New Delhi: "Desh ki kiso bhi rajyo sarkar ko vaccine par kucch bhi kharch nahi karna hoga (No state government will henceforth have to spend any money on vaccines)," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday.
This was the return of a vintage Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister meant it in no uncertain language that he has taken charge of the entire vaccination drive in the country - which for long was marred by controversies and credit-seeking and blame giving games by some of the opposition ruled states.
States were given some liberty and flexibility to carry forward vaccination drive from their end after demands were made.
However, the experiment did not work well as the states soon realised that things were easier said than done and that no foreign manufacturer of vaccines was willing to deal with the states either.
In a special televised address to the nation, Mr Modi on Monday announced a centralized vaccine drive for all above 18 years and also said there will be a 'free ration' for 80 crore people till Diwali this year.
The Prime Minister also said private hospitals can continue to procure 25 per cent of vaccines, but their service charge has been capped at Rs 150 per dose over the fixed price of the vaccine.
"Twenty five per cent of vaccination work with states will now be handled by the Centre, it will be implemented in the coming two weeks. Both the states and the Centre will work as per new guidelines in the coming two weeks. A new guideline for centralised vaccination drive will be rolled out from June 21 and there will be free vaccines for all people above 18 years," Modi said.
Meanwhile, the government has also ordered that henceforth the Union Home Ministry will be the nodal agency for the massive vaccination drive and distribution of vaccines. The Union Home Secretary will review the entire process on a daily and hourly basis.
In the process, PM's trusted lieutenant Amit Shah has been also given the charge to handle the vaccination drive.
In his broadcast, the Prime Minister said many states demanded vaccination to be decentralised and said, "some voices even questioned prioritising certain age groups, including elderly".
However, the Prime Minister said, after the vaccination drive was de-centralised many states started demanding going back to an earlier centralised structure.
The new announcement will end all confusion on the vaccination issue and set to rest all speculation. Experts say the new announcement will make the jabs drive much faster.
He also pointed out the vaccination process had not developed according to expectations.
"If you look at the history of the last 50-60 years, it used to take India decades to get the vaccines from abroad," PM Modi said adding all vaccines will be procured by the Government of India and given to states for free.
"In coming two weeks, new guidelines will be prepared and from June 21, Monday, states will be supplied with free vaccines for every Indian above 18 years of age will be given vaccination," Modi said.
The Prime Minister said to increase vaccine availability, the process of procuring vaccines from abroad has been sped up. Experts have also expressed concerns about children. In this direction, the trial of two vaccines is underway. Research is being conducted for a nasal vaccine in the country as well, he said.
Mr Modi directed his tirade against opposition states and a section of media for raising variously related and unrelated questions on the efficacy of vaccines.
There is a very less number of vaccine manufacturers in the world compared to its demand. "Imagine what would have happened in India if we didn't have vaccines. If you look at history of last 50-60 years, you will know that it used to take decades for India to get vaccines from abroad".
He further said the new health infrastructure has been developed in the 1.5 years with COVID hospitals, ventilators beds, to preparing a network of testing labs.