'Aren't Free Shots Right of Every Indian?' Oppn Irked as BJP's Bihar Poll Manifesto Promises No-cost Virus Vaccine
Nirmala Sitharaman unveils the manifesto for Bihar polls.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday released the BJP's manifesto for the Bihar assembly polls which promised free Covid-19 vaccine once it has been cleared by the ICMR. The move drew sharp reaction from the opposition, which slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party for 'politicizing' public health.
"The NDA government in Bihar has set an example before the country in the fight against corona. It's our resolve that once the vaccine against the coronavirus has been cleared by the ICMR, we will make it available to the people of Bihar free of cost," said the manifesto. The promise figured at the top of the BJP's election document.
The announcement drew sharp criticism from the opposition with Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel accusing the BJP of politicising public health. He also said the poll promise implies that citizens of the states where elections are not being held will have to pay for the vaccine.
"NDA manifesto says free vaccine for Biharis. This is a poll promise BJP and JDU have made. Note: A Manifesto is a list of promises to be delivered If the govt comes to power then they are politicising health of citizens with #VaccineElectionism," Baghel tweeted. "With this poll promise @bjp4india has implied that the citizens of other non election states will have to pay for the vaccine," the chief minister said in another tweet.
Chhattisgarh health minister TS Singh Deo also slammed the BJP for its pollpromise and demanded that the Election Commission of India (ECI) take cognisance of the matter. "Free Covid vaccine is a right of every citizen of my country. Surprised to see this being pitched as a poll promise by BJP in Bihar," the minister tweeted.
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi asked, "Shouldn’t the Covid-19 vaccine be a part of Universal Immunisation Programme? Will vaccines be decided basis of election going states, BJP, non BJP governed states? To make this an election related issue over a humanitarian crisis is highly immoral and unethical."
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said that the vaccine should be made free for the entire country and not just Bihar.
Carrying the tagline 'BJP hai to bharosa hai', the party drew heavily upon the trust enjoyed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi among the masses by virtue of pro-people measures like the Jan Dhan scheme and the Ujjwala Yojana.
"Bihar is a politically sensitive state. Here people cannot be fobbed off with empty promises. Claims made by parties are likely to be weighed against their past track record. This is where the BJP scores," Sitharaman told a press conference where she released the manifesto. "We have the confidence that we can deliver on our promises. In the last six years, all the programmes announced by the prime minister have been implemented, be it electrification of villages, gas cylinders for poor women or financial inclusion of all citizens by getting accounts opened in their name in banks," she asserted.
Speaking about the coronavirus vaccine, the minister said India has reached a point where it is on the verge of producing three vaccines after different stages of trial. "When we reach the stage where scientists give clearance for large-scale production of the vaccine, we will make it available to the people of Bihar free of cost," she said.
The highlights of the party's vision document, displayed through a power point presentation, include recruitment of three lakh teachers in primary, secondary and higher educational institutions. The party also proposed to develop the state, which has so far remained largely untouched by the boom in information technology, into an IT hub holding out the promise of five lakh jobs in the sector.
The manifesto also said a large number of people will be provided employment in the health sector which is in for a major facelift through projects like the AIIMS at Darbhanga. Other attractive promises include self-reliance for one crore women through micro finance, pucca houses for 30 lakh people, and a boost to fisheries making Bihar number one in the sector.
It also promised a fresh impetus to the dairy sector with setting up of 15 milk processing units. A boost to production of maize, fruits, vegetables, betel leaves, honey and makhana etc. has been promised, and to facilitate these a conglomerate of 1,000 farm producer organisations has also been proposed.
Yet another promise made in the manifesto which is likely to find resonance among students is introducing Hindi as a medium of instruction for medical, engineering and other technical courses. "Our promises are backed by credibility. Compare the situation in Bihar between 1990 and 2005 (when the RJD was in power) with the changes that occurred after we took over. You will get a clear picture," Sitharaman said.
"During the NDA rule, the state's growth rate in the industrial sector has been 17 per cent. In contrast, we are unable to find the figures for the preceding 15 years, apparently because industries were never on the radar of the previous government," she remarked with a smirk.