The political fault lines over the Covid second surge sharpened today with leaders of 12 major Opposition parties, including four Chief Ministers, writing a joint letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking the Centre to procure vaccines centrally from global and domestic sources and begin a free, universal mass vaccination campaign across the country.
The Opposition’s united front came a day after BJP president J P Nadda wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi accusing her party of misleading people and creating false panic. The Opposition pushed back accusing the government of having ignored their earlier suggestions, and arguing that “this only compounded the situation to reach such an apocalyptic human tragedy”.
This also comes when the BJP is pulling out all the stops to counter criticism of the Prime Minister and the Centre’s handling of the crisis, attributing it to vested interests with an “agenda”.
Many states have suspended the vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group due to a shortage of doses. Incidentally, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been demanding steps to augment vaccine production, was not a signatory to the letter. Also missing was BSP chief Mayawati.
The signatories include Congress president Sonia Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda.
The other leaders who signed the letter are NCP chief Sharad Pawar, JKPA’s Farooq Abdullah, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was not a signatory as the Left was represented by CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and his CPI counterpart D Raja.
विपक्ष के 12 नेताओं ने मा. प्रधानमंत्री श्री नरेन्द्र मोदी जी को चिट्ठी लिखकर बड़े पैमाने पर टीकाकरण की वकालत की है, जिस देशव्यापी अभियान को लेकर प्रधानमंत्री जी पहले से ही काफी गंभीर और कृत्संकल्पित हैं। लेकिन हैरानी होती है कि ये अहम बात समझने में इन्हें इतनी देर क्यों लगी?
— Syed Shahnawaz Hussain (@ShahnawazBJP) May 12, 2021
The Opposition-ruled states had been questioning the differential pricing of vaccines announced by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech as also the Centre’s decision to let states procure vaccines for inoculating those in the 18-44 age group from the open market.
Arguing that the pandemic has assumed unprecedented dimensions of a human catastrophe, the Opposition leaders said: “We have repeatedly in the past drawn your attention, independently and jointly, to the various measures that are absolutely imperative for the Central government to undertake and implement. Unfortunately, your government has either ignored or refused all these suggestions.”
Keeping the heat on
The second letter from the Opposition in 10 days keeps the heat on the Centre amid the Covid crisis. It’s also a pushback to the BJP’s efforts to paint all criticism of the PM and the Centre as being motivated by an “agenda”.
“This only compounded the situation to reach such an apocalyptic human tragedy,” they said.
“Without going into all the acts of commission and omission by the Central government that have brought the country to such a tragic pass,” they said, the Centre must now “procure vaccines centrally from all available sources — global and domestic” and “immediately begin a free, universal mass vaccination campaign across the country.”
The leaders asked the Prime Minister to invoke compulsory licensing to expand domestic vaccine production and spend budgetary allocation of Rs 35,000 crore for the vaccination drive.
Many Opposition CMs had been demanding compulsory licensing to augment vaccine production.
The leaders also urged the Centre to stop construction of the Central Vista project and, instead, use the allocated money for procuring oxygen and vaccines.
Their other suggestions were: Release all money held in the unaccounted private trust fund, PMCares to buy more vaccines, oxygen and medical equipment required; and give all jobless at least Rs 6000 per month (and) free distribution of foodgrains to the needy.
The leaders demanded repeal of the farm laws to “protect lakhs of our annadatas becoming victims of the pandemic so that they can continue to produce food to feed the Indian people”.
“Though it has not been the practice of your office or government, we would appreciate a response to our suggestions in the interests of India and our people,” the leaders wrote.
This is the second letter by these leaders to the Prime Minister this month.
On May 2, hours after the Assembly election results, they wrote asking the Central government to launch a free mass vaccination drive across the country and ensure oxygen supplies to all hospitals and health centres.
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