Did States Request to Procure Jabs Like PM Modi Said? What We Know
While many states said they didn’t request for decentralised procurement, West Bengal CM had indeed asked for it.
In his address to the nation on Monday, 7 June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held the states of India liable for demanding a decentralised COVID-19 vaccination policy, saying that the central government heeded to the demands of states as “health is a state subject.”
On a previous occasion, NITI Aayog’s member of health Dr VK Paul had also alleged that the Centre had “empowered” states to procure jabs on their own after their “explicit requests.”
However, many states have asserted or repeatedly maintained that they did not request the Modi-led government for a policy that asked them to procure vaccines on their own.
While many, including Congress leaders, said that decentralisation was demanded by the states with respect to the distribution and not the procurement of vaccines, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had explicitly demanded the decentralisation of procurement as well.
States’ Denial of Centre’s Claim
Government officials and health ministry office-holders from states such as Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Telangana had stated otherwise.
Speaking to Economic Times, TS Singh Deo, Chhattisgarh’s health minister had said, “We were saying from day 1 that there should be only one agency, the GoI, to purchase the vaccines. I don’t know any other state that wanted to buy on its own.”
Deo added further that even if a state had demanded decentralisation, the Centre should not have blindly permitted such demands.
Vikas Garg, Punjab’s nodal officer for vaccination, also iterated that the state had never approached the Centre with such a request.
“It was a central directive, that they will allocate the quota and then we will have to deposit the money with the two (domestic) manufacturers and then they will give us the vaccine,”Economic Times quoted Garg as saying.
Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan too, publicly voiced the need for a centralised vaccination policy.
Chiming in, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren had also penned a letter to PM Modi, and urged him to provide “free vaccines for beneficiaries of all age groups.”
He referred to the state-centric policy as standing “against the principle of cooperative federalism.”
Bihar’s additional chief secretary (health), Pratyaya Amrit, had also denied that the administration requested direct vaccine procurement.
“As far as Bihar is concerned, we had never made such a request. That’s perhaps why we never thought of going for a global tender either.”Pratyaya Amrit to Economic Times
The state immunisation officer of Madhya Pradesh Dr Santosh Shukla also spoke to the news publication and said that while the state had been the first in the country to order vaccines from domestic manufacturers as soon as the new policy was announced, and the first to get them, there had been no request made to the Union government before that.
In Telangana, a senior officer had also reportedly confirmed that no formal proposal, which requested a liberalised vaccination policy, was sent to the Union government.
Mamata Banerjee Had Demanded Decentralisation of Procurement
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had written to PM Modi at two instances on 24 February and 18 April, demanding to allow the state to procure vaccines themselves.
“You may recall that I had written to you on 24 February to allow the state to purchase vaccination doses directly with state funds and launch a massive free vaccination campaign in the state covering the entire population,” she wrote in a letter on 18 April.
After several flagged this on social media, Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday took to Twitter to correct himself over the claim that “no state had asked for direct procurement of vaccine doses.”
“I told ANI ‘please tell us which state government demanded that it should be allowed to directly procure vaccines’. Social media activists have posted the copy of the letter of CM, West Bengal, to PM, making such a request. I was wrong. I stand corrected.” he said.
‘Purchase of Vaccine Should Be Centralised, Distribution Decentralised’: Rahul Gandhi
Senior opposition leader Rahul Gandhi had also, earlier in May, in a tweet, demanded that the purchase of vaccine should be centralised and distribution decentralised and asked: “Why can’t the central government understand this straightforward thing?”
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Gandhi, however, had asked for states to have a “greater say in the vaccine procurement and distribution.”
(With inputs from Economic Times)
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