At an all party meeting called by the government on Covid-19 fight and rollout of a vaccine, the Prime Minister assured everyone that India would soon get a vaccine to inoculate the masses and stop the spread of the deadly virus. The government said the first in line to get the vaccine would be priority groups: healthcare workers followed by frontline workers and senior citizens with underlying health conditions.
The PM said that Indian scientists are very confident of succeeding in their endeavour of making a Covid vaccine. "The world is keeping a watch on the cheapest and safe vaccine. That is why the world is watching India," PM Modi said, adding that the country will begin the Covid-19 vaccination programme after experts give nod.
During the virtual meeting, 13 speakers from as many political outfits addressed the meeting. All the MPs expressed hope that the vaccination drive would be smooth and transparent, and many also expressed concerns about the potential cost of such a vaccine.
Several parties, including Biju Janata Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party, YSRCP and Samajwadi Party, urged the government to ensure the vaccine procured would be free of cost for the poor and vulnerable groups, and nominally priced for others.
A few parties also raised the issue of economy during the discussion. Senior parliamentarian Sharad Pawar praised the central government for its proactive approach to fight Covid, but said the economy of the country has been a casualty. The former Union Minister and NCP chief urged the Modi government to focus urgently on salvaging the economy at the earliest.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Pawar state alliance partner Shiv Sena as its MP hit out at the central government for holding on to the GST dues of the states and not disbursing funds in a timely fashion.
TRS leader K Keshava Rao asked the government how it planned to distribute free vaccines as the BJP had promised during the civic election in Hyderabad, as well as earlier in Bihar. He also urged the government to release funds due to the states at the earliest so that the vaccination drive can be smoothly conducted.
Chandrashekhar Sahu of the Biju Janata Dal also said while Odisha was prepared for the vaccination drive, it would be important for the central government to do a couple of important surveys to ensure there are no hurdles.
Sudip bandyopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress praised the efforts of the central government in the fight against Covid-19 but also underlined how his party's leadership headed by Mamata Banerjee walked shoulder to shoulder with the Centre. He asked the Prime Minister to handhold states hinting at economic support for vaccination.
YSRCP’s Vijay Sai Reddy informed that his state government has a task force in place, but stated such a drive needs lot of assistance from the Centre. Reddy also suggested that the vulnerable section needs to be protected with a free vaccine.
Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav suggested that the best way to fight a pandemic of this nature and any other in the future is to increase the country's health budget. Yadav, who is also the chairman of the standing committee for health and family welfare, suggested that provision for health must be increased to at least 2.5% instead of the present 1.5% of the total budget in the upcoming Union Budget.
DMK MP TR Baalu raised objection about the lack of Hindi to English translation of the health ministry's briefings and he also tried to raise the issue of farmer agitation in the national capital. However, parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi requested Baalu to stick to the agenda and his microphone was muted when he did not relent.
The PM in his closing comments allayed the concerns of the MP saying that whenever a vaccine would come the distribution would be transparent and smooth with proper coordination with the states and the centre.
On price of Covid-19 vaccine, PM Modi said that the central government is in talks with the state governments over the price of vaccine and decision regarding it will be taken keeping public health as topmost priority.