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Kejriwal govt sets aside Rs 50 crores for free vaccination of Delhi residents, while spending far more on PR: Details

An RTI query had revealed that Rs 32.52 crores were spent on ads by the AAP government in January 2021, Rs 25.33 crores were spent in February 2021 and a whopping Rs 92.48 crores were spent in March 2021.

Delhi is amongst the worst-hit states by the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak. There were shortages of isolation beds, ICU beds, medicinal oxygen, key antiviral drugs, including remdesivir. The pandemic not only revealed how woefully unprepared the national capital was handling the resurgent flare-up of the COVID-19 outbreak, but it also betrayed the incompetence and ineptitude of the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government.

With his own house not in order, Kejriwal recently proceeded to advise the Centre on doing away with the vaccine monopoly and allowing other companies to manufacture the two vaccines currently being produced in India—Covishield and Covaxin. He wrote a letter to PM Modi, cautioning that the current wave of the coronavirus outbreak is lethal and the focus should be on vaccinating the entire country aggressively.

“The second wave of Covid is very fatal and the disease has reached the villages with many lives lost… There is a need to vaccinate all the citizens as soon as possible… Presently only two companies are manufacturing vaccines in India. Providing vaccine to the whole country through two companies only is not possible. It requires ramping up vaccine manufacturing at war footing,” said Kejriwal in a letter to Modi.

While there is merit in Kejriwal’s argument that the country should be hurrying up the vaccination of its people to avoid subsequent bouts of COVID-19 outbreak, it does not jibe with the AAP government’s priorities in Delhi. After bungling up the COVID-outbreak in Delhi, the AAP government pompously announced a free COVID-19 vaccination programme for Delhi residents—’Aam Aadmi Free Covid Vaccine’, perhaps in a bid to pacify people who were enraged at its poor handling of the crisis.

In this pursuit, the AAP government in Delhi announced a paltry allocation of Rs 50 crores. For a city with a population of 2 crores, it will require at least 4 crores of vaccine doses to fully vaccinate its people. Considering that a single dose of vaccine costs Rs 250, even though it is higher than that, the Delhi government will require at least Rs 1000 crores to provide free vaccination to the entire population. Even if one accounts for free vaccines that the Centre is providing Delhi to vaccinate its people, the meagre amount of Rs 50 crores as against the requirement of Rs 1000 crores speaks volumes of AAP’s lack of seriousness towards free vaccination.

For AAP, PR and self-promotion more important than state’s Health Care

By contrast, AAP had allocated more than Rs 150 crores for advertising and marketing itself, and that too for only the first three months of 2021. An RTI reply dated April 08 has revealed that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government has spent Rs 150 crores from January 2021 to March 2021 on advertisements and publicity through various mediums. 

The RTI reply uploaded by a Twitter user Alok Bhatt revealed that Rs 32.52 crores were spent on ads by the AAP government in January 2021, Rs 25.33 crores were spent in February 2021 and a whopping Rs 92.48 crores were spent in March 2021. This averages to Rs 1.67 crore daily when the health infrastructure in the national capital had begun to crumble amid the second wave of coronavirus.

The reply specifies that the total expenditure includes advertisements and publicity through print media, electronic media, and the internet.

Further, Kejriwal government has spent over 800 crores in advertisement expenses in past two years.

Clearly, for the Delhi government, managing PR is much higher in its list of priorities than providing free vaccination for the entire population of Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal recently proclaimed that the Delhi government will soon be floating global tenders for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. With the allocation of a mere Rs 50 crores, one cannot help but wonder how they could expect to get anything substantial that could help them boost the vaccination in Delhi.

Given Kejriwal’s tendency to abdicate the responsibility and pass the buck on the Centre, as he recently did when he suggested that the central government should procure vaccines on behalf of all the states, it won’t be surprising if he asks the Centre to foot the bill for the free vaccination to the people of Delhi.

This misplaced priority of splurging money on promoting oneself over earmarking sufficient allocation for the free vaccination of Delhi residents encapsulates the Arvind Kejriwal government’s COVID-19 mismanagement in the national capital.

Delhi’s bungled handling of the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak

Delhi was in the throes of a raging coronavirus outbreak last month as the cases increased dramatically and the hospitals in the national capital struggled with the oxygen supplies. Not just oxygen, but there was also shortages of beds, key antiviral drugs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients in Delhi have been left to fend for themselves as they contend with the scarcity of oxygen, beds and medicines. In the absence of a responsible government in the state, their relatives often had to resort to Twitter and other social media websites for raising SOS alarm and seeking help.

Even the hospitals in Delhi have accused the Aam Aadmi Party government of mismanaging the coronavirus outbreak and not providing a steady supply of oxygen to them, which resulted in deaths of patients who could have otherwise be saved if the Delhi government had competently handled the crisis.

Delhi government’s incompetence in handling the oxygen requirement in the national capital can be gauged from the fact that they have often been contradicting their own stand with respect to the oxygen requirement in the city.

Days after the Supreme Court ordered setting up a panel to carry out an audit of supply, distribution, and utilization of oxygen supply in the national capital, the Arvind Kejriwal government yesterday announced that they have an excess supply of the same and have offered to give the surplus oxygen to the states who need it.

For all this while, the AAP government led by Arvind Kejriwal had maintained that Delhi needs a daily supply of at least 976 MT of oxygen to emerge out of the crisis in the national capital. The party leadership has been pinning the blame on the central government for not providing them with the required 976 MT of oxygen. But after the city-state was supplied with 730 MT of oxygen, following court orders, the CM started saying that they have enough oxygen to open thousands of new oxygen beds.

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Jinit Jain
Engineer. Writer. Learner.

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