- Manmohan Singh's advice on Covid management drew sharp response
- Harsh Vardhan said "your party leaders shamed vaccines in public"
- Mr Singh had advised ramping up vaccination
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's advice to the centre on managing its Covid crisis drew a sharp response from Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who attacked the Congress and blamed it for fueling the second wave of the virus by raising doubts about vaccines.
"It is saddening, Dr Singh, that while you very well understand the importance of vaccination as an important method of fighting the COVID-19 battle, people in responsible positions in your party as well as in the state governments formed by your party do not seem to share your view," Harsh Vardhan said in his reply to Dr Singh's letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Tweeting his reply, he said, "History shall be kinder to you Dr Manmohan Singh ji if your offer of 'constructive cooperation' and valuable advice was followed by your (Congress) leaders as well in such extraordinary times!"
He said it was "shocking" that senior members of the Congress were "yet to utter a single word of gratitude" towards the scientist community and vaccine manufacturers for innovating under trying circumstances and empowering the world with vaccines.
History shall be kinder to you Dr Manmohan Singh ji if your offer of 'constructive cooperation' and valuable advice was followed by your @INCIndia leaders as well in such extraordinary times !— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) April 19, 2021
Here's my reply to your letter to Hon'ble PM Sh @narendramodi ji ???? @PMOIndiapic.twitter.com/IJcz3aL2mo
"Let alone thanking our scientists, many Congress members and Congress-ruled slate governments have taken extraordinary interest in spreading falsehoods regarding the efficacy or these vaccines, thereby fuelling vaccine hesitancy and playing with the lives of our countrymen. A sitting Chief Minister of your party created a dubious world record of sorts by being the only head of government directly inciting people against an indigenously developed vaccine," Dr Vardhan said.
He said some Congress leaders had even "shamed the vaccines in public" but took their doses in private.
"A word of advice from you to them even if it had been done in private by you may have ensured better cooperation from these people. Knowing your penchant for constructive cooperation, which you have said you always believed in, I would assume that you did advise them and yet, quite clearly, your advice has been in vain," the minister said.
Dr Vardhan also said "those who drafted" the former PM's letter had "misled him" on facts in public domain. "For example, take the point that you have mentioned about allowing import of vaccines that have already been approved by credible foreign authorities. You made this suggestion on April 18, but a decision on this had already been taken a week ahead of your suggestion."
Similarly, a decision had already been taken on providing funds and other concessions to vaccine-makers, he said.
"Anyway, despite such factual inaccuracies, we understand your deep concern for the country and also assure you that we share the same...As a senior leader, we expect that you shall offer the same advice and wisdom to your own party leaders as well."
Dr Singh on Sunday wrote to PM Modi suggesting five measures to battle the Covid crisis including ramping up vaccination and boosting the supply of medicines.
"The key to our fight against COVID-19 must be ramping up the vaccination effort. We must resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated, and focus instead on the percentage of the population vaccinated," said the former PM.
Noting that India currently has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population, Dr Singh said he is certain that with the right policy design, "we can do much better and very quickly".