The Congress alleged a conspiracy on Wednesday behind the grant of licence to manufacture Elisa testing kits to only one Ahmedabad-based company as it questioned the government's decision in creating a monopoly in this field.
Congress spokesperson Sushmita Dev alleged that the government has granted a technology transfer licence to manufacture Elisa testing kits for COVID-19 to one company -- Zydus Cadila -- which raises issues of transparency.
When contacted, the company refused to comment on the issue .
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said it is a non-exclusive licence, anyone interested could come forward and Zydus came first.
"Why the technology transfer licence was given only to one company and whether other companies were allowed to bid for the licence? We feel there is a conspiracy behind this, as various companies in the field are also alleging this," Dev told a press briefing through video-conferencing.
She asked why other companies were not made to bid in the tender process and with which other firms were the manufacturing capabilities of Zydus compared to, before granting the licence to it.
The Congress leader alleged that there was no transparency in the deal and that the government has created a monopoly and given an added advantage to the company.
"What is the reason that you are giving the tender and technology transfer license to only one Ahmedabad-based company called Zydus Cadila? What is the justification that you did not have an open tender? What is the justification that you did not allow other companies to bid for it?" she asked.
Dev said the reason cited by the health ministry was a faster pace and that the company had the wherewithal needed for production.
"Who are you comparing the capacity of Zydus Cadila, the Ahmedabad-based company, with? Who are you comparing it with, who are you actually competing with? There is absolutely no transparency, you have created a monopoly.
"The government is giving an added advantage to one company and now is the time to actually, actually give this opportunity to hundreds of companies," the Congress leader alleged.
Asked why Zydus Cadila was chosen, ICMR's head of Research Management, Policy Planning and Coordination Rajani Kant said, "Zydus Cadila has got an expertise in the development of test kits and earlier also, they have worked with the National Institute of Virology (NIV) for developing test kits for the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, hepatitis E etc. Hence, the agreement transfer was easy.
"However, this is a non-exclusive licence. Anyone interested can come forward. They came first."
Dev also alleged that the government is adopting a "pick-and-choose policy" in the grant of licences for the manufacture of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the country and cited a Mumbai-based company, which was asked to be put on hold for five weeks, while many others were granted licences.
"Why this discrimination? Why has the government not been able to streamline it?.... Is this a transparent process or are you picking and choosing people?" she asked.