West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to request increase in the supply of COVID-19 vaccines for the state before the third wave sets in. She expressed apprehension that the Covid situation might turn grim if the vaccine supply in the state is not augmented. She also alleged that the state is getting a “much lower number of doses" of vaccines despite having a very high population density, and urged him to ramp up the supply of vials. The state would require around 14 crore doses of Covid vaccines to cover all the eligible people, she said.
“Presently, we are administering four lakh doses per day and are capable of administer 11 lakh doses per day. Yet, we are getting much lower number of doses despite having a very high population density and a higher rate of urbanisation," Banerjee wrote in the letter. She also alleged that several letters sent to the PM on the same matter earlier have “not received due attention" at the Centre.
On COVID-19 vaccine shortage in the state, she said, “I appeal to the Prime Minister to not discriminate against one state. The BJP ruled states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka got more number of vaccines as compared to West Bengal. I can’t be a mute spectator to see Bengal is deprived of adequate vaccines."
The state began the vaccination drive on January 16, 2021 and till date it has administered more than 2.5 crore doses of vaccination (with approx 1.81 Crore of 1st doses and approx 0.70 Crore as 2nd dose of vaccination) against the supply of 2.12 crore doses from the Centre, 18 lakhs procured by state government and balance by the private sectors.
She wrote a letter to PM Modi demanding more vaccines while claiming that Bengal needs around 14 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine to cover all eligible people.
The CM claimed that the positivity rate of Covid-19 has come down to 1.57 per cent due to the state’s sustained efforts. “So, my earnest appeal to you is to see that Bengal receives adequate vaccine doses as per its requirement," she said in the letter. Till Wednesday, over 3.09 crore people have been inoculated in Bengal, health department sources said.
Plans to Reopen School: Banerjee
Banerjee on Thursday announced that the state government was planning to reopen schools on alternative days after the Durga Puja vacation in October. However, amid the fears of third wave, she also stressed that the final decision to reopen schools will depend on the COVID-19 situation at that time.
While addressing the media after holding the Global Advisory Board meeting at the state secretariat over the third COVID-19 wave, where Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee was also present, the chief minister said, “We are planning to reopen schools after the Puja vacation depending on the situation. The classes can happen on alternate days.”
Reacting to the state government’s decision to reopen school after the Puja vacation, BJP state vice-president, Joy Prakash Majumdar, said, “We all want to return to normal lifestyle. We still have three months to go for Durga Puja and it is difficult to predict now about the infection rate after the Puja vacation. We are not against it but one must take the decision as per the situation.”
Abhijit Banerjee was awarded with the prestigious Nobel Prize on October 14, 2019. He along with his wife Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer won the 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.
Last time the Global Advisory Board meeting was held virtually in April 2020 and then Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee recommended more widespread testing across the state and setting up of a ‘hotline’ through which people with symptoms of coronavirus can approach the government to contain its spread.
Bengal Questions Exclusion of 9.5 Lakh Farmers from PM-Kisan Scheme
The West Bengal government has also written to the Centre questioning the exclusion of 9.5 lakh farmers of the state from the list of beneficiaries of the PM-Kisan scheme, a senior official said on Thursday. The Centre credits Rs 6,000 per year in the bank accounts of the beneficiaries of the scheme in three equal instalments.
The West Bengal government is concerned about the deprivation of farmers of the state, the official said. “We don’t understand why such a large number of farmers from the state have been excluded from the scheme. We have written to the Centre expressing concern over the issue. “This has happened due to some technical error on the Union government’s part. We don’t want our farmers to suffer and remain deprived of the scheme’s benefits because of it," the state administration official told PTI. He said that the West Bengal government had sent the names of 44.8 lakh beneficiaries to the Centre, of whom 9.5 lakh have been left out, he added.
(With PTI Inputs)