BJD and BJP spar over Odisha vaccine shortage
The war of words has escalated between the ruling Biju Janata Dal and the Opposition BJP over the shortage of Covid-19 vaccines in Odisha.
Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Wednesday hit out at Odisha health secretary P.K. Mohapatra for making an “unnecessary” fuss over the vaccine shortage. But the ground reality shows that inadequate supply has led to the stoppage of the vaccination drive in 11 out of 30 districts of the state.
Pradhan said: “More than 45 lakh vaccines have been released to the state out of a stock of 11 to 12 crore doses. The shortage of vaccines in Odisha is a non-issue. Every alternative day, around 2.5 lakh vaccines are reaching the state.”
“An unnecessary controversy was created over the shortage of vaccines in the state. Odisha health secretary is creating this controversy to show his importance. He is speaking the language of Rahul Gandhi. I congratulate him for that. But he should refrain from all this,” he said.
The minister urged Mohapatra, who has the rank of additional chief secretary, not to create unnecessary fuss over the issue.
“There is no dearth of vaccines in the country. In order to ensure adequate supply of the vaccines, the Centre is going to allow the use of two to three foreign-made vaccines as well. Last year we had defeated coronavirus and will do this again. We need to use masks and follow the social distancing norms,” he said.
The BJD immediately hit back and asked the Union minister not to indulge in vaccine politics.
“All are aware that the daily vaccination number has come down from 2 to 1 lakh because of the shortage of vaccines. The Odisha government is finding it tough to prepare the vaccine schedules. Was it a blunder on the part of the health secretary to bring the issue of the shortage of vaccines in the state to the notice of the Centre?” asked BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb.
Deb said at a time when the Prime Minister is asking the state to speed up the vaccination drive, shortage of vaccines had severely affected the inoculation programme.
Health secretary Mohapatra earned the wrath of the BJP leadership after he consistently highlighted the issue of vaccine shortage. He had first written a letter to the central government. Later health minister Naba Kishore Das had shot off a letter to the Centre demanding 25 lakh vaccine doses.
The issue took a political turn when chief minister Naveen Patnaik took up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week during the latter’s review meeting with chief ministers on the preparedness of the states to fight Covid-19.
Though the Centre immediately released 2.5 lakh doses of vaccines in the first batch following Naveen’s appeal, the BJP leadership did not take it kindly, sources said.
The BJP has ever since been critical of the state government for raising the issue of vaccine shortage as it is said to give bad publicity to the NDA government at the Centre.
A state government source said: “When we are not getting adequate supply of vaccines, there is no point in observing the Tika Utsav (Vaccine Mela). More than 500 vaccination centres have closed down and the vaccination programme has stopped in 11 districts. We are facing the wrath of the people.”
“The Centre should immediately release the data showing which state has received how many doses of vaccines. If it releases the list, one will easily known how much Odisha got compared to states like Gujarat. However, our wastage of vaccines is nil. For Odisha’s cause, all our leaders should get united on the issue rather than indulging in politics. Our state needs more vaccines and we should get it immediately,” said a senior functionary of the state government.
Odisha has so far received 4,808,650 doses of vaccines.