Union Minister Pratap Sarangi on Sunday said that all citizens of the country will be given free COVID-19 vaccine, amidst the demand for it by opposition parties across the country and not just in poll-bound Bihar, as announced by the BJP.
The BJP’s announcement of free COVID vaccine for Bihar, where assembly polls begin this week, had stirred a controversy, with the opposition parties tearing into the NDA government, alleging that the ruling party was using the pandemic for political reasons.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the announcement was in order as it was an election manifesto announcement.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that all citizens will be provided the vaccine free of cost. An estimated ₹500 will be spent on the vaccination of each person, Mr Sarangi told reporters after addressing a campaign meeting for the November 3 assembly by-poll in Balasore.
PM Modi had, in a televised adddress to the nation on October 20, said that Indian scientists are in the process of developing several vaccines that are at different stages of clinical trials and the results seem encouraging.
Mr Sarangi, who is the Union Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Dairy, Fisheries and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, spoke in reply to a question raised by Odisha Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister, RP Swain.
Mr Swain had earlier in the day sought clarification from Dharmendra Pradhan and Sarangi, the two union ministers from Odisha, questioning them for their silence on their party, the BJP’s stand on free COVID-19 vaccination for the people of the state, along the lines of the one being promised in Bihar.
The governments of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Puducherry have already announced free-of-cost COVID vaccines for citizens of their states, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has demanded free vaccine for all citizens across the country.
Mr Swain had tweeted, “I am asking questions to two Odisha union ministers from Balasore soil to clarify as to why the people of the state will not get free-of-cost COVID vaccine. The union ministers should clarify BJP’s stand on the corona vaccination in Odisha.”
On the state governments’ steps for vaccination, Mr Swain said it has signed an agreement with a vaccine manufacturer and is committed to extend the facility to everyone in the state.
He, however, did not say whether the state government will provide the vaccine to the people free-of-cost.
Meanwhile, Bishnu Charan Sethi, BJP deputy leader in the Odisha Assembly, said the Centre has been supporting Odisha fully during the pandemic and has granted ₹22,000 crore for the purpose.
“But large-scale lapses have been detected in the utilisation of the fund,” he alleged.