Soon after the Centre pulled up the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government of selling Covaxin doses at over and above the prices they were procured from the Centre triggering allegations of 'vaccine profiteering', the order was withdrawn by the state government.
The Punjab government has now withdrawn the stock of controversial vaccines supplied to private hospitals. Principal Secretary Hussan Lal said that the government had supplied 40,000 doses and only less than 1,000 were administered by the private hospitals. “We have taken back the remaining stock,” he said.
Leading the charge for the Centre earlier was Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar who alleged that the state profiteered on Covaxin shots by getting them for Rs 400 a dose from the Centre and selling it to 20 private hospitals at Rs 1,060 a dose.
The state government has also taken back the order of providing one-time limited vaccine doses to the 18-44 years age group population through private hospitals. It has directed all private hospitals to return all vaccine doses available with them.
"A strange kind of politics is playing out in Punjab. The state continues to be affected by Covid. Covid management leaves much to be desired. The required level of government involvement needed for Covid testing is also not there in Punjab,” Javadekar said.
He added that internal factionalism has been bogging down the Congress government in Punjab for about six months. “The entire party and the government have been camping in Delhi for the past four days. So who will care about the people? Disregard of the people at the altar of internal party politics is a big sin of the Congress," Javadekar said.
"What kind of people's governance is this where the state government wants to make profits on a vaccination drive for Covid? And Punjab is charging people Rs 1,500. Government of India has given free 22 crore doses to states till now," he said.
Javadekar said Punjab was among the states that first sought decentralisation of procurement of vaccines and now wanted centralisation.
"They change their stand every day. Punjab government should urgently address people's concerns. This is the principal urge of the people of the state," the union minister added.
Stung by these allegations, the state government has deflected the onus onto the bureaucrats and ordered a probe. State health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that his department does not deal with vaccine procurement or distribution.
“It is under Chief Secretary or Covid Vaccine Nodal Officer Vikas Garg. The health department only tests the quality of vaccine and then administers to public,'' he said, adding that after the reports, he had already ordered an inquiry into the matter and that responsibility should be fixed.