Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal on Thursday demanded a high court monitored probe into a matter where it is being reported that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh-led government in Punjab is selling Covid-19 vaccine doses at a hefty profit to private hospitals. Badal has accused the Congress government in the state of playing with the people’s lives by creating an artificial shortage of vaccines.
Speaking to the media, the SAD president said that a case should be registered against Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu for diverting vaccines meant for the common man to private institutions even as he averred that the issue had the makings of a major scam.
He said the scandal had also exposed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who had recently demanded free vaccines for all.
“Rahul Gandhi should say if he supports the Punjab government’s move to force the common man to pay Rs 1,560 per dose," Badal said.
He also condemned Chief Secretary Vinni Mahajan for taking on the role of a marketing director of private institutions by tweeting that people should get themselves vaccinated at two private institutions at inflated rates.
Demanding the Congress government to stop this “discrimination" immediately, he said if this corporatisation of vaccine distribution is not stopped the SAD would be forced to approach the courts for justice.
He also announced that once a SAD-led government was formed it would probe the entire issue and ensure exemplary punishment to those who had endangered the well being of the poor and underprivileged.
Badal claimed that a Covaxin dose costing the state Rs 400 was being sold to private institutions at Rs 1,060. The private hospitals were further selling the dose at Rs 1,560. “This amounts to a cost of Rs 6,000 to Rs 9,000 per family for a single dose," he added.
He further said in Mohali alone 35,000 doses were sold to private institutions to earn a profit of nearly Rs 2 crore in a single day.
Stating that it was “immoral" for the Congress government to make a profit from the sale of vaccines, the SAD president said the government was also punishing the people by forcing them to cough up Rs 1,560 per dose during a time of economic slowdown.
According to a Hindustan Times report, Punjab government officials have claimed that they have created a different bank account in the name of Vaccination Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Fund and private hospitals deposit the money collected in this account. State officials involved in the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine said that the additional money collected from such hospitals will be used to buy jabs for people.
“We have purchased it at a rate of Rs 400 and are giving to the private hospitals at a rate which they would have paid had they bought it from the directly from the manufacturer. Private hospitals are depositing the money in the CSR Fund account created only to purchase vaccine," HT quoted Punjab’s nodal officer for vaccine and senior IAS officer Vikas Garg as saying.
Criticising the move, Dr Balbir Singh, a health activist from Patiala said, “How can state make money out of this? It’s shameful that when the state-run free vaccination centres had to be closed due to shortage of vaccine, govts are making profits."
“The justification that the fund will be used for procuring the vaccine is like using money collected by loot for the welfare of people," said Dr Singh, who was also former Punjab AAP convener.
(with inputs from IANS)