Serum Institute of India chief Adar Poonawalla has reportedly fled India amidst alleged pressure from corporates and powerful politicians for the urgent supply of Covishield vaccines that his company is producing in India. Poonawalla sensationally told a London-based newspaper that he would be killed if he commented on the role of the Kumbh Mela or elections in worsening the current pandemic, which has killed tens of thousands of people so far.
He told London’s The Times, “If I give you the right answer, or any answer, my head would be chopped off … I can’t comment on the elections or Kumbh Mela. It’s too sensitive.” More than 10 million Hindus had gathered to take part in the Kumbh Mela in defiance of loud calls to avoid the congregation. The Hindu festival alone appears to have contributed immensely in making the pandemic devastating across India.
Poonawalla reportedly left India for London just before the United Kingdon imposed a travel ban on non-British citizens or residents. He’s reportedly hired a 25,000 sq ft apartment in the expensive Mayfair district of London for $69,000 a week.
Speaking about the pressure being exerted by corporate houses and powerful politicians, Poonawalla said, “They are saying if you don’t give us the vaccine it’s not going to be good….It’s not foul language. It’s the tone. It’s the implication of what they might do if I don’t comply. It’s taking control. It’s coming over and basically surrounding the place and not letting us do anything unless we give in to their demands.”
The Congress Party on Saturday demanded that Poonawalla reveal the names of those individuals and the nature of threats received by him. Maharashtra Congress leader Dr. Jitendra Ahwad tweeted, “The country and every citizen would like to know the truth behind the interview given by #AdarPoonawalla to #times in London. He says that if he speaks the truth he will be killed. Let the country know the truth.”
The country and every citizen would like to know the truth behind the interview given by #AdarPoonawalla to #times in London
He says that if he speaks the truth he will be killed
Let the country know the truth
— Dr.Jitendra Awhad (@Awhadspeaks) May 1, 2021
Poonawalla was accorded ‘Y’ category security by the Narendra Modi government. The SII chief had faced flak for charging state governments considerably higher rates for a single dose of the vaccine than what his company had charged the Modi government earlier. Faced with criticism, Poonawalla had announced that he was reducing the price for a single dose of Covishield from Rs. 400 to Rs. 300.
Poonawalla said that he had no intention to return to India in the near future adding that he would start producing the vaccines outside India. On whether those countries would also include the UK, Poonawalla said that an announcement would be made in the next few days.