Hydroxychloroquine Production Capacity Doubled To 30 Crore Tablets A Month: Swarajya Interviews Union Minister Sadananda Gowda
In an interview to Swarajya, Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers D V Sadananda Gowda outlines government plans to scale up production of medicines to fight Covid-19, and rehabilitate those returning from abroad.
Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Member of Parliament from Bengaluru D V Sadananda Gowda has been at the forefront when it comes to answering calls for evacuation by Kannadigas stranded abroad be it in the UAE, UK or even Malaysia.
He has also been proactively engaging with the ministries concerned especially the railways to facilitate those from Karnataka who were stuck in various states to be back home.
As the migrants touch base in the state, there is also the worry of there being a third wave since most of them are travelling from Covid-19 affected countries. There is also the issue of India having to export drugs needed to fight the Covid-19 battle to other countries, but given the possibility of another wave, do we have the capacity to scale up and provide for our own requirements?
In an interview with Swarajya, Gowda sheds light on these issues.
1. Since you just had a review meeting with the secretary of pharmaceuticals yesterday (Tuesday), do we see any important updates? As far as the tablets required for battling coronavirus are concerned, hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol and azithromycin and antibiotics, you had said we have a stock to last us three months. What is the status as far as their availability and production is concerned, given that the demand too is increasing with the rise in the number of infections?
Major manufacturers of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, paracetamol have approximate production of 40 metric tonnes (MTs), 75 MTs and 6,450 MTs capacity of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) production per month.
The production capacity of hydroxychloroquine has been doubled to almost 30 crore tablets per month. As for azithromycin, around 15 crore tablets of 500 mg have been produced in the current month. The required quantity of 25 lakh tablets has been made available to the Health Ministry in April.
The domestic requirement of paracetamol is 2,500 MT per month (API) and for Covid-19 is 500 MTs per month. The government has ensured sufficient stocks for the requirement projected by the Ministry of Health.
2. You have helped facilitate evacuation especially from the Gulf countries to Karnataka. As the first flight of evacuees lands in India, what are the measures the country has taken to ensure they do not end up creating yet another wave of Covid-19 in the country, since most of these are from countries that have been severely affected by the virus?
All the necessary arrangements have been made by the respective state governments in the country at all airports where these flights will be landing. It is mandatory for all those who are landing to undergo institutional quarantine arranged by respective state governments. Also, since all the travellers have also been tested in the respective countries before leaving, I think there will not be any issue of Covid-19 cases arising from them.
3. Any measures that the government will put in place foreseeing the impact of such reverse migration on the economy and the job scene in the smaller towns that they are all landing in?
I personally feel after some time all the migrants will come back to cities for their livelihood. Till then they will be at their native places and our government is helping the poor people under different schemes by providing free rice/grains and other ration through the public distribution system (PDS). With regard to jobs, yes there will be issues, but these too can be solved once the industries restart all their activities.
4. As far as chemical exports are concerned, Covid-19 seems to have brought the industry to a halt. While chemicals and petrochemicals did become the top export sector last fiscal, what would be the bearing coronavirus and lockdown have on the industry?
As far as chemical exports are concerned, the production is slightly affected due to the lockdown. But it will slowly pick up as post relaxation of restrictions, the manufacturing of agro-chemicals and fertilisers has started with minimum manpower duly following the guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs.
5. In the wake of the Vizag incident, what are the measures being taken to ensure such tragedies do not occur elsewhere given that many such plants will now slowly resume operations?
With regard to LG Polymers Vishakhapatnam which is engaged in production of styrene monomer as raw material — the company comes under the state control and hence the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change are looking into it. But our ministry is also closely monitoring the development and our officers are guiding the officers of the government of Andhra Pradesh with regard to this accident.
However, the CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute team can inspect the site to assess the cause of the accident.
6. A lot of Kannadigas have been asking you for help to get back to the country. But this is just a fraction. There are reports of thousands in inhuman conditions, especially a lot of Kannada associations have been reporting how life is getting tougher in the Gulf countries. What efforts would be taken to help them?
Until today (12 May), 180 people of Karnataka have been airlifted from the Gulf countries (Dubai). The first flight left from Dubai today itself to Karnataka. In coming days, some more flights have been arranged by government of India. The schedule of timings is being fixed. We will definitely evacuate all the people who have requested for options to come back from all the countries to India. I am in constant touch with the Kannada associations in Gulf and taking appropriate actions about their welfare and requirements.
7. What are the plans for an economic rehabilitation post evacuation as the migration will have a huge impact on local dynamics, remittance economy as well as employment options?
I strongly believe there will not be much impact on economy. Initially, private industries may face shortage of manpower which will impact production. But the government has already issued orders for opening of manufacturing units duly following certain guidelines.
However, our government under the leadership of Narendra Modi has come out with a strategic plan like he announced last night (12 May), to revive the economy and our country will be the favourite destination to the entire world for establishing their companies in future.
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