Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose vaccination policy was vehemently criticized by a Supreme Court bench on June 1, came out with a detailed vaccine policy of his government today. However, in his usual style, he blamed the opposition parties for his government’s ad hoc vaccination policy and the failure of his government to tackle the Covid-19 crisis that has claimed over 3.49 lakh lives so far.
Syed Khalique Ahmed
NEW DELHI—Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been facing flak from Opposition leaders for ‘vaccination mess’ and mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis resulting into death of over 3.49 lakh people due to coronavirus infection, Monday put the entire blame on Opposition-ruled states and accused the opposition parties of playing politics over Covid-19 crisis, apparently to improve his image.
In his address to the nation, Modi said that vaccination programme was initially under the control of the Centre and it went well from January 16, 2021 to April 2021 end. However, on the demand of the states, the Centre allowed the states to procure vaccines on their own from manufacturers. But, the states failed to procure vaccines and began putting pressure on the Centre to buy vaccines and give it to states.
Stating that there should not be any politics on Covid-19 pandemic because the world has not seen such a situation in the past, he announced that the Centre would provide vaccine free of cost to all the states from June 21 for free vaccination to all above 18 years of age through government hospitals and facilities. He elaborated that while 75 per cent of the vaccines from manufacturers would be purchased directly by the Centre and 25 per cent vaccines would be purchased by private hospitals. He capped the prices at private hospitals at Rs. 150 per dose.
However, the PM did not say how much vaccines was being produced by the manufactures and by when the government would be able to cover vaccination of entire population in the country.
While Modi, in his speech, did not accept the failure of his government with regard to vaccination drive and put the entire onus on the opposition-ruled states, it must be recalled here that the Supreme Court on June 1 had strongly criticized the Union government’s vaccine policy and said that it lacked “vision”.
While conducting hearing on a suo motu case, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud on June 1 had stated that the Centre was not paying attention to what was happening on the ground and what people were saying. It also questioned dual pricing of vaccines: low price for vaccine procurement by the Centre and high price for the states. The apex court also questioned how the government would be able to cover entire population when the registration on the CoWIN digital platform was mandatory for vaccination because people in rural areas, particular poor people and migrant workers, were not having the facility of smartphones and internet facilities. The court also said that 70 per cent of vaccinations was taking place in urban centres and vaccines are not reaching rural areas.
The bench had said that it was the responsibility of the Central government to procure vaccines for the entire country in a national crisis and not leave the states to fend for themselves.
Stating that the Centre does not have any concrete policy for vaccination, neither for the present nor for the future, but was taking only ad hoc decisions, the apex court asked the government to amend its policy and submit it before the supreme court within two weeks.
The SC also warned the Centre that “our(court’s) arms are strong enough to come down” if there was continued resistance to consider changes”. The SC remarked that recognizing where we have gone, is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. The remark appeared to be an indirect commentary on the top leaders of the present political dispensation who have been putting the entire blame for each and every failure of theirs on the Opposition, particularly, “70 years rule of the Congress”.
So, PM’s address focusing on “vaccine policy” of his government, appears to be in response to the apex court’s directions to come out with a clear-cut and concrete policy on vaccinations. Though PM’s address was silent on SC’s directions to the government, we must all appreciate the suo motu action of the SC in forcing the government to come out with a proper vaccination policy. Kudo’s to India’s Supreme Court and its judges.