Adverse ground reports, about people getting disillusioned with Centre’s handling of the second Coronavirus wave, have forced the BJP to change tacks and start shifting the blame to the states.
The Narendra Modi-led government is increasingly being questioned for mismanagement of Covid-19 related measures. While the Prime Minister went on television to address the nation to assure that all is under control, the speech failed to convince thousands of pandemic-hit patients and families, who are seeing the healthcare infrastructure crumbling around them.
Life-saving medicines like Remdesivir are out-of-stock, oxygen is not available for critical patients, and neither are beds. There are heart-rending reports of patients being turned away from hospitals and dying on the roads. There is a severe shortage of vaccines even as the government has announced that all above 18 years are eligible to take the jab after May 1. However, the question on everyone’s mind is that on what basis is the government taking all decisions?
With the impotent rage and frustration of affected families directed towards the government, the BJP has decided to deflect the anger towards the states to ensure there is no adverse political fallout.
Also, the party office bearers have been told to monitor the ‘Seva hi Sangathan-2’ programme, launched on instructions of BJP President J.P. Nadda. The general secretaries in-charge of different states have been tasked to keep a regular check on the work being done on the ground.
One of them concedes that the situation on the ground is extremely distressing. “The PM’s speech has, in fact, put us under more pressure. People are approaching us for help and we are helpless. The local hospitals and Covid-19 centres are helping as much as possible but the demand for beds, oxygen and medicines is far higher than the supply,” says a party general secretary, who has been given charge of two states.
He believes putting some responsibility on the states may help BJP save some political dividend. “States were asking for freedom to decide on their own vaccination policy; now they have it,” he says.
The first such big move by the Centre has been to allow half the Covid-19 vaccines to go to the states directly through the open market, instead of centralised distribution as was being done till now. The states – already reeling under financial pressure — will have to fend for themselves and be forced to buy vaccines at a higher price. Serum Institute of India (SII) has already announced that it will supply Covishield to the states at the price of Rs 400 per dose and Rs 600 per dose to private hospitals. The company has been supplying the vaccine at Rs 150 per dose to the Centre.
The differential pricing policy has already created confusion within the states. “Who will decide which state will get how many doses from within the 50 per cent? The Centre is just trying to abdicate responsibility in face of its failure, and create more problems for the states and in the process,” says a health minister of the opposition-run state.
These sure are dystopian times when BJP-led Haryana government’s health minister Anil Vij has to order police protection for tankers carrying oxygen after he complains that the Delhi government looted one of their tankers. And hundreds of doses of Covid-19 vaccine were reported stolen from Jind Civil Hospital in Haryana, where the thief left the Rs 50,000 in cash untouched.