Updated: June 1, 2021 9:55:25 am
With the Opposition criticising the Centre for putting onus on states to procure a big part of their Covid-19 vaccination requirement, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said the Government had a “perfect policy” regarding immunisation, but had to change it under demands from various states. He appealed that all chief ministers should “come together and approach the Prime Minister to form a centralised policy for Covid vaccination”. “The Prime Minister will also consider it,” he said, adding that he was willing to talk to the CMs in this regard.
Speaking at an Idea Exchange session of The Indian Express, Chouhan said the Centre had found it difficult to come out with a uniform policy due to the conflicting opinions as well as demands of states, and hence it left vaccine procurement to them. “Chief Ministers should speak to the Central government… Milke faisla karna chahiye ki kendra sarkar kare (We should decide together that the Centre should do it). See, if there are differences, we speak in different voices, an atmosphere gets created that the Centre too finds it difficult to work… And if we differ, think only about political interests, it leads to these kind of visangatiyan (inconsistencies). Mein toh sabhi mukhyamantriyon se ye appeal karta hoon ki hum sab saath milen aur kendra sarkar se appeal karen… Pradhan Mantri se ye appeal karen. Pradhan Mantri bhi ye vichar karenge (I would appeal to all chief ministers that we come together and appeal to the Centre… to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will also consider it).”
Asked if he would take the initiative to bring the CMs together in urging the PM for a policy change regarding vaccines for 18-plus, Chouhan said, “Mein toh mukhyamantri se appeal bhi karta hoon, mein baat bhi karunga… Kathinaiyan agar aayen toh hum milke uska samadhan nikalen. Pradhan Mantri ne har mushkil ka samadhan poori sakshamta ke saath kiya hai (I appeal to the CMs, I will also talk to them… If there are difficulties, we can find a solution together. The PM has handled all difficulties with great ability).”
A veteran BJP leader and four-term Chief Minister, Chouhan said prioritising those above 60 and then 45 years of age was part of a “su-charak neeti (well-thought-out plan)”, considering the limitations of vaccine production. “I believe that was a perfect policy.” However, he said, demands were raised by states and political parties for vaccination of those above 18, which is when the Centre asked states to procure vaccines on their own. “If different states make different demands, then what will the Central government do?” he said.
Asked when he had come to know about the decision regarding procurement being left to states, Chouhan said while he did not recall the exact date, what was undeniable was that the growing clamour to extend vaccination to 18 years and above, as the young were out working. “… Toh phir ye rajyon se kaha gaya ki 45 plus ko hum laga rahe hain, 18-plus ke liye aap intezaam kar lein (Then states were told that we will vaccinate the 45-plus, you make arrangements for the 18-plus). We also started making arrangements for the same.”
During the hour-long interaction, Chouhan spoke on the Covid challenge before Madhya Pradesh, and tackled questions on under-reporting of Covid deaths, the three Central laws being opposed by farmers, and the friction between the Modi government and non-BJP-ruled states.
The CM accused the Opposition of using the pandemic to promote a negative narrative against the BJP leadership, and lashed out at “anti-BJP forces” for whom “Narendra Modi is an eyesore”. Chouhan denied there was anger against the BJP and the Central government over how the second wave had been hadled. “The Prime Minister did his best… There were four-five group meetings with Chief Ministers and separate meetings with CMs whose states were the worst-affected. The Central government used all its resources, ministers to solve problems of states.”
However, he admitted, “The speed of the positivity rate, resulting in shortage of medical infrastructure, caused a lot of pain… It gave an opportunity to the Opposition.”
Asked about the charge that BJP leaders were not visible on the ground helping people during the second wave, Chouhan said: “It is not true. Seva hi Sanghathan is an initiative started by J P Nadda ji and under the initiative many social service work was done by workers.”
Asked about under-reporting of Covid deaths, specifically a report in The Indian Express on 2,500 cremations being carried out with Covid protocols in Bhopal alone while the official death toll was 109 for April, Chouhan said, “There might be a chance that some cases went undetected as people stayed at home without undergoing testing.”
Responding to questions on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee skipping a meeting on the impact of Cyclone Yaas chaired by PM Modi, over the presence of Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, Chouhan said he saw nothing wrong in Adhikari being invited. “I have called Kamal Nath (the leader of opposition in Madhya Pradesh) too for meetings. There should be no problem if a leader of the opposition is called.”
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