Punjab Health Minister BS Sidhu on Friday responded to accusations the state's Congress government has been "diverting" Covid vaccines to private hospitals at "hefty margins".
Mr Sidhu told news agency ANI his department does not have "control over vaccines" and also promised an investigation into the claim, with an initial report due this afternoon.
"I don't have control over vaccines. I just look over treatment, testing, sampling of COVID-19 and vaccination camps. We will definitely set an inquiry... I myself can enquire...," Mr Sidhu said.
The Amarinder Singh government - dealing with a possible revolt ahead of next year's election - found itself at the centre of a storm Thursday after Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal said it had re-sold 40,000 doses of Covaxin at "hefty margins".
Mr Badal said the doses had been purchased at Rs 400 per dose and sold to private hospitals for Rs 1,060 per dose - a "profit" of Rs 660 per dose. The hospitals sold it at Rs 1,560 per dose.
.@Akali_Dal_ demands a high court probe into diversion of vaccines to private players at hefty margins to create artificial shortage. Vaccines procured @ Rs 400 /dose sold to private hosp for Rs 1060 and are available to common man at Rs 1560. This is a scam @drharshvardhan.1/4 pic.twitter.com/g8QGqAimcG— Sukhbir Singh Badal (@officeofssbadal) June 3, 2021
"This amounts to a cost of Rs 6,000 to Rs 9,000 per family for a single (round of) dose," he said. Mr Badal claimed that in Mohali 35,000 doses were sold for "a profit" of nearly Rs 2 crore in a day.
He slammed the actions of an "immoral" Congress government, calling for a High Court-monitored probe and a case against Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu.
It is immoral for Punjab govt to profit from sale of #COVIDVaccines. People being punished during a time of economic slowdown. Cong govt has abdicated its resp towards public welfare by corporatizing vaccine distribution. The entire #COVID management exercise stands exposed. 4/4 pic.twitter.com/XJ3ZtFneHu— Sukhbir Singh Badal (@officeofssbadal) June 3, 2021
The BJP - fiercely criticised by the Congress over the national coronavirus vaccination policy - also hit out, with Union Minister Prakash Javadekar leading the charge this afternoon.
"Rahul Gandhi should first look after his state rather than giving lectures to others. Punjab has been provided with more than 1.40 lakh doses of Covaxin at Rs 400 and they've given it to 20 private hospitals at Rs 1000," he said.
Rahul Gandhi should first look after his (Congress) state rather than giving lectures to others. Punjab govt has been provided more than 1.40 lakh doses of Covaxin at Rs 400 & they've given it to 20 private hospitals at Rs 1000: Union Minister Prakash Javadekar pic.twitter.com/a2y5vmNjlh— ANI (@ANI) June 4, 2021
On Thursday junior Finance Minister Anurag Thakur also slammed the Punjab government; according to ANI he said they were showing a "callous attitude towards the people".
"Why should an individual pay over Rs 3,120 for two doses when the centre is providing free vaccines to the state?" he asked accusing them of being "hand in glove with private hospitals".
"They are creating a false narrative about vaccine scarcity..." he added.
Punjab is among several states to have red-flagged low vaccine stocks over the past few weeks, as the country battles a devastating second wave of Covid infections and deaths.
Vaccine supplies have become a subject of heated dispute between the centre and several states, after many frequently suspended vaccination over the past few months citing a lack of doses.
The centre has said it will vaccinate the whole country by the end of December, but the Supreme Court this week asked several tough questions about how it plans to achieve that target.
Among those questions were some on the centre's differential pricing policy, which the Congress, in April, slammed as "vaccine profiteering" on the part of the centre.
With input from ANI, PTI