Updated: June 1, 2021 5:34:30 am
Stating that the Centre’s decision to mandate state governments to procure Covid-19 vaccines is against the “principles of cooperative federalism”, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to give free vaccines to the state to tackle the pandemic.
In his letter, Soren mentioned that the financial burden for the state to cover 1.57 crore beneficiaries is “likely to be around Rs 1,100 crore”, which will hit it financial situation.
He wrote: “The financial burden on the state for vaccination of the age cohort of 18-44 years is likely to be more than Rs 1,100 crore considering 1.57 crore eligible beneficiaries. With vaccine being available for age cohort of 12-18 years and below, the mentioned financial burden will further increase by around Rs 1,000 crore. It will be extremely difficult to spare as much resources from the resource pool of the state which is already stressed during Covid times.”
The letter stated: “This is probably the first instance in the history of independent India that states have been mandated to procure vaccines on their own. Such a mandate, under the ongoing challenging and unprecedented circumstances, where the entire nation is struggling for over a year, stands against the principle of co-operative federalism…”
The letter comes more than a month after Soren announced that all residents of Jharkhand above the age of 18 years will get free vaccination for Covid-19.
In his letter on Monday, Soren also wrote that the “foremost impediment” in ensuring fast and complete vaccination is the “abysmal supply of vaccine vis-à-vis the requirement” of the state. “The supplies against the orders placed continue to remain extremely limited and it ultimately depends on allocations made by the Central government. On account of scarce supplies the overall pace of vaccination is not as desired and defeats the very purpose of the vaccination drive for this age cohort.”
Soren also mentioned differential pricing for states. The letter stated, “…is pertinent to note that the rates specified by the Central government for procurement of vaccines by the State for the age cohort of 18-44 years are significantly higher than the rates at which vaccine is being procured by the Central government for beneficiaries in the age cohort of 45 years and above. This dichotomy will not stand the scrutiny of reasonable classification under the fundamental principles of the Constitution of India.”
The letter urged the Prime Minister to give states the “freedom to define priorities for the vaccination coverage”. Soren wrote, “(This will) ensure effective tackling of the anticipated 3rd wave. The state and the people of Jharkhand shall be ever grateful for your kind support under such difficult times.”
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