In video clips that went viral on Sunday, Devendra Fadnavis, leader of the opposition in the assembly, was seen engaged in a heated conversation with the police over the detention of Rajesh Dokania, a director of Bruck Pharma. Praveen Darekar, leader of the opposition in the legislative council, also cross-questioned the police.
The police said they were acting on intelligence that remdesivir stock was going to be illegally flown abroad, but the BJP said the government was harassing Dokania because his company had been approached by the party to supply remdesivir to the state to fight Covid-19.
Maharashtra home minister Dilip Walse Patil said he had ordered an inquiry into the happenings at the police station. “It was highly improper on the part of Fadnavis and Darekar to interfere in police administration. The police were probing specific information. The owner [of Bruck] was called to the police station for more information. Nothing’s wrong with that,” he said.
BJP MLC Prasad Lad, who said he had asked the Bruck manufacturing unit in Daman & Diu to supply the injections a few days ago, also accompanied Fadnavis and Darekar to the police station.
While politicians from ruling parties made allegations of foul play and said there was a bar on procurement of the scarce drug by anyone other than the state government, Fadnavis said the pharmaceutical company had obtained all permissions and was providing the injections to the state and no one else.
“The BJP is not purchasing the drug. We are procuring it for Maharashtra and the Food and Drugs Administration has given approval for it. If it were illegal, why would the FDA give the letter? In fact, two days ago Darekar met the minister and said the FDA should buy it. We never asked permission for BJP to buy it,” Fadnavis said.
Dokania had been questioned for over an hour and a half before Fadnavis’s arrival. DCP (Zone VIII) Manjunath Singe was questioning Dokania and officials from the Food and Drug Administration too were present.
Dokania had been called for questioning from his Kandivli home around 8.30pm. He was allowed to return home around midnight, after Fadnavis, Darekar and Lad’s confrontation with police officers.
A police officer said they had information that remdesivir stock was going to be sent abroad by air cargo despite a ban on its export. The official said at least 60,000 vials of remdesivir had been stored Bruck Pharma at different locations such as Vile Parle, Malad, Kandivli, and some South Mumbai locations.
“The DCP and his team are probing the reason for the alleged stocking of 60,000 vials at the exporter’s unit instead of it being distributed in the local market at a time when chief minister Udhav Thackeray has repeatedly mentioned that they are falling short of the vials. There has been no case, seizure or arrest in the matter so far,” a police source said.
In a press release issued late Sunday, the police said Fadnavis enquired why the pharma director had been called to the police station. He said permission was taken from the commissioner of FDA to donate the stock of remdesevir vials to the state Government, as remdesevir stocked for export could not be diverted to the domestic market without approval of the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) or the FDA. The police said the communication from the FDA to the pharmaceutical company was not available with the BKC police Station, which was acting independently on the information available with it.
Mumbai police spokesperson DCP S Chaitanya said these facts were explained to the leaders of the opposition. “They were informed that necessary legal action will be taken against those illegally hoarding remdesevir. Senior officers of the Mumbai police were present. The director of the pharmaceutical company was questioned and later allowed to go after asking him to be present for inquiry whenever called,” he said.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi accused the BJP and the Centre of flouting norms in times of the pandemic and playing games against the state.
NCP minister Nawab Malik said it was unfortunate that BJP politicians rushed to the police station at midnight to take up the cause of a “hoarder and black marketeer”.
State Congress president Nana Patole urged the CM to take immediate action against Fadnavis and Darekar.
Police sources said the entire drama could have been averted if Lad had responded to the police efforts to contact him about the stock of remdesivir, but they said the politician switched off his phone, after which the police had to question Dokania.