Rahul Gandhi Slams PM Modi Over COVID Vaccines, BJP Hits Back

“Is it right to export vaccines while putting the people of your country at risk?” Rahul Gandhi tweeted. 

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday, 9 March, slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tweeting that the shortage of vaccines amid the growing COVID-19 crisis was a "very serious problem" and not a "festival".

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, hit back at Rahul Gandhi, asking why he himself has not taken the COVID vaccine yet.

Gandhi was taking a dig at Modi's remark at the meeting with chief ministers on Thursday that a tika utsav (vaccine festival) should be observed between 11 and 14 April for COVID-19 inoculation of eligible people. This should focus on zero wastage and optimal usage of resources. In his virtual conference with CMs, the PM also highlighted the need to focus on micro-containment zones.

"Is it right to export vaccines while putting the people of your country at risk? The Central government should help all states without any bias. We have to defeat this pandemic together," the Congress leader tweeted in Hindi.

“Is it right to export vaccines while putting the people of your country at risk?” Rahul Gandhi tweeted. 

Rahul’s Letter to PM Modi

Rahul Gandhi wrote a letter to PM Modi, detailing the Opposition party’s concerns as India grapples with the COVID pandemic.

Gandhi noted it as “unfortunate, considering our scientific community and vaccine suppliers worked overtime to develop a solution but their efforts are undermined by the Centre’s poor implementation and 'oversight’”.

Congress takes “immense pride in building the framework over the last 70 years to make India world’s vaccine hub and, hence, we firmly support a well-planned, universalised and speedy vaccination drive”, he wrote.

Taking a jibe at PM Modi, Gandhi said that the current vaccination programme should move beyond “an individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination”.

The Election Commission had directed the Centre to remove PM Modi’s photograph from COVID vaccine certificates ahead of the state Assembly elections, in line with the model code of conduct.


What Are Rahul Gandhi’s Concerns Over the Vaccines?

Some of the Congress Party’s concerns over the vaccines have been listed in the letter are as follows:

  • “India had the first-mover advantage in vaccination and yet we are moving at snail’s pace. Historically, India has achieved abundant experience in designing and executing some of the world’s biggest vaccination programs. Yet, in the present case, we have managed to fully vaccinate less than 1 percent of the population in 3 months,” wrote Gandhi, noting that countries with sizeable populations have managed to vaccinate relatively more people.
  • Gandhi alleged that it would take years to inoculate 75 percent of the population at the current rate, leading to grave deceleration of India’s economy.
  • “While our nation is facing vaccine starvation, more than 6 crore doses of vaccines have been exported. The state governments are repeatedly highlighting vaccine shortages only to receive intemperate statements by the Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare targeting Opposition-ruled states, undercutting cooperative federalism which you too have stressed as essential,” said Gandhi, questioning why large-scale exports of the vaccine are being carried out.
  • Gandhi slammed the Centre, noting that centralisation and individualised propaganda is counter-productive. He added that a large section of the poor have been excluded due to the initial mandatory online registration.

What Did Rahul Gandhi Recommend?

Furthermore, Gandhi has mentioned seven recommendations in his letter:

  1. Provide vaccine suppliers with necessary resources to increase manufacturing capacity.
  2. Place an immediate moratorium on vaccine export.
  3. Fast track approval of other vaccines as per norms and guidelines.
  4. Open up vaccination to everyone who needs it.
  5. Double central allocation for vaccine procurement from the existing Rs 35,000 crore.
  6. Give state governments a greater say in vaccine procurement and distribution.
  7. Provide direct income support to the vulnerable sections in the disastrous second wave.

BJP Hits Back

Union Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad hit back at Rahul Gandhi, asking why he himself had not taken the COVID vaccine yet in a series of tweets. He said, "India is not facing vaccine starvation but Shri Gandhi is facing attention starvation. Why has Rahul Gandhi not yet taken vaccine?”

Accusing Gandhi of failing at politics, Prasad asks whether the Congress leader has moved into lobbying full time. He also called Gandhi “arrogant”, asking him to tell his party to stop their extortion ventures and concentrate on administering lakhs of vaccines.

“Is it right to export vaccines while putting the people of your country at risk?” Rahul Gandhi tweeted. 
Union Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad hit back at Rahul Gandhi, asking why he himself has not taken the COVID vaccine yet.
Photo Courtesy: Screenshot/Twitter

Vaccine Shortage Issue Flagged

Gandhi's remarks came after several states, including Maharashtra, flagged the issue of vaccine shortage amid a surge in daily COVID-19 cases across the country in what is being called the second wave of the pandemic.

Maharashtra, raising the issue of vaccine shortage, had drawn sharp rebuke from Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday.

Vardhan, while chairing a meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 on Friday, said that India had exported 6.45 crore doses to 84 countries so far. “This included 1.05 crore doses to 44 countries as grants, 3.58 crore to 25 countries as commercial contracts and 1.82 crore to 39 countries via the COVAX initiative of WHO,” he said.


Second Wave

Meanwhile, over 9.43 crore vaccine doses have been administered in India since the inoculation drive began on 16 January. Currently, anyone above the age of 45 is eligible to get the shot.

The country has been witnessing a rapid rise in the number of daily cases over the last few weeks. On Friday, 1,31,968 new cases were reported, taking the tally in the country to 1,30,60,542. The death toll increased by 780 to 1,67,642.

This was the biggest one-day rise in cases in the country ever since the pandemic began.

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