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Why not ‘one nation one price’ for COVID-19 vaccines, asks Congress

Covid-19 vaccination drive in progress in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

A day after the government opened up its vaccination policy to expand coverage and include everyone above 18 years of age, the Congress on Tuesday alleged the modified policy allows the Centre to run away from its responsibility, overburdens the States and encourages vaccine manufacturers to profiteer.

Former Union Ministers P. Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and Ajay Maken, addressing a joint virtual press conference, claimed that “nowhere in the world has any government left its vaccination programme to be determined by the vagaries of market forces” and said the new policy in crucial aspects is “regressive and inequitable”.

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, on twitter, called it government of India’s “vaccine discrimination” policy and also claimed that India was now gasping for oxygen because of the Centre’s “incompetence and complacency”.

“No free vaccines for 18-45 yr olds. Middlemen brought in without price controls. No vaccine guarantee for weaker sections. GOI’s Vaccine Discrimination- Not Distribution- Strategy!”tweeted Mr. Gandhi.

Also read: ‘Availability of scarce resource like COVID-19 vaccines should not be decentralised,’ says Chhattisgarh Health Minister

Under the new policy, to be implemented from May 1, producers are free to supply 50% doses to State governments and in the open market for which they will have to make an advance declaration of the price before the roll out date.

“This is a government that believes in ‘one nation one tax’, ‘one nation one election’, but it does not believe in ‘one nation, one price’,” Mr. Ramesh said. “Why can’t we have ‘one nation, one price’ for vaccines. I think this is a legitimate demand.

“This is very unfair. This is inequitable. We want States to get greater responsibility. But this is actually not giving the States any responsibility. So ‘one nation, one price’. We cannot have ‘one nation, multiple prices.”

Mr. Chidambaram said the new policy would not only put additional burden on the already cash-strapped State governments but could also lead to the practice of bidding and profiteering by manufacturers.

“States with limited resources will be at a considerable disadvantage. States that are already weighed down by shrinking GST revenues, lower tax devolution, reduced grants-in-aid and increased borrowing would have to bear this additional burden,” the former Finance Minister said, questioning where the funds collected under PM-Cares have been spent.

With several State governments going for restrictions and lockdowns, the Congress also reiterated its demand to provide ₹6,000 to migrant workers and other such people who live on daily incomes.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 1:53:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/why-not-one-nation-one-price-for-covid-19-vaccines-asks-congress/article34370188.ece

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