‘Wasn't supposed to say’: Serum chief praises PM Modi, says no ‘maska polish’
As Serum Institute of India's chairman Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, father of CEO Adar Poonawall, received the Lokmanya Tilak National Award, he heaped praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that life was not easy for vaccine makers as he had to "fall at the feet" of bureaucrats and drug controllers to get permission for vaccine launch.
Using the word 'maska polish', which refers to appeasing officers in charge, Poonawalla on Friday said the reason why Serum's Covishield was launched so quickly was that there was no need for 'maska polish'. The drug controller responds even after office hours, in the evening, the senior Poonawalla said.
Pune's Serum Institute of India is the world's largest vaccine maker by the volume of doses it produces every year. It is one of the main contributors to vaccines against Covid-19 not only in India but also in the world.
Cyrus Poonawalla was the 6th richest man on the Forbes list of India's Richest 2020. He was also listed on Forbes' Billionaires 2021 list. The senior Poonwalla, son of a horse breeder, founded the Serum Institute of India in 1966. Taking a journey down memory lane, he said the industry was a different place at that time and he faced a lot of hardships in getting basic facilities like power, water, permission from bureaucrats.
"I was not supposed to say this," he said and added, "Transport and communication were also great problems and challenges that were faced by my staff and fellow directors...It was a long journey and a very painful one, which has now become very rewarding. I had to fall at the feet of bureaucrats and drug controllers, etc, to get permission. But I must stress that difficulties, red tape are much reduced now under the Modi government."
Cyrus Poonawalla dedicated the award to his late wife Villoo and said that he has received numerous awards in the United States, the United Kingdom, but the Lokmanya Tilak award is very special to him.
While the pandemic and Covishield made Serum a household name, the company for years has been producing vaccines for Polio, Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hib, BCG, r-Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps and Rubella etc. Adar Poonawalla, the present CEO of the company, has major plans to extend the company and has invested millions to build new units.
The company has received all kinds of support from the government for Covishield vaccine and the other Covid vaccines that the company is now working on. The Union home ministry also provided Y category security cover to Adar Poonawalla, after he claimed he received threats for vaccines.