Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday 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.
As soon as #COVID19 vaccine will be available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto: Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the launch of BJP Manifesto for #BiharPolls pic.twitter.com/x4VjVmkA3Q— ANI (@ANI) October 22, 2020
The remarks by the senior BJP leader did not go down too well with some and called the move of not promising ‘free vaccine to all’ as ‘cruel’.
Furthering her rant, Singh wondered what is the use of PMCARES fund.
How bereft of morality and character do you have to be to promise free vaccination in an election manifesto? If you don’t win then people will have to pay for the vaccine? What cruelty is this? What @BJP4India has done is the most immoral thing that a political party can do.— Rohini Singh (@rohini_sgh) October 22, 2020
What is the #PMCares fund for if it won’t be used to provide free vaccines not just for Bihar but for every citizen of India? The govt that ignored Corona danger despite warnings and organised the Trump tamasha is now playing the worst politics with the vaccine. Shameful.— Rohini Singh (@rohini_sgh) October 22, 2020
Well, since the ‘journalist’ does not really like to keep herself updated, the vaccine development in India is actually backed by PMCARES fund.
Pro-Congress trolls then got the wheels of their fertile imagination rolling and started wondering when will the vaccine be made available to them depending on election schedule of states.
That this conversation was had in full seriousness baffles one.
Actually Maharashtra. We’re the first election after LS 2024.— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) October 22, 2020
Similarly, other trolls immediately put out a message to chief ministers of non-BJP states to figure out a way to make vaccines free for citizens.
This is health emergency for your state people. Take a cue and do not underestimate politic’s low points. There will be no one but you to be blamed if you are not prepared for the vaccine in your state.— shilpi tewari (@shilpitewari) October 22, 2020
However, that is not the case. Here is how vaccination works in India:
Vaccination is state subject
BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya took to Twitter to clarify that vaccination is a state subject.
BJP’s manifesto promises free Covid vaccine. Like all programs, center will provide vaccines to states at a nominal rate. It is for the state Govts to decide if they want to give it free or otherwise. Health being a state subject, Bihar BJP has decided to give it free. Simple.— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) October 22, 2020
He explained that like all other immunisation programmes, the Centre will provide vaccines to states at 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. Health is a state subject and should BJP come to power in Bihar, they have promised to make the vaccine free. 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.
This could be compared to the Shramik Special trains ferried amid the lockdown for stranded migrant workers and others who wanted to go to their home state. The Indian Railways had charged nominally from the respective state governments for running the trains. It was then up to the state governments whether to recover the fare from migrant workers for journey on Shramik Special trains.
In essence, no, Bihar is not getting special treatment from Centre ahead of elections. Centre will give vaccine, whenever it is developed, to all states at nominal price and the state governments will decide whether to make it free or charge people for the same.