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'Hollow, without substance'

Mamata accuses PM of allowing open market sale of vaccines after depleting stocks through gifts abroad

Hollow, without substance
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Bhagawangola/Murshidabad: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has allowed open market sales of Coronavirus vaccines after shipments made by him to foreign shores have depleted stocks in India.

She also criticised the Centre's new Covid vaccine policy, calling it "hollow and without substance".

Addressing an election meeting here, the Trinamool Congress supremo said the Prime Minister had exported vaccines to other countries to boost his image while states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan and West Bengal have struggled to get doses they required to combat the Covid pandemic.

"Yesterday the PM said the medicine (vaccine) will be available in the open market. Where is the open market, where is the availability? You have already shipped out the majority of stock to foreign destinations," she alleged.

On Tuesday, Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi terming his "much delayed" universal vaccine policy to be hollow and regrettable show of evasion of responsibility by the Centre at the time of crisis as most states are struggling to get doses they require to combat Covid pandemic.

Before writing to the Prime Minister, Banerjee — while addressing poll campaign in Murshidabad as TMC chairperson — said: "The Prime Minister allowed export of 64 percent vaccines to other countries, including neighbouring ones, to gain popularity but now states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan and Bengal are not getting the required doses. I have no objection if other countries are helped. But own countrymen should get the vaccine first. Now, at the last moment you are allowing its availability in the open market. My question is where is the availability in the open market? Mere announcements are not enough. It is also your (Centre's) responsibility to ensure its availability in the markets." It needs a mention that export of vaccines was allowed to different countries, including South Africa and Brazil.

Referring to her first letter to the Prime Minister (dated February 24 in 2021 of which no reply was received), Banerjee in her Tuesday's letter — that is again the second one in the last 48 hours — the Chief Minister stated that "now when the number of cases in the second wave is spiralling like anything, the Centre has shown to tactically indulge in empty rhetoric and shy away from its responsibility for making available vaccine to the people of the country".

Demanding "a fair transparent and credible vaccination policy" enabling the countryman to get vaccines urgently at affordable prices, Banerjee further stated in her letter: "The announcement does not address major issues like ensuring the quality efficacy stable flow of supply of required number of vaccines by the manufacturers and also the prize at which vaccines are to be purchased by the states."

This comes when the Bengal government has already announced free-of-cost vaccination for everyone in the state. On Tuesday, 9,819 people got Covid infected with 46 deaths being recorded in the past 24 hours. Till Tuesday, around 2,17,028 people have been vaccinated in the state.

She has also raised apprehensions about the announced policy leading to "unscrupulous mechanism" in the markets, including pricing of vaccines, as it appears to be based on market prices which may put the common people under huge financial burden.

Highlighting the steps taken to combat Covid situation in Bengal, Banerjee tweeted: "Our efforts have been persistent to increase vaccination in the state. Yesterday, number of doses administered in Kolkata rose to over 39,000 from a daily average of 25,000 vaccinations. GoWB is further ramping up its capacities to ensure vaccination for all eligible citizens."

While addressing a rally at Bhagwangola, she termed the Narendra Modi-led NDA government as a government of "monumental incompetence", and added that "we are facing a huge deficit in vaccines due to the faulty planning". She further stated that the "Modi-Shah led Centre did not take necessary steps for vaccination in the past six months and instead continued plotting to gain power in Bengal and bringing in outsiders leading to quicker spread of the disease in the state."

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