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Congress says govt’s new policy will lead to multiple prices of vaccines, shortchange poorer states | India News

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NEW DELHI: Slamming the new vaccine policy as “the Modi government abdicating its responsibility in the garb of giving more powers to states”, Congress Tuesday said it will lead to multiple prices of vaccines and shift a large financial burden of vaccinating the poor to the “already overstretched states” while seriously handicapping the poorer states in procurement of vaccines from the open market.
Addressing a press conference, former finance minister P Chidambaram, and senior leaders Jairam Ramesh and Ajay Maken said, “We demand one nation, one price. It’s a party (BJP) that believes in one nation, one election; one tax etc. Why cannot it say so about vaccine price? Under the new rules, the prices will be different for the Centre, the states and private hospitals.”
Congress said the new rules will promote “unhealthy price bidding and profiteering” and it will hurt the poorer states in comparison to better-off states.
“The Union Government has finally acknowledged the deficiencies in the current vaccine policy … but the modified vaccine policy is regressive and inequitable,” Chidambaram said, adding, “Nowhere in the world has any government left its vaccination programme to be determined by the vagaries of market forces.”
The Congress trio protested that in future, the states will bear the cost of vaccinating 18-45 year age group that does not fall under the category of healthcare workers and frontline workers.
“The central government appears to have abdicated its responsibility towards the poor by excluding them from its vaccination programme. In a country where the median age is 28 years, to leave those below 45 years out of a public-funded programme is callous. The migrant workers who live in other states will be the worst affected,” the party argued.
Congress warned that vaccination programme will suffer as states, weighed down by shrinking GST revenues, lower tax devolution and increased borrowing, will have to bear new expenditure.
“Meanwhile, nobody knows where the thousands of crores of rupees collected under PM-CARES are being deployed,” Chidambaram remarked.
The opposition party stressed that the modified vaccine policy does not provide funds for capital investment to the vaccine manufacturers to ramp up production. Also, compulsory licensing should have been invoked to let other vaccine manufacturers enter the manufacturing of the two approved vaccines, it argued.
With the Centre finally allowing import of vaccines, Congress asked the government to clarify if any foreign manufacturer had agreed to export its vaccine to India.
Urging a focused expenditure, Jairam Ramesh said the Centre should defer programmes like Central Vista and ensure that “livelihoods are not threatened”. He demanded a monthly cash transfer of Rs 6,000 to poor families till the crisis lasts.

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