Mandaviya recalls daughter’s call during Covid asking if there was drugs scarcity, clarified situation to her

New Delhi, Jun 20 (PTI) In the middle of a severe wave of Covid infections, Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya got a call from his daughter, a doctor, asking whether India was actually sending crucial medicines abroad when there was scarcity at home.

He told her that as a minister of the Narendra Modi government, he would never do such a thing.

Recalling the Covid period and how India fought one of the worst pandemics in a century, the Union Health Minister told PTI in an exclusive video interview that when the government and the people were working overtime to manage the crisis, a lot of politics was playing out, including about medicine export, with “fake narratives being put forth by opposition parties”.

“My daughter is a doctor and she was serving the people during the pandemic. She once called me to ask whether I was actually exporting crucial medicines when there was news about non-availability in our own country.

“I told her that there is a Modi government in the country and I am his minister. I can never export medicines to the world if there is scarcity in the country,” Mandaviya said.

The minister said that he explained the true picture to his daughter and she was satisfied.

“The entire country believed it eventually when they saw there was no scarcity of medicines. Everyone got to know how the Modi government managed the Covid crisis and there is appreciation all around for that.

“Today, the world looks at India even if it (medicine supply) gets costly. This is because they know that India stands with them during times of crisis. It is because of our commitment that the world is praising India and the credit goes to our Covid management,” Mandaviya said.

Mandaviya was the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for the Ministry of Shipping and Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers from 2019. He was elevated to Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare India as well as the Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers in 2021.

He said a lot of questions were raised on why the government first banned the export of some key medicines and then allowed it.

“Initially we imposed a ban because we were analysing the situation, our requirements, manufacturing capacity, status of raw materials available with us and from where can we get more raw materials and their cost analysis. When we found that we have enough raw materials and other things, we lifted the export ban,” Mandaviya said.

“When we started the exports, criticism began that we were sending the medicines abroad and there would be scarcity in the country.”

Mandaviya said a few days after a lockdown was imposed in the country in March 2020, Prime Minister Modi called him seeking to know the status of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in the country.

“I got the details and told him (Modi) that we have the manufacturing capacity to meet our requirements. The prime minister told us that we need to meet the requirements of the country and also help the world and we need to take necessary steps in that regard,” he said.

Mandaviya said that he held meeting with pharmaceutical companies, instructed them to start manufacturing and provided lockdown passes for their staff.

“After talking to all pharma companies, especially for hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, we used to analyse the situation and plan accordingly. While assessing the requirements of these two medicines in the country, a lot of modelling used to take place about how many cases could be there in a particular month.

“If the prediction was about 10 lakh cases in August, we used to assume there would be 20 lakh cases, and then we used to take into account 20 per cent more when it came to assessing the requirement for hydroxychloroquine and manufacture it accordingly and maintain the stock,” the Union minister said.

He said that this was done to ensure that there was no shortage of medicine in the country at any given situation. “Also, the target was to produce more than the need to meet the export requirement of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin,” Mandaviya said.

He recalled that all airports were closed during the lockdown and all flights were suspended.

But four to five planes used to come to India from around the world every day for getting medicines and vaccines, he said, adding the country supplied the two important drugs to 150 countries and many of them continue to thank the prime minister.

“Health is not a commerce for us, it is a service. When we supplied medicines to 150 countries, we could have increased the price if we wanted. But we did not do that. We supplied medicines at the previous price only.

“When vaccine manufacturing countries were stocking vaccines, we were helping the world through Vaccine Maitri. The result was that the world today knows India is the country that stands by you during the difficult times,” Mandaviya added.