Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighting several issues in view of the ongoing second wave of Covid. Her wishlist includes speedy approval of new vaccines and a decision on eligibility of people based on exposure instead of age.
She has also sought the removal on the Goods and Services Tax on life saving drugs, and immediate transfer of Rs 6,000 under direct benefit transfer to the eligible families.
In her letter, Mrs Gandhi wrote that she has discussed the Covid situation with Chief Ministers of states ruled by the Congress — singly or in alliance. Most states, she wrote, are left with a vaccine stock of just three to five days.
The Congress has been long criticising the Centre over its vaccination policy in terms of both supply and distribution. Its criticism has got pointed after several states — including Congress-ruled Punjab and Maharashtra — said they were running short of vaccines.
Earlier today, senior party leader P Chidambaram tweeted: “Empty boasts, rhetoric and hyperbole will not succeed against the virus. The government is trying to cover up its massive failure in managing the supply and distribution of the vaccines”.
In a recent meeting with Chief Ministers in Congress-ruled states and senior party officials, Mrs Gandhi said the government has mismanaged the situation, allowing a shortage to be created in the country even as it exported vaccines.
“While it will be necessary on one hand to substantially ramp up our domestic production capacity, it will also be prudent to allow emergency use authorization of all the vaccine candidates that have the required clearances, without any further delay,” Mrs Gandhi wrote.
She also highlighted an issue Maharashtra has already flagged — that the allocation of vaccines cannot be the same for all states and should be based on population.
“The numbers allocated to a state has to be based on the prevalence and projection of infection in that particular state,” Mrs Gandhi wrote.
She sought the removal of GST not only on medicine and equipment, including ventilators, oximeters and oxygen cylinders.
Drawing from the experience of last year’s lockdown, which had hit the poor and the migrant labourers the hardest, she pointed to the inevitable restrictions on economic activity and appealed to the Prime Minister to put in place the much needed scheme of minimum monthly guaranteed income.
A special committee today cleared the use of Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which will be manufactured in India by Dr Reddy’s. The vaccine has the highest effectiveness – 91.6 per cent — after the ones by Moderna and Pfizer.
Phase 3 of clinical trials of Sputnik is in progress in India and in February, Dr Reddy’s had applied for its emergency use.