New Delhi, Jun 7 (PTI) The Congress Monday welcomed the Centre's decision to give coronavirus vaccine free to all above 18, but slammed the government for sticking to a 'flawed' vaccination policy for long which the party alleged led to 'tens of thousands of deaths'.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said had this change in the vaccination policy been brought in January, India could have avoided these deaths.
'Prime Minister's announcement on 'free vaccines for all' is a welcome change of policy. Finally a realisation of a flawed policy that led to the collapse of the national vaccination, after the govt resisted for months appeals for equitable and universal vaccination.
'This is time for honest reflection. I wish this announcement was made in January. The cost of the delay has been unbearable for India as it resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. There can be no compensation for the human suffering,' he said in a series of tweets.
'Time to start a new chapter of cooperation between center and states to make this a collective national effort to save the lives of our countrymen,' Sharma also said.
Anand Sharma is a former union minister and a prominent leader of the group of 23 who demanded the Congress overhaul.
Another prominent member of the group, Shashi Tharoor said, 'Glad that PM has done the right thing at last, after exhausting the bad alternatives.' 'If GoI had proactively placed vaccine orders a year ago& paid to expand India's capacities, the nation would have been spared the trauma of the last 6 months, AND we could've exported too,' he said.
In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre has decided to buy 75 per cent of jabs from vaccine makers, including 25 per cent of the state quota, and give it for free to state governments, while private sector hospitals can continue to procure the remaining 25 per cent.
Another Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said, 'The Prime Minister inflicted a huge cost on the people of India before accepting the Opposition's demand for centralised procurement and free vaccination for 18-44 year olds.' 'Humility and reaching out will not hurt him,' Ramesh said.
Sharma, the deputy leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha, said PM Modi took office as the leader of a proud India that had years before been recognised as the largest vaccine producer in the world by the WHO.
This has been achieved through continuous national endeavour which took decades, he said. He said there is a need to recall and remind that Indian is proud of its scientists, technologists and institutions established since independence, which included the ICMR in 1949, the National Institute of Virology in 1952, Serum Institute (1966) among others.
'India would have appreciated if the PM had graciously acknowledged the contribution and vision of founding PM Pt Nehru and the efforts of his illustrious successors Shastri ji, Indira ji, Rajiv ji, Vajpayee ji & Dr Manmohan Singh ji in establishing these institutions,' he noted.
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said the announcement of free vaccination by the Central government is victory of the Opposition and the judiciary and yet another proof of BJP Government's U-Turn policy.
“Hope there are no more misadventures and blunders up BJP's sleeve going forward with respect to vaccination,' he said.
Shergill also alleged the PM failed to answer in his “monologue” why didn’t the central government prepare for a 2nd wave of coronavirus and why were vaccines exported and why there is shortage.
'Why no apology for 'system' failure? As Usual, Accountability and answerability missing,' he said. PTI SKC TIR TIR