deliberately not done.
Bring Remdesivir under drug price control: Maharashtra Barrister
A prominent Maharashtra legal luminary has petitioned the Centre to declare the Remdesivir medicine – currently in huge demand owing to the Covid-19 pandemic – as a ‘life-saving’ medicine with controlled pricing to prevent blackmarketing and corruption.
Remdesivir is manufactured by a handful of companies under brand names like Cipremi (Cipla), Covifar (Hetero), Desrem (Mylon), Remdac (Zydus), Redyx (Dr. Reddy’s).
In a plea to the Central Government which controls the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), a statutory authority under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO), Mumbai Barrister Vinod Tiwari on Thursday demanded a high-level investigation into the artificial scarcity, hoarding, blackmarketing and misuse of the drug which could run into a racket of over Rs 25,000-crore under the nose of the NPPA, in the past ten months since the drug was launched after the pandemic was declared.
Despite efforts by certain states like Maharashtra to bring Remdesivir under the ambit of DPCO, he accused the NPPA of ignoring the grave situation which led to massive irregularities and corruption, besides desperation among Covid-19 patients across India.
Tiwari pointed out that under the DPCO, 1995, amended in 2013, issued under the Essential Commodities Act, the Centre is empowered to include any item of medical importance, like Remdesivir currently, within the DPCO list to control its manufacture, stocking, distribution, sale, etc. and make it easily available at a reasonable price to the patients.
“It was the duty of the NPPA under DPCO to follow its statutory functions and responsibilities by taking immediate steps to bring Remdesivir under the DPCO regime soon after the biggest pandemic afflicting mankind was witnessed last year. Why did it wait for so long? Who’s responsible and what were the ulterior motives behind the delays?” Tiwari told IANS.
Citing various documents and RTI replies, Tiwari said the NPPA took no initiative to bring Remdesivir under the DPCO regime and in the process crores of patients and people were looted of more than Rs 25,000 crore.
“The country is witnessing a tsunami-like second wave of Covid-19 but the NPPA has failed to rein in the prices of Remdesivir and the needy patients are left at the sheer mercy of the pharma companies and the medical mafia since over 13 months now,” rued Tiwari.
Addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the petition copies have been sent to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Union Ministers D. V. Sadananda Gowda, Harsh Vardhan and Mansukh Mandaviya, besides the NPPA and the Central Chief Vigilance Commissioner for an immediate hearing and reply.
Justifying his contentions, he pointed out that Cipremi is sold for Rs 4000 though it is given to the distributor for barely Rs 1,080+GST, Covifar is sold at Rs 5,400 by the stockist who gets it for Rs 935+GST.
Ditto is the case with Desrem bought for Rs 935+GST but sold at Rs 4,800, Redyx bought for Rs 900+GST but sold to the patient at Rs 5,400, he pointed out.
“Each patient needs 6 doses (injections) of Remdesivir. In the past ten months or so, the country has witnessed crores of cases. It must be probed how many injections were actually sold and how much the pharma companies, the medical mafia and the officialdom earned ‘blood money’ from it,” Tiwari said.
He said it was “short-sightedness” on the part of the Centre and the powerful NPPA that when the pharma companies were given the advantage of compulsory export obligations, they could have easily offset the costs domestically and Remdesivir could have been provided either free of cost or at a nominal price to Indian patients, but this was deliberately not done.
“The Maharashtra government had raised this matter officially with the Centre in Feb-March 2021. However, despite the gravity and urgency of the situation, the state’s plea was not heeded and the open market dacoity in the name of Remdesivir continues daily,” Tiwari said.
He has prayed that the Centre through NPPA take top priority steps to include Remdesivir in the DPCO list by the weekend. The Centre should order the Central CVC, the CBI or ED to conduct a nationwide probe to expose the unholy nexus between the pharma companies, medical mafias and the government officials who must be prosecuted, punished and dismissed as per the provisions of the NDMA and EDA.
Centre clears Mumbai’s Haffkine to make Covaxin
In a major step to ramp up vaccine production amid the Covid-19 second wave, the Centre has approved production of Corona vaccines from the Maharashtra government-owned Haffkine Institute in Mumbai.
Since the past month, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had repeatedly requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow production of vaccines in the renowned institution in central Mumbai.
The central approval came late on Thursday night green-flagging the 122-year-old Haffkine Institute, Parel, to produce the Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for one-year under a technology transfer agreement.
Shortly after the announcement, Thackeray thanked the PM for the formal nod, sent by the Department of Science & Technology Secretary to state Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte of the approval for a period of 12 months.
The Haffkine Institute has the capacity to produce 22-crore doses annually, which would immensely help the ongoing Vaccination drive in the country with complaints of vaccine shortages coming up from several states including Maharashtra.
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