Punjab: SAD seeks dismissal of Health Minister Balbir Sidhu

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Chandigarh, Jun 7 (PTI) SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Monday asked Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to immediately dismiss Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu over the 'diversion' of coronavirus vaccine to private hospitals.

He said if Sidhu is not dismissed by June 15, the SAD will gherao the chief minister's residence.

The opposition SAD on Monday staged a sit-in outside the residence of Sidhu in Mohali.

Meanwhile, Sidhu lashed out at the SAD and the AAP for their “theatrics” and asked them to stage their dharnas outside the residence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “discriminating” against Punjab.

The Shiromani Akali Dal chief accused the Congress-led government of 'making money' by selling vaccines to private hospitals.

On the one hand people are dying of COVID-19 and on the other, the Congress government is busy 'making money' by selling vaccines, he charged.

The SAD president said, “We will continue to strive to ensure justice to the people of Punjab in the vaccine scam in which instead of giving free vaccines to the people, the Congress government sold vaccines at a hefty profit to private institutions and also allowed the latter to fleece the people further.' 'This amounts to playing with lives and is reprehensible. Balbir Sidhu is directly responsible for this corrupt act and in case he is not dismissed we will also approach the Governor as well as the courts for justice,' he said.

The Punjab government had last week asked private hospitals to return all vaccine stock meant for the 18-44 age group, following criticism.

Badal also targeted the chief minister and said he was not bothered about the plight of people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the chief minister was apprised of overcharging by private hospitals from Covid patients and 'black marketing' of medicines and injections, but he had done nothing to prevent this.

Badal, while further castigating the chief minister said, “A soldier always puts his life at stake in the battle field and does not hide at home like Amarinder Singh.' He said Punjabis were shocked that the CM was not ready to spend a single rupee on purchase of medicines even though he was spending Rs 150 crore on advertisements to earn self-publicity.

'The CM was directly responsible for the death of 15,000 people during the Covid pandemic in Punjab,' the SAD leader said.

In a statement here, the health minister dared the opposition parties, “If you have guts and courage, better 'gherao' the Prime Minister's house and not waste my and your time here.” Referring to the 'dharnas' of the SAD and the AAP, Sidhu said the two parties were “fighting a battle for survival” and were desperately competing to outdo each other.

He said both the parties have lost their relevance in the state.

The Aam Aadmi Party had held a protest against Sidhu on Sunday.

On the issue of supplying vaccines to private hospitals, the minister said it was a government decision taken in good faith to make vaccines available and accessible to all those who needed it and could afford it but were not fulfilling the eligibility criteria according to the government of India norms, particularly thousands of students who needed to go abroad but could not go as they were not vaccinated.

Several senior SAD leaders, including Prem Singh Chandumajra, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, N K Sharma and Daljit Singh Cheema, were present at the 'dharna' outside the health minister's residence that continued for more than two hours.

Some leaders of the SAD youth wing also held a protest near the official residence of Sidhu in Chandigarh.

Opposition parties have been attacking the Amarinder Singh-led government for allegedly diverting COVID-19 vaccine to private hospitals. PTI CHS VSD SMN SMN