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‘Criminal Negligence’: Kapil Sibal on Govt’s COVID Mismanagement

“There were no beds, oxygen, ventilators, or vaccines, but PM’s main target was to win Bengal polls,” said Sibal.

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Video Producer: Mayank Chawla
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman, Prashant Chauhan

The second wave of COVID-19 has caught India off guard, exposing its crippled healthcare infrastructure. The county is currently reporting 50 percent of new infections worldwide and had breached the 3,00,000 mark of deaths on 24 May.

While experts have pointed towards the need for increased production and procurement of vaccines, states are left to fend for themselves to procure these vaccines directly from the manufacturers and global markets. States, including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, have even floated global tenders.

Terming the act of the central government as ‘criminal negligence’, Former Union Minister and Congress leader Kapil Sibal says that pharma companies like Moderna and Pfizer expect the commitment of the central government for the payment against their supply.

“They expect a projection of the Centre. Moreover, states have no money, how are they going to negotiate?” he questioned.

“One can imagine the long way we have to go when only 3 percent of the 900 million people have received two doses of vaccine. The loquacious are silent.”
Kapil Sibal, Former Union Minister and Congress leader 

On 1 May 2021, the government opened vaccinations for those in the age groups 18-44 years. From a high of 43 lakh doses being administered on 5 April, less than 7 lakh doses were administered on 9 May.

Making a U-turn on its vaccine policy on 13 April, the government finally woke to the reality of vaccine shortage in the country and said that jabs like Pfizer and Moderna that had been cleared by the US, the EU, the UK, and Japan were now welcome in India.

While Moderna has conveyed that it does not have a surplus vaccine to share in 2021, some Pfizer doses could come in July as against the American pharma giant’s request for indemnity.

Sibal questions the Centre’s basis of announcing to open the vaccination programme for those in age group 18-44 years when there were no vaccines to be administered.

“The state is simply absent, people cannot rely on it. The government doesn’t have a scientific temper. There were no beds, oxygen, ventilators, and vaccines, but their main target was to win the West Bengal election. They were underprepared and encouraging people at the Kumbh.”
Kapil Sibal, Former Union Minister and Congress leader 
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While the government claims to have a liberalised vaccine policy, Sibal argues that vaccination should be undertaken by the Center just like the polio immunisation programme.

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