Day after Prime Minister Modi defended the country’s vaccine strategy, Rahul Gandhi shot a letter to him alleging that vaccination is going on at a snail’s pace & maintained that in 3 months, India has only managed to vaccinate less than 1% of its population.
Demanding that vaccines should be available on a demand-basis, he hit out at Narendra Modi & said, “Our vaccination programme has to move beyond an individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination,” in an oblique reference to Modi’s photo on vaccine certificates.
Questioning if export of vaccines was also an “oversight like many other decisions of this government”, the Rahul Gandhi slammed the Centre for bypassing the states “right from vaccine procurement to registration”.
“Additionally, a large section of the poor have been excluded due to the initial mandatory online registration,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi demanded that the vaccination programme be opened up “to everyone who needs it”. “Our scientific community & vaccine suppliers worked overtime to develop a solution but their efforts are undermined by the Centre’s poor implementation & ‘oversight’,” Rahul Gandhi wrote.
On Thursday, Narendra Modi backed the current vaccination plans & told states that vaccines would be distributed in priority areas. A few days ago, union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan had virtually ruled out the Congress’ demand to give vaccines to those who ask for it and said, it will be given to those who need it.
Narendra Modi, in the meeting with the chief ministers, said that India’s vaccine strategy is similar to other nations & that some states can’t be prioritised over others. He also slammed critics & said, ““Those who have the habit of doing politics, let them do so. I have faced many criticism but we remain committed to serve the people.”
Rahul Gandhi gave seven proposals, including providing vaccine suppliers with necessary resources to increase manufacturing capacity, an immediate moratorium on vaccine export, and a fast track approval of other vaccines as per norms & guidelines.
He also suggested opening up vaccination to everyone who needs it and to double central allocation for vaccine procurement from the existing ₹35,000 crore.
“Give state governments a greater say in vaccine procurement & distribution” & “Provide direct income support to the vulnerable sections in the disastrous second wave,” he said.
Highlighting the slow rate of vaccination in the country, Rahul Gandhi said that it would take years to vaccinate our 75% population if the vaccination rate was this low. “This will have catastrophic effects & will gravely decelerate India’s economy,” he added.
Blaming the government for irrationally exporting vaccines, Mr Gandhi also hit out at Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Harsh Vardhan, of giving ‘intemperate’ statements against valid vaccine demands by state governments as the nation faces a ‘vaccine starvation.’
Hinting out at the recent remark of the finance minister (FM), Nirmala Sitharaman, where she called the decision to slash interest rates on small saving schemes as an ‘oversight’, Rahul Gandhi questioned the PM about the vaccine export decision. He called the decision to export vaccines as “an effort to garner publicity at the cost of our citizens”.
Disapproving the PM’s ‘cooperative federalism’ claim, Mr. Gandhi added that Centre’s individualised propaganda & centralisation have bypassed the states of their rights on vaccine procurement.
While admiring the former Congress governments’ vaccination framework, Gandhi wrote that “Congress party takes an immense pride in making the country a vaccine hub over last 70 years”.