Amidst the raging debate about whether the yet-to-be-launched coronavirus vaccine should be made free or not, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has remained non-committal on the issue of providing coronavirus vaccine free for the people of Delhi.
Speaking to the media on Saturday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the COVID-19 vaccine should be made available throughout the country for free. However, he himself remained circumspect about providing free vaccines to the people of Delhi saying the government will only make a decision once the vaccine is developed.
“We will see when the vaccine comes, what it’s like and how much it costs,” said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The entire country should get the vaccine for free, it is everyone’s right. We will see when the vaccine comes, what it’s like and how much it costs: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on being asked if his government would provide vaccine for free to residents pic.twitter.com/jIOjVc3KuS— ANI (@ANI) October 24, 2020
“The whole country should get free COVID-19 vaccine. It is a right of the entire country. All the people are troubled by the coronavirus, so the vaccine should be free for the country,” Kejriwal said after inaugurating two flyovers in northeast Delhi.
The reluctance of Arvind Kejriwal to clearly state the policy of his government with regards to the provision of coronavirus vaccine in Delhi is puzzling. As health is a ‘state’ subject, it is the responsibility of the Delhi government to ensure proper immunisation of the people of Delhi, once the coronavirus vaccine is launched across the country.
However, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seems to be non-committal about providing the vaccine for free and attempting to shift the responsibility to the centre. The irresponsible statement by Kejriwal comes amidst the opposition parties attack against the Modi government over the issue of providing free vaccines across the country.
Arvind Kejriwal’s attempt to politicise the vaccine drive
On Thursday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while releasing the BJP manifesto in Bihar for upcoming elections said that the BJP promises free coronavirus vaccines in Bihar, whenever the vaccine is made available. The Union Minister had not explicitly mentioned that only the residents of Bihar will be eligible for receiving the vaccine if and when it will be released, and certainly did not say that other states will not get the vaccine. The party has merely promised free vaccine in the state if they come to power, just like free power and water announced by Kejriwal before Delhi elections.
However, the opposition and its ecosystem had pounced on the BJP to brazenly peddle lies to claim that BJP made such announcement considering the Bihar elections and other states would be denied the same. Several of them claimed that the government’s move of granting free vaccinations to COVID-19 as ‘cruel’ as they tried to create confusion among residents of other states.
In reality, there was no special treatment for Bihar as claimed by the opposition party leaders. Like other immunisation programmes, the centre will provide vaccines to states at a nominal rate. This will include BJP-ruled and non-BJP ruled states. Then it is up to the states to charge for vaccines or not.
Similarly, non-BJP ruled states like Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal can choose to either make vaccines free for all or charge its citizens for the same. However, the opposition parties and the non-BJP state government has now used these opportunity to weave a narrative that these non-BJP ruled states will be denied free corona vaccines.
The Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seems to be pulling a similar card to politicise the issue by being non-committal to speak about the vaccination drive in the state and later shift the blame on the centre by claiming that it did not provide the vaccination for free.