Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu on Sunday trained his gun on Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, dubbing his claims of the Punjab government “profiteering by selling Covid vaccines to private hospitals” as absolutely baseless.
Bittu said that “the whole amount for the vaccines was paid by a few private hospitals and has been deposited in the State Vaccination Fund for the purchase of the jabs to inoculate the people for free.”
“It is a matter of shame that only 4.29 lakh doses of Covishield have been received so far by the Punjab government despite the fact that the state had placed an order for 30 lakh doses with Serum Institute of India as soon as the Government of India announced its new vaccine policy. Apart from paying Rs.18.27 crore for 5.43 lakh vaccine doses, the Punjab Government has also paid Rs 22.88 crore as advance for procurement of 6.88 lakh vaccine doses, which are yet to be received,” he alleged.
“According to information put out by the Government of India on May 26, many BJP-ruled states were shown to have huge stocks of vaccine doses with them. On top of the list was UP, which had a stockpile of 25 lakh vaccine doses, followed by Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The Centre never gave Punjab its due allocation of vaccines,” said Bittu.
Bittu added that the state government was already committed to free vaccination for all the citizens of Punjab.
“The real issue for which the Central government is squarely responsible is the woefully inadequate supply of vaccines, due to which the state is not getting its supply even after placing an order with the SII, Pune. Why did the BJP fail to ensure the supply of adequate vaccines to the country? All vaccine supplies, whether from domestic or foreign suppliers, are being controlled by the Union government. It’s a matter of great shame that the Union government failed to negotiate supplies of vaccines with both domestic and foreign manufacturers in 2020. The manufacturing capacity of SII should also should have been expanded in a big way;” said Bittu.
As per the Union health ministry’s data, as of June 1, 2021, vaccine coverage of Punjab is 14.13 per cent, which was lower than that of the neighbouring states and UT as the state had been getting very less vaccine supplies, Bittu claimed.
“We had demanded that vaccines be provided free to every citizen of the country. Can Hardeep Singh Puri explain why the BJP came out with the policy for paid vaccination by the states and by private hospitals with no cap on the margins? Earlier the Centre had capped the charges by private hospitals at a maximum of Rs.250/-. But now they have left it to the private hospitals to charge whatever they want. This loot by private hospitals, if any, is the result of faulty policies of the Central Government,” said Bittu.
While questioning the Union Minister, Bittu also said, “If Hardeep Puri is speaking of Punjab and its issues as a BJP karyakarta, then I should ask, where was he when Punjab was faced with an acute shortage of oxygen and there was a risk of patients dying in Amritsar due to shortage of oxygen. It’s unfortunate that he allowed the Ordinance on Central Farm Laws to be passed in June 2020. He’s complicit in the deaths of hundreds of farmers in Punjab and those on Delhi borders since September 2020.”