New Delhi, Apr 27 (PTI) Asserting that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic must be treated as a national medical emergency, senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Tuesday said the Centre must step up to the plate and not leave the states to fend for themselves as India cannot be allowed to become a 'battlefield for oxygen and Remdesivir'.
He also urged the BJP-led central government to call an all-party meeting and said that the feedback and inputs would be beneficial in the fight against the pandemic and those must be taken in a positive spirit of saving lives.
With states scrambling to arrange for essentials such as oxygen, Remdesivir injection and ventilators, Pilot said the government should have prepared formula and parameters for it, and distributed the resources accordingly in a transparent manner.
'There is different information coming out over the demand and allocation for oxygen. The Government of India should clearly set out three-four parameters -- This is the number of active COVID-19 cases, this is the positivity rate, mortality rate, these are the number of beds and this is how we will distribute the oxygen that we have,' the former Rajasthan deputy chief minister told PTI.
'States which manufacture oxygen may not need it as much as those that don't. What is happening now in some instances, is that states are inclined to fortify borders as opposed to facilitate passage of oxygen containers. This is not how things should work in a federal structure,' he asserted.
Pilot called for transparent parameters and criteria for allocation and distribution of essentials such as ventilators, oxygen and Remdesivir.
'Once this is done using an acceptable and a well-determined formula then there won't be criticism and the blame game would stop. Right now there is a knee-jerk reaction. It should be done in a scientific and transparent manner,' the former Union minister said.
Noting that India is passing through an extremely precarious phase, Pilot said the government ought to step in and control or mandate the pricing of the vaccines.
'We cannot leave it to companies to decide on the pricing of life-saving vaccines, keeping margins and profits as criteria. India cannot leave it to companies, corporations or individuals to look at investments, returns, margins and profits etc,' he said.
'As a country, we are in desperate need of vaccination. Unless two-thirds of our country is vaccinated in the next few weeks and months we will not be able to break the chain of the virus,' Pilot said.
'Everyone is of the opinion that there should be uniform pricing but I wish to go a step further - the pricing itself cannot be left just to the manufacturing companies,' he said.
If the government can put price caps on things like airfare between two cities, have MRP on so many products, then why can't they step in to decide on a fair or subsidised price of life-saving vaccines, Pilot asked.
Underlining that India is the world leader in vaccine production, Pilot said it is a tragedy to see the country scrambling to get its own citizens vaccinated.
'There is definitely a failure of a clear roadmap and in terms of adequate forward planning, logistical arrangements and not prioritising health and safety before religious and political congregations. In hindsight, allowing the export of oxygen and vaccines has proven costly,' he said.
'In the first wave everything was centralised and now the government says that health being a state subject - you decide on your own (how to arrange, pay and administer the vaccine), and on lockdowns too,' he said.
The paradox is that the government of India is controlling most of the supply and allocation of essentials such as oxygen, Remdesivir and vaccines, he said.
Having different prices for the same vaccine from the same manufacturer is an open invitation for black marketing and hoarding, he alleged.
Pilot asserted that every universal vaccination drive in the country, including against polio, has been run by the central government and the COVID-19 inoculation should also be run by the Centre without shifting the onus on states.
Talking about the suggestions made by opposition parties led by the Congress, Pilot said whether it is former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi or ex-Congress president Rahul Gandhi, their suggestions have been constructive and aimed at augmenting certain policies and priorities so that people's sufferings can be mitigated. 'Today we have to be focussed on saving lives. We cannot allow India to become a battlefield for oxygen and Remdesivir. That is unfortunately happening, we are seeing black marketing, profiteering, peddling of fake medicines, hoarding. Panic is being created because of shortage of supply,' he asserted.
The former Rajasthan Congress chief asserted that the Centre needs to step up the plate to defeat the pandemic and 'can't leave the states to fend for themselves.
'The government cannot seem to be abdicating it's a responsibility when it seems that the situation is becoming untenable,' he said.
'Rural areas are getting infected now. We have to treat this as a national medical emergency,” he said.
Urging the Centre to call an all-party meet, Pilot said it should be done with the right spirit and alleged that every time such a meeting happened in the past, the suggestions were not incorporated in the right spirit.
Pilot also hit out at the Election Commission, citing the Madras High Court's criticism of the poll panel, saying nothing more needs to be said after the court has made a telling observation. PTI ASK BJ BJ