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Chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday demanding that the covid vaccine be provided to the state on priority basis and that it be made available free of cost to the people of the state (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)
Chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday demanding that the covid vaccine be provided to the state on priority basis and that it be made available free of cost to the people of the state (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

Demand for free covid-19 vaccine likely to be raised at all-party meet on Friday

  • The demand for free vaccine has arisen from several states including Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Maharashtra

There is a growing demand from both Congress-ruled and non-NDA (National Democratic Alliance) states for the covid vaccine to be made available to people free of cost. It is also likely to arise during the all-party meeting on Friday which is being convened to discuss the covid-19 situation in the country. The meeting is to be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Chhattisgarh is the latest state to come up with such a demand. The chief minister of that state, Bhupesh Baghel, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday demanding that the vaccine be provided to Chhattisgarh on priority basis and that it be made available free of cost to the people of the state.

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“Chhattisgarh is completely ready to implement the covid-19 vaccination programme. I urge you that for this Chhattisgarh, a tribal dominated state, should be given priority for being included in the first phase and vaccine should be made available for free," Baghel said in the letter. “I am confident that you will consider my request of providing free and priority access to vaccines for Chhattisgarh," he added.

To further pressure the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government, senior leaders of Shiv Sena and Congress from Maharashtra have also demanded that the vaccine be made available to the people of the state free of cost. Members of the alliance government in Maharashtra have demanded that while the BJP has promised free covid-19 vaccine in Bihar as an election issue, the Union government should make similar promises in Maharashtra.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi also took a dig at the vaccine promise on Thursday. “PM-Everyone will get vaccine. BJP in Bihar elections-Everyone in Bihar will get free vaccine. Now, GOI-Never said everyone will get vaccine. Exactly what does the PM stand by?" he posted on Twitter.

Another state that has already seen demands being raised for free covid-19 vaccine, is Telangana. Senior leaders of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) have urged the Union government to provide covid-19 vaccine to Hyderabad on priority basis and also free of cost.

“The covid-19 vaccines should be made available to the people of Hyderabad and Telangana. PM Modi came to Hyderabad to witness the progress of vaccines, so now the Union government must make the announcement. The state government and senior ministers have also made similar demands," said a senior leader of TRS.

While the ruling BJP promised free covid-19 vaccines to the people of Bihar in the recently concluded assembly elections in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Assam governments have also announced that they would provide covid-19 vaccines free of cost.

Earlier Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami had said his government will provide covid-19 vaccine to all people of the state free of cost, once it is ready for usage and distribution.

Opposition parties in BJP-ruled states, too, have stepped up the pressure by demanding that the state governments should ensure that free vaccine is provided to the people. While Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav has said that chief minister Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government must ensure free vaccine in state’s interest, former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah had said that the southern state should also ensure free vaccine.

“The government should not play with the lives of the people and increase the investigation of corona and bring out the true figures. The BJP government of Uttar Pradesh should promise free vaccination in the state's interest and immediately get ready in advance by making a task force. BJP government should ensure that Corona vaccination will not be a victim of corruption," Yadav had tweeted last week.

According to senior leaders aware of developments, the provision of free vaccines to people could be one of the most significant issues on the table at all-party meeting on Friday. This is the second such meeting that has been called on the issue of covid-19 pandemic this year, besides the several rounds of virtual meetings that Modi has held with chief ministers.

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