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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Covid vaccine becomes latest issue in a series of face-offs between Centre and Delhi

While the supply of Covid vaccines has become the latest flashpoint in a tussle between Delhi and the Centre, the tug-of-war between the two is hardly new.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 22, 2021 10:51:39 pm
Lt-Gen Anil Baijal with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in 2018. (Express photo by Abhinav Saha/File)

In a series of face-offs between the Centre and Delhi, the supply of Covid vaccines has become the latest flashpoint. In a press release on Tuesday, the Union Ministry of Health clarified that the Centre had ensured that all states get full supplies of Covid-19 vaccines before June 21.

“The allocated 5.6 lakh doses of direct state procurement have been supplied to Delhi before June 21 by the vaccine manufacturers. Further, an additional 8.8 lakh doses have been provided to Delhi under the Government of India procurement free of cost and more are in the pipeline, which will be supplied by end of June 2021,” the press release reads.

On Monday, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had questioned why the national capital had only received 57 lakh doses in total, when Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said that Delhi needed 2.94 crore vaccines to inoculate its citizens in three months.

“Whether the central government-led vaccination drive is the world’s largest drive or not, it is definitely India’s longest vaccination drive. And the most mismanaged, derailed and messed-up drive,” Sisodia said in a press conference. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Atishi intensified the debate on Tuesday, stating that Delhi had not received a single dose of vaccine even on June 21, calling the Centre’s policy a “failure.”

However, this tug-of-war between the central and state government is hardly new. The year 2021 has seen a series of battles between the two.

Doorstep delivery of ration

The Delhi government has been in a tussle with the Centre over its proposed scheme of doorstep delivery of ration. In a renewed push for the rollout of the scheme, which has met resistance from the Centre, Kejriwal had written to Lt-Governor Anil Baijal last week, asserting that the elected government does not require his “approval” for its launch and that it has “already attained finality”.

Earlier in June, Baijal had requested the elected government to “reconsider” the scheme as it would “mandatorily require the prior approval of the Centre”. However, the government had rejected the L-G’s contention. Kejriwal had also dismissed an earlier suggestion by the Centre, citing “double expenditure,” when it had proposed that the Delhi government procure additional food grains for the proposed scheme, instead of “disrupting” the public distribution system under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

NCT of Delhi Act

On April 27, the provisions of the Act came into effect, according to a notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on March 22 and Rajya Sabha on March 24, amid heated arguments by the Opposition.

In a re-distribution of powers, the Act tilts the scale in the favour of the central government, by giving primacy to the L-G.

Amendments to four Sections of the 1991 law were made with the passing of the bill and give definition to the term “Government” — “The expression “Government” referred to in any law to be made by the Legislative Assembly (of Delhi) shall mean the Lieutenant Governor”, it states.

At the time the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, AAP member Bhagwant Maan said the government “specialises” in “infringing upon state government’s rights”. He added, “The BJP is out of power in Delhi for last 22-23 years. We have won over 90 percent of seats…(and) you are not able to tolerate the defeat.”

Oxygen crisis

However, both the central and Delhi government had been pulled up by the High Court for the shortage of oxygen in the city amid the raging second wave of Covid-19. The loss of lives in the national capital, too, had fuelled a Delhi vs Centre debate as each held the other responsible for the failure of the healthcare system.

While the Delhi government had accused the Centre of bias in its allocation of oxygen, the Centre had in turn alleged “apathy on part of the Delhi government“, stating that it had failed in its responsibility to arrange cryogenic tankers to transport oxygen.

Officials in the Delhi government had also blamed the Union Health Ministry for failing to ensure that Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) Oxygen Generation plants that were promised were installed on time. Only one out of the allocated eight oxygen plants had been made operational in Delhi hospitals at the time.

While the central government blamed delays in readiness certificates, the Delhi government claimed that approvals had been provided but the plants still hadn’t come up.

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