Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, took charge at a time when India was at a critical stage during the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, India achieved the milestone of two billion cummulative vaccinations, the face of this achievement is Dr. Mandaviya himself who played a crucial role in ramping up the vaccination drive along with other stakeholders in the states. On Thursday, Dr. Mandaviya was chief guest of Express Adda.
During his interaction with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express on Express Adda, Dr. Mandaviya said: “Vaccination is not just about administering the doses to the people. A vaccination drive is composed of manufacturing vaccines and vaccine administration. This is a great story of Atmanirbhar Bharat. The research on vaccines, the administration of vaccines and using indigenous products to accomplish the goal of 200 crore vaccine administration is remarkable. Lot of people were calling and messaging to congratulate me on this achievement and I was feeling so overwhelmed that I couldn’t even respond.”
The Union Minister emphasised that although the opposition kept questioning them, they were determined to do whatever they can to give vaccine doses to all the citizens as fast as possible.
“When the COVID-19 crisis began, a lot of politics began and such occurrence is natural. But Modiji had told me that this is service and we should fight against this COVID-19 crisis. In this situation, we shouldn’t fight with the opposition. In order to motivate scientists and vaccine-makers, Modiji visited them. When I was MoS in the Ministry of Chemical and Fertilizers, I personally visited all the pharma plants to check their status, ask them about their strengths, weaknesses, and their requirements, and how we can help them. We helped the companies in increasing their production in whichever way possible,” he said.
Dr. Mandaviya also highlighted that they have “administered the vaccine to around 98 percent of 18 above citizen have got the first dose, 91 percent people have got both doses of the vaccine and now the process of giving precautionary doses is underway.”
“We have not only protected our own country, we exported the vaccines abroad too. We have a philosophy of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and we consider the whole world as our family. During the first lockdown, 4-5 planes from other countries used to come to India to get medicines as they were facing shortages. Along with completing our requirements, we have also helped 150 countries. During the third wave, we didn’t see the devastating impact like many other countries did as we had administered vaccines to around 75 percent citizens. We have done best management along with best administration and we are being praised for this by the world,” Mandaviya said.
When asked about why Moderna and Pfizer were not available in India, the Minister said that they allowed everyone to come and get their products registered as per laws. But, he said, when it came to discussions on indemnity and sovereign guarantee, it was clear that the rules applicable would be the same for all vaccine manufacturers.
“When the COVID-19 crisis was underway and vaccine manufacturing began in India. As per our rules and regulations, we didn’t say no to anyone. We told them come to India and register and you can sell your vaccines in India. Initially, many companies didn’t register, some were hesitant about the indemnity disclosure and other issues. But we said if you want to sell your vaccines in our country you have to follow our rules and regulations. Till then, our own companies started producing on a level that they went ahead,” Dr. Mandaviya said.
Dr. Mandaviya who also holds the portfolio of Chemical and Fertilizer Ministry talked about the ongoing fertilizer crisis that happening in India right now.
“Yes there is a fertilizer crisis in India right now. Fertilizer is extremely important for the food security of a country. In India, over 350 lakh metric tonne of urea is required. Out of this, we manufacture around 250 lakh metric tonnes and the rest 70-80 lakh metric tonnes is imported. Similarly, we have a requirement of 200 lakh metric tonnes of phosphatic fertilizer. 100 lakh metric tonne is manufactured in India and the rest 100 lakh is imported. India has no potash so we import that. In the present circumstances, due to the covid crisis, the increase in prices of fat, and the Ukraine-Russia crisis also affected us as we used to import from Russia. We used to import phosphatic fertilizer from Morocco and to make phosphatic fertilizer they used to import ammonia from Russia, due to the crisis the production went down and this affected us too. We import urea fertilizer from gulf countries, China, and other countries,” he said.
Additionally, the Union Minister also stressed that the prices of fertilizers have skyrocketed.
“Modiji told me that we have to make sure that this doesn’t affect the farmers. We are monitoring the fertilizer situation every day and making sure that the farmers don’t face any shortages. Also, the burden of fertilizer subsidies is also increasing. This year, there are possibilities of Rs. 2.5 lakh crore fertilizer subsidy burden. We are doing everything to make sure the farmer suffer because of this crisis,” he said.
The Health Minister also talked about the threat and impact of non-communicable diseases, how the Government’s digital health mission will create easily accessible records while guaranteeing privacy, and how the administration will support research and development in the pharmaceutical industry.
“Screening is very important. Modi ji decided to start 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres across the country. Of them, over 1.2 lakh have already been made. We will ensure that tests for these diseases can happen there itself,” he said during Express Adda.
He also spoke about the status of Medical Education in India and informed that while MBBS seats have increased from 48,000 to 97,000, the Government is looking to start colleges with “good private hospitals” having over 300 beds.
Other than benefits of digital technology for doctors and other healthcare workers, he also pointed out that mental health issues especially after the pandemic is a big challenge. He mentioned that mental health services can be connected on e-Sanjeevani which is the Central Government’s telemedicine service to be accessed by people from their homes without facing any stigma.
He also pointed out that although India has built a space for itself in the generic pill segment, there is a need to promote research and development to create proprietary products.
“One muscular dystrophy medicine now costs Rs 16 crore, we will not get that much even if we ship two containers of generics,” the Minister said.
Dr. Mandaviya also announced that the government is planning to conduct a meeting with all state health ministers called “Chintan Shivir” for a healthcare framework across 25 years and to mark the 100th year of Independence.
Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya was in conversation with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express, and Kaunain Sheriff M, Special Correspondent, The Indian Express.
The Express Adda is a series of informal interactions organised by The Indian Express Group and features those at the centre of change.