Former Union minister P Chidambaram on Monday rebutted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion that the Centre allowed states to buy vaccines in response to demands from states but backed down after a February letter by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee appeared on social media.
“I told (news agency) ANI ‘please tell us which state government demanded that it should be allowed to directly procure vaccines’. Social media activists have posted the copy of the letter of CM, West Bengal to PM making such a request. I was wrong. I stand corrected,” Chidambaram said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
In this letter to PM Modi, Mamata Banerjee wanted Bengal to be allowed to procure vaccines on its own to fulfil its requirements for the vaccine.
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“We would request you to kindly take up the matter with appropriate authority so that State government is able to purchase the vaccines from designated point(s) on top priority basis because the West Bengal government wants to provide vaccination free of cost to all the people,” Banerjee said in her February 24 letter. It is a point that she reiterated in subsequent months as well.
Chidambaram was one of the many from the opposition to criticise PM Modi after his address to the nation, insisting that PM Modi was trying to blame the opposition for his mistakes.
“Nobody, but nobody said that [the] Centre should not procure vaccines. He (PM) now blames state govts saying – they wanted to procure vaccines so we allowed them. Let us know which CM, which state govt, on what date demanded that he should be allowed to procure vaccines,” Chidambaram had said, according to an ANI tweet.
Banerjee’s letter surfaced soon after.
To be sure, in her reaction to PM Modi’s address, Mamata Banerjee did not refer to her demand that Bengal be allowed to directly procure vaccines. Instead, she focused on PM Modi’s announcement that the Centre would provide the vaccines to all adults free of cost and recalled that she had, on multiple occasions, made this demand.
“Took him (PM) 4 months but after much pressure, he has FINALLY listened to us & implemented what we’ve been asking all this while,” she tweeted.
In his address, PM Modi said the Union government is taking back the task of Covid-19 vaccination from the states. He said that the Centre, which was procuring 50% of the vaccines produced in the country and letting the states buy another 25%, would now procure 75% of the vaccines. Private hospitals and institutions will continue to procure the remaining 25 per cent.