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Stepping up pressure on the government for more clarity on the pricing of covid-19 vaccines, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel on Thursday asked the Centre to make it clear whether it will provide vaccines to states free of charge and, if not, what will be the share of the Centre and the states.

Addressing a session at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, 2020, Baghel, also a veteran Congress party leader, added that while the impact of covid-19 and lockdown was felt in different parts of the country, Chhattisgarh did not face an economic slowdown due to the pandemic.

He added that the state government took a series of steps to cushion its fallout on farmers, migrant workers and small industries.

“We are following Centre’s health department guidelines over how the vaccine will come and its distribution. Any questions over whether the vaccine will be free or not seem to be asked only to chief ministers and not to the Union ministers. Is there any indication that the Union government is not going to give the vaccine for free and the onus will be on states?" Baghel said.

“It seems the Centre is not going to spend on vaccines and is only going to issue guidelines like it has been happening till now. States like ours will do their bit; the Union government has to make it clear whether it is making vaccines available for free to states and if not what will be the share of expenditure between Centre and states. If that also will not happen then why should we follow guidelines of the Centre; are all expenses to be borne by us? We will make our own guidelines."

Baghel, who completes two years in the top post next month, added that the announcement of the nationwide lockdown was a “sudden one" that left the state government scrambling.

“There is economic slowdown in the entire country, but we ensured that it is not there in Chhattisgarh. Seven lakh workers and others came to Chhattisgarh but only 26,000 left the state when the nationwide lockdown was imposed. We reached out to businesses and told them that workers should continue to be there," Baghel said.

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