Recalling how the industry used to face "hardships" in securing permissions and "harassment from bureaucrats" 50 years ago, chairman of the city-based vaccine maker Serum Institute of India (SII), Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, on Friday hailed the Modi government saying that red-tapism and licence raj have come down under its rule. He also said that in the past, he had to "fall at the feet" of bureaucrats and drug controllers in order to get permissions, and added that the situation has changed now, which resulted in quick launch of SII's COVID-19 vaccine - Covishield. Poonawalla was speaking at the event where he received the Lokmanyat Tilak National Award instituted by the Lokmanya Tilak Trust here.
"Serum Institute was founded in 1966 the morning after my marriage with Villoo, my dear late wife, to whom I dedicate this award. Fifty years ago, the industry had to face hardships in getting basic facilities like power, water, in getting permissions from bureaucrats. It had to face harassment from bureaucrats…I was not supposed to say this," he said. "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 permissions. But I must stress that difficulties, red tape are much reduced now under the Modi government," he said.
Licence raj has also come down, which has resulted in quick launch of the coronavirus vaccine, Poonawalla said. "Certainly, one of the major reasons why we could launch our vaccine so quickly was forthcoming grant or permission, encouragement to industries as the licence raj has come down considerably. We have got a drug controller, which responds in the evening even after the office hours. There is no need for 'maska polish' now," he said. Taking about the award, he said that he values it a lot although he had been honoured in America, UK and various other countries in the past. Speaking on the occasion, Deepak Tilak, president of the Lokmanya Tilak Trust, said, "In unstable and challenging conditions, SII took immense efforts to develop an indigenous vaccine, which mitigated panic associated with COVID-19. This is the result of the effort and solid support of Dr Cyrus Poonawalla to his team." Former Union minister and senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde also lauded Poonawalla for his work and said that with the SII vaccine was saving lakhs of lives.