After being heavily criticized by the Supreme Court of India over the Covid-19 vaccine policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced that his government at the Centre would provide vaccines free of charge to all above 18 years from 21 June and would take back control of vaccination from states, reversing a policy change that was enforced just about a month ago. This sudden U turn was announced during a televised address.
Last week, the SC had come down hard on the central government over the Centre’s policy of giving free vaccination to the 45-plus age group in the first two phases of vaccination and having a paid system for those below, saying “prima facie it is arbitrary and irrational.”
The SC also flagged several other flaws, including shortage of vaccine doses and problems faced by rural people in accessing vaccines. Modi also announced that 75 percent of vaccination will be free and under the Centre while 25 percent will be paid and by private hospitals. This is again creating doubts. On the one hand, he says the Centre will provide vaccines free to all, but again, private hospitals are being given access to 25 percent of the vaccines. More clarity is needed in this regard. Further, there is still no clarity on the availability of vaccines. PM Modi did not specify when vaccines will be available for every Indian. Right now the country is facing an acute shortage of vaccines. Many states have stopped vaccination for the 18 to 44 years’ category due to lack of vaccines. Even after the second wave hit the country hard, the Modi government is grappling with how to effectively fight the coronavirus. Lack of leadership is clearly visible. Modi as PM has failed in this battle against Covid-19.