India’s newly crowned Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has immediately thrown himself into the thick of things without wasting a heartbeat. The minister recently announced a whopping Rs 23,000 crore health package to tackle the Covid as well as upcoming health crises. To add to it, Mandaviya, who previously held the Fertilisers and Chemical Ministry portfolio has started to broaden the horizon of APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) to make India a global leader in medicine production.
According to an ET report, under Mansukh’s tenure, the government decided to draw foreign companies to ramp up the production of APIs. The proposal was an instant hit and drew interest from eight companies that seemed intent on setting camp in India.
Mandaviya had said, “Eight foreign companies have evinced interest in investing in the last one month. We are making rules and regulations for the scheme, it will be formulated in 15 days.”
While initially, eight companies showed interest, a recent report by Press Information Bureau states that 47 applications with committed investment of Rs. 5,400 crore has already been approved. Now, the government has opened the window for the drug manufacturers from June 2 to July 31 to apply under the extended ambit of the PIL scheme.
As reported by TFI, India is one of the largest drug manufacturers in the world. However, despite its gigantic capability to churn out medicines on a large scale, the industry is dependent on Chinese companies for the raw material required to produce these drugs. In the fiscal year 2018-19, the government had informed the Lok Sabha that the country’s drug-makers had imported bulk drugs and intermediates worth $ 2.4 billion from China.
While the axing of Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan surprised many as he managed to steer the country through two devastating waves and ensured a smooth rollout of the ambitious national mass vaccination programme – the domain experts have argued that it was Mansukh Mandaviya’s expertise and success in the Chemical Fertiliser Ministry that earned him the promotion.
India under PM Modi is looking to take on China and the biggest roadblock is scaling up domestic manufacturing of APIs. Mansukh has the experience and he can nab the pulse of the pharmaceutical industry in a much cogent way as the health minister, to not only develop medicines for COVID-related illness but any future diseases.
As reported by TFI, last year, the cabinet had approved a Rs 6,940 crore production-linked scheme to promote domestic manufacturing of critical drug intermediates and APIs, as well as a Rs 3,000 crore scheme to promote bulk drug parks.
While China will be kept in check, western countries like the USA that dropped the towel when India needed its help in the manufacturing of vaccines will also be kept at bay. With the pandemic effect still hitting the API industry of China, India has had to turn to the US for the development of medicines. And as observed on numerous occasions, the Joe Biden administration cannot be trusted, especially concerning the interests of the pharma industry.
The pharmaceuticals sector is among the fastest-growing sectors in the country, witnessing double-digit growth in the last few years. India is the third-largest manufacturer of drugs by volume and 14th largest by value. And, it also accounts for 3.5 per cent of the total drugs exported globally.
The domestic capability for manufacturing is already there, all the country needs are technological efficiency and domestic production of API to become ‘Atmanirbhar‘ and a major exporting hub.
And not only API, but Mandaviya is also aiming to reduce dependence on imported medical equipment from abroad. As India imported nearly $10 million worth of clinical and digital thermometers in the financial year 2018-19, nearly 75% from China, last year, Mandaviya questioned, “Look at medical devices, even thermometers are imported. Can we not make them in India?”
As a result, Mandaviya’s thrust for developing clinical goods in the country has received a major boost. According to the latest reports, till April this year, 14 applications had been approved with a committed investment of Rs. 873.93 crore for the manufacturing of medical devices.
Mansukh Mandaviya has been dubbed by many as the future CM of Gujarat and while ‘wokes’ of the country laugh at the expense of Mansukh’s English — the minister, unperturbed by the elitism of few is briskly going about his business.