On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation to announce free Covid-19 vaccination for all above 18 years of age and also to declare that the country would revert to a system of centralised procurement of vaccines against Covid-19, where the centre will procure vaccines from manufacturers and provide it further to states for free.
During his address, PM Modi slammed the politicisation of the vaccination drive, especially by the opposition-ruled states, who constantly altered their policies on vaccination drive, thus creating added pressure on the centre to liberalise the vaccine procurement. In his address, PM Modi had mentioned how some states had earlier pressured the centre to decentralise vaccine policy and explained how the “decentralisation” process as demanded by the opposition states had utterly failed, thus prompting them to reconsider the decision.
As PM Modi spoke about the constant politicisation of vaccine derive in the country, the opposition parties, especially the Congress party, seems to have taken an offence. It seems that the Congress party has unleashed their propaganda portals to mislead the public by putting out misinformation on their earlier push for a decentralised system of vaccine procurement.
As PM Modi highlighted how opposition parties’ constant push and demand for decentralised vaccine procurement had hurt the country’s vaccination drive, the propaganda portals and social media proxies of those opposition parties are now trying to portray that the opposition parties had never demanded decentralisation of vaccine procurement in the first place.
The notorious propaganda website Alt News, which often works as an extension of Congress IT cell, has come up with a so-called fact-check of Prime Minister’s recent speech where he had asserted that the states, especially the one ruled by the opposition parties, had pressurised them for a decentralised vaccine procurement policy. In his speech, PM Modi had said that several state governments had asked him to decentralise the vaccine work and leave it to the states.
As expected, Alt News, which has a history of peddling misinformation to save the face of the opposition parties, came up with a lousy fact-check of the Prime Minister, claiming that he was lying about the decentralised vaccination procurement system as no opposition leaders have demanded the same, instead claiming that they had asked the government to centralise the vaccination process.
In defence of the same, Alt News presented selective information to claim that the state governments had never asked for a decentralised vaccination programme in the first place.
Alt News uses selective data to claim that Mamata Banerjee did not demand for decentralisation of vaccine procurement
To ‘fact-check’ PM Modi, Alt News amusingly cites a letter written by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. According to Alt News, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had written a letter to PM Modi on February 24, requesting that the state be allowed to purchase vaccines for inoculation ahead of the assembly elections.
In the letter, it can be clearly seen that Mamata Banerjee is asking the centre to allow them to procure the vaccines directly ahead of the assembly elections in the state.
West Bengal CM @MamataOfficial writes to PM @narendramodi for initiating a rapid vaccination process in West Bengal before elections are held.— Ayushman Kumar (@Iam_Ayushmann) February 24, 2021
Letter says, the West Bengal Government wants to provide vaccine free of cost to all the people. pic.twitter.com/2lyIgbBw8s
However, according to Alt News, Banerjee’s request was not mandated and hence it cannot be considered as a demand for decentralisation.
Further, Alt News, in their hurry to bury the truth, forgets to mention the two other letters written by Mamata Banerjee to the Modi government demanding decentralisation procurement of the vaccines. Alt News conveniently ignores to provide details of another letter written by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to PM Modi at another instance on 18 April, demanding to allow the state to procure vaccines themselves.
“You may recall that I had written to you on 24 February to allow the state to purchase vaccination doses directly with state funds and launch a massive free vaccination campaign in the state covering the entire population,” she wrote in a letter on 18 April.
In fact, Alt News themselves mentions how Mamata Banerjee had said that the announcement of decentralisation was “much-delayed” and appears to be “hollow, without substance and a regrettable show of evasion of responsibility” in a letter, after the centre had decided to liberalise the vaccination drive to allow states to procure the doses directly from manufacturers.
Strangely, the alleged fact-checkers have exposed the opposition parties in their so-called fact-check report by putting out all the relevant facts to show how opposition states were demanding the decentralisation of vaccine procurement.
In addition to the above, on May 12, Mamata Banerjee had written to the Prime Minister urging him to expedite the procurement of vaccines and suggested a franchise-based model for vaccine manufacturers. In the letter, Mamata Banerjee said the centre should work on a “franchise-based” model in states to ramp up the production of vaccines in the country.
Mamata Banerjee had requested the Centre to push for the manufacturing of vaccines under the “franchise” route. Essentially, through the “franchise” route, the West Bengal government wanted to decentralise vaccine procurement.
Despite, Mamata Banerjee openly batting for the decentralise procurement of vaccines in the country, not once but thrice, Alt News tries to invent a lie that she had never demanded any such decentralisation.
Alt News lies on Maharashtra government:
Further, Alt News cited letters from the Maharashtra government to claim that they had never demanded decentralisation in the first place as suggested by Prime Minister Modi.
According to Alt News, the Maharashtra government did not bat for decentralisation on their own, but they only began to demand the same after the centre had announced the process of decentralisation of vaccine procurement. Alt News cites a letter written by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on May 8 to claim that his request to decentralise the vaccine procurement came only after the centre had announced the decentralised plan.
CM Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray wrote to the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi regarding the supply of vaccination, technical glitches on the CoWin App & developing a state-level app for citizens’ vaccination registration. pic.twitter.com/oMOX7kfdrA— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) May 8, 2021
In the letter, Thackeray had written stating, “The State of Maharashtra is willing to procure the requisite stock of vaccines in a single procurement if possible, so as to safeguard our citizens and to give a boost to India’s vaccination program.”
According to Alt News, the demand only came after decentralisation was announced. However, it is not entirely true.
Much before the centre eased vaccination procurement owing to pressure from states, the Maharashtra government had already decided to import vaccines from other countries and had allocated funds to other departments to procure vaccines directly to Maharashtra.
On April 20, 2021, right after the centre had announced its plans for decentralisation of vaccine procurement, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that the state was planning to directly bid for Sputnik V, Pfizer and Moderna if they are available. On April 19, 2021 a meeting chaired by Modi decided to allow vaccination for all above the age of 18 from May 1.
“We have decided to cut the expenses of all the departments and divert the funds for vaccine procurement. We will not limit our plans only to the two vaccines that are manufactured in the country (Covishield and Covaxin),” he had said.
Yet again, Alt News conveniently ignores these details to claim that states ruled by opposition parties never insisted on decentralisation of vaccine procurement and instead indulges in peddling misinformation in the name of ‘fact-checking’.
Alt News comes to the rescue of the Congress party
Alt News, which has a rich history of peddling misinformation on behalf of the Congress party, was quick to come to the rescue of the grand old party. In its alleged fact-check, Alt News claimed that it looked at the demands made by the states and found out that none of the states/ UTs demanded that they should be allowed to purchase vaccines.
According to Alt News, the states governed by opposition parties had criticised the centre’s decision within days of the PM announcing the decentralisation of procurement. However, Alt News fails to provide any source as it makes such wild claims.
Further, Alt News claims that neither the Congress party nor the state governments led by the Congress party had demanded the decentralisation of vaccine procurement.
However, P Chidambaram, who recently got caught peddling lies on decentralisation of vaccine procurement just like Alt News and was made to apologise for his lies.
Alt News also tries to mislead the public on the letter written by Gandhi-scion Rahul Gandhi demanding a greater say for states in the procurement of vaccines.
Rahul Gandhi said in the letter, “Centralization and individualized propaganda are counter-productive. Even though Public Health is a state subject, our states have been bypassed right from vaccine procurement to registration.” Consequently, he demanded, “Give State governments a greater say in vaccine procurement and distribution.”
However, for Alt News, which spends a considerable amount of its time on whitewashing the misinformation peddled by the Congress party and its ecosystem, Rahul Gandhi only demanded “greater say in procurement”, which did not mean state purchase. Further, Alt News claims that Gandhi’s statement is open to interpretation as he merely said that state governments should have a “say” without implying that they should purchase vaccines.
For Alt News, both Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi do not represent any state and hence their push for decentralisation of vaccines should not be considered as serious suggestions.
Alt News also tries to bury Congress leader Anand Sharma’s open call for decentralisation of vaccines by saying he is not part of any government in any state. On April 16, Anand Sharma had said that state governments must immediately be allowed to enter into contracts to procure vaccines.
For Alt News, MK Stalin is not an opposition leader:
Alt News also conveniently ignores MK Stalin’s letter to PM on April 18 demanding to lift restrictions on direct procurement. Even though he was not an elected Chief Minister when he wrote the letter to PM Modi, the chief of DMK who eventually became the CM a month later, had said that it was equally important to allow independent procurement of drugs, vaccines and medical equipment by the state governments.
Perhaps, Alt News thinks DMK is not a legitimate opposition party and its constant effort to pressurise the centre to decentralise vaccine procurement is not a reality for the alleged fact-checkers.
In its hurry to peddle misinformation against the Modi government on its vaccine policy, Alt News selectively puts up facts to claim that the opposition party-ruled states had never demanded the centre to decentralise the entire process of vaccine procurement. However, the above facts presented speak for themselves and highlight how Alt News has yet again a done a terrible job in whitewashing the mismanagement by the state governments in handling the vaccine procurement in the country.
Instead of questioning the state government on their constant flip-flop, Alt News yet again comes up with a lousy fact-check to blame PM Modi for speaking untruth about the state government’s decentralised vaccine policy. In fact, Alt News, just like it did in the “Congress toolkit” controversy, has ended up exposing the constant u-turns that state governments, especially opposition-ruled states, took when it comes to deciding on the procurement and distribution of vaccines in their respective states.