Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal has lashed out at the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government over the pricing of Covid-19 vaccines while leaving it to the states to vaccinate people on their own.
Speaking exclusively to ANI, Mr Sibal said he was surprised that why the centre is not taking steps to cap the prices of the vaccines which are very important in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
"If you bring Covishield and Covaxin under Section 3 of the Essential Commodity Act then their prices can be controlled. It is your (government's) responsibility that those who are above 18 years of age should get the vaccine, so why don't you bring the vaccine in it (Essential Commodity Act)."
"If we bring the vaccines under the Act then it will be the responsibility of the central government to fix the price," he added.
"Another provision is that there is also Drugs and Cosmetics Act, under the National List of Essential Medicine. If the government brings the vaccine under Drug Price Control, its prices can be fixed," he said.
"Modi government can bring an ordinance for Article 370 but not for vaccines?" the senior Congress leader asked.
He further claimed that the BJP-led central government were worried about winning the Assembly elections in West Bengal and not about saving the lives of people.
"You are taking steps after people are dying due to the COVID-19 spike. There was no preparation by this government. People need oxygen but they are not getting it. People need vaccines and they are not getting it," said Mr Sibal.
The country had started the COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16 with two vaccines -- Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin (manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited). It has also approved Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for usage in India.
The centre on April 19 had announced a ''liberalised'' policy, making all above 18 years of age eligible to get vaccinated from May 1. It has also allowed state governments and private hospitals to purchase vaccines from manufacturers. Per the revised rules, the centre will receive 50 per cent of the vaccines supplied; states and private hospitals will get the remaining doses.