New Delhi: A Right to Information Act application filed under the life and liberty clause has revealed that Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had on May 17 approved the purchase of three Patanjali medicines – including the controversial Coronil – worth Rs 2,72,50,000 and the very next day, a purchase order was also issued. The government, however, refused to divulge if any tendering process was involved.
The application by Haryana-based lawyer Pradeep Rapadia had sought details on the order since the Indian Medical Association had raised concerns that using unapproved medicines for COVID-19 could lead to a spike in death rates.
On why he felt the need to ask this question, Rapadia, who had earlier served as law officer with the Central Information Commission and the National Investigation Agency, said, “According to IMA statement, Coronil is not a proved medicine for Covid treatment and reliance on it could lead to an increase in the death (fatality) rate. As such, like several other tonics, Coronil can also only be an immunity booster tonic.”
As for the issue of a proper tender being required for such an order, he said, “So the government should have adopted a proper tender process and purchased the tonic from the seller providing it at the most reasonable rate. Whether the tender process was followed or not would only be known through the RTI reply.”
Government did not answer queries on efficacy of Patanjali drugs, tendering process
Rapadia filed an RTI application on May 25 with the director general of Ayush, Haryana under the “life and liberty” clause of the RTI Act that requires the public information officer to provide answers within 48 hours. Rapadia had made a mention of the IMA statement in which it had opposed the decision of the Haryana government to purchase Coronil for dealing with COVID-19, stating that use of the drug for the coronavirus could result in an increase in the death or fatality rate.
However, the government reply to his application did not answer all his queries. While the Haryana government revealed its total expenditure on Coronil, it refrained from sharing the copy of proof of the effectiveness of the drug in dealing with COVID-19 or the text of its agreement with Patanjali for its purchase. The government has also not shared a copy of the tender for the order despite directions from the appellate authority in the matter.
The joint director of Ayush had in his June 10 order clearly instructed the in-charge of the NAS branch to provide the relevant information within a day but the order has not been complied with.
`CM approved purchase of Coronil’
The reply provided a copy of a letter from DG Ayush Haryana to managing director of Haryana Medical Services Corporation Limited, dated May 18, which referred to “purchase of Ayurvedic Medicine “Coronil” kit from M/s Divya Pharmacy at a discount of 50% on MRP” and stated that “this is to inform you that Hon’ble Chief Minister approved the case of purchase of Ayurvedic Medicine “Coronil””. It added that “also as per the approval, payment for the above procurement i.e. Rs2,72,500 is to be done from “Haryana Corona Relief Fund””.
The letter also provided details of the purchases to be made as per the order. It revealed that Haryana Government purchased three different types of medicines from Patanjali for a total consideration of Rs 5.45 crore.
These included one lakh doses of Divya Coronil Kit (80 tablets) which have been purchased at a unit rate of Rs 400 each, totalling Rs 4 crore; one lakh doses of Divya Swasri Vati (80 tablets) at a unit rate of Rs 120 each and worth Rs 1.20 crore overall; and one lakh units of Divya Anu oil (20 ml) at a unit rate of Rs 25 each and worth Rs 2 lakh in all.
Minister endorsed Patanjali days after allopathy controversy
It is also interesting to note that Haryana health minister Anil Vij had on May 24 tweeted about the state government’s decision. He wrote that one lakh Coronil kits would be distributed free of cost to COVID-19 patients and that half the cost of the medicines would be borne by Patanjali and the state government each.
Vij’s announcement had come at a time when Ramdev had drawn flak from a large section of the medical community and the IMA for his statement on allopathy. Ramdev withdrew the statement in which he claimed that allopathy is a “stupid science” and medicines such as Remdesivir, Faviflu, and other drugs approved by the Drugs Controller General of India have failed to treat COVID-19 patients. He had also charged that “lakhs of patients have died after taking allopathic medicines”.
The IMA had in a statement demanded that Ramdev should be prosecuted under the Epidemic Diseases Act as “untutored” statements are “a threat to the literate society of the country as well as to the poor people falling prey to him”.
After the IMA threatened legal action, Union health minister Harshvardhan wrote a letter to Ramdev in which he termed his statement as “extremely unfortunate” and urged him to withdraw it. Thereafter Ramdev had withdrawn the statement.
It is questionable why within days of this controversy involving Ramdev, Vij also retweeted a message by Ramdev thanking the state government for their initiative of purchasing Coronil.
This, Rapadia said, indicated that the process to purchase Coronil had been going on for quite some time and even before the announcement by the health minister, a decision to the effect had been taken.
In the month of February 2021, Ramdev had in the presence of Union health minister Harshvardhan launched Coronil. At that time too, it was asked if the minister had crossed a line by endorsing the drug. The IMA had then accused the minister of impropriety and unethical behaviour by standing alongside Ramdev and endorsing a medicinal product of unproven value.