Cong slams govt on COVID-19 vaccine policy, terms it 'incoherent, inefficient, ineffective'

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New Delhi, Jun 3 (PTI) Welcoming the Supreme Court's recent directions on the COVID-19 inoculation issue, the Congress on Thursday asked why the government did not take corrective measured after being pointed out the 'shortcomings' in its 'incoherent, inefficient and ineffective' vaccine policy.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said instead of admitting its 'failures and mistakes', the government responded to suggestions from his party's leaders on the vaccination drive with 'contempt and sarcasm'.

'There was insult, there was taunt, there was scorn, there was contempt, there was sarcasm, but not for one minute, did you think that had you not had these responses, India would have benefitted.

'The whole country would have suffered less and that too in respect of a person like Dr Manmohan Singh, had you taken steps on the several pointed suggestions he made,' he said at an online press conference.

The Supreme Court has directed the government to ensure 'coherence, transparency, and accountability in policies on COVID-19', Singhvi said, adding, 'In a nutshell, the government's policies on COVID-19 have been incoherent, inefficient, and ineffective.' Highlighting 'digital divide' between rural and urban India, the Supreme Court on Monday posed searching queries to the Centre on mandatory registration on CoWIN for COVID jabs, vaccine procurement policy and differential pricing, saying the policymakers 'must have ears on the ground' to effectively deal with the 'unprecedented' crisis.

On Wednesday, it asked the Centre to place on record all relevant documents and file notings reflecting its thinking culminating in the COVID-19 vaccination policy, and the purchase history of all jabs including Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V till date.

It asked the Centre to clarify how Rs 35,000 crores earmarked in the 2021-22 Budget for procuring COVID-19 vaccines have been spent so far in light of its current Liberalized Vaccination Policy and why the fund cannot be used for vaccinating persons between 18 to 44 years age group.

The top court also posed serious questions on Centre's Liberalized Vaccination Policy which enables state and Union Territories, and private hospitals to procure 50 per cent of the monthly Central Drugs Laboratory approved doses in the country at a pre-fixed price.

Singhvi, on Thursday, said, 'We, of course, roundly and wholeheartedly welcome this comprehensive order. We welcome the interventionist proceedings which will set the entire country on a path to immediate and urgent welfare.' 'But, that does not answer the crucial question. The fact that the Supreme Court is pushing with all its might during sittings on vacations doesn't answer the questions -- Why did you not plan? Why did you fail and most importantly, why did you not act when we, the opposition, pointed out the failures at least two months ago,' he said.

P Chidambaram said the vaccine policy has been declared by the SC as 'irrational and arbitrary'.

'Will no one in Government be held responsible? This is another example of the (Narendra) Modi government believing it is not answerable to Parliament or the people.' 'Salute the Supreme Court for a series of directions to the Government in its order dated June 2, 2021. The government that refused to answer questions posed by the people of the country must now answer the SC,' he said on Twitter.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attacked the government on the issue of rising unemployment in the country. Using the hashtag 'This Time Crores Unemployed', he tweeted, 'Who's responsible? Only and only Modi government!' Tagging a news article which said the Chinese military threat is not a 'border dispute' and it's time India's leaders realised this, Gandhi, in another tweet, quoted Japanese soldier and legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, 'Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy, it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.' Singhvi said the vaccination issue should not be given political colour and the government should show humility and listen to the suggestions given by the opposition in the interest of the country and its people.

'The government should do some assimilating of thoughts and ideas to make the country's response to Covid effective, especially on the economy, and not make fun of those giving suggestions,' he said.

In a veiled attack at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, 'I want to say with great humility that the hallmark of being human is to accept that you can be fallible. There is no contempt in accepting and acknowledging fallibility.' 'Indeed, such humility would have made you praiseworthy and you would have actually implemented ameliorative measures quickly.' Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, in a tweet, questioned the government's claims on vaccination number and asked where will the 12 crore doses of vaccine come in June.

In May, vaccine production capacity was 8.5 crore and total production was 7.94 crore while only 6.1 crore vaccines were administered, he said.

'In June, the government claims 12 crore vaccines will come. From where? Will the capacity of both vaccine manufacturers increase by 40 per cent? Where is the Rs 35,000 crore vaccine budget spent? Chaotic vaccine policy, confused ruler,' she posed. PTI SKC NSD NSD

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