Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday (7 April) released a strongly worded statement against Uddhav Thackeray led Maharashtra government for its mismanagement in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Vardhan states that in recent days he has been seeing a number of "irresponsible statements" from some state government functionaries which have the potential to mislead the public and spread panic.
He adds that he is alarmed that many states have failed to take appropriate response measures to combat the fresh wave of Covid-19 cases.
Dr Vardhan expressed deep concerns on a section of political leaders calling for vaccination to be opened up for everyone above the age of 18.
The Health Minister said:
"When states ask to open up vaccine supplies to everyone over 18, we must presume that they have done saturation coverage of healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens. But the facts are altogether different.
Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41 per cent of healthcare workers with second dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 41 per cent and 27 per cent. There are 12 Indian states/UTs that have done more than 60 per cent.
When it comes to senior citizens, Maharashtra has vaccinated just 25 per cent, Delhi has vaccinated 30 per cent and Punjab has vaccinated only 13 per cent. There are 4 states/UTs that have already vaccinated more than 50 per cent".
"Doesn’t it seem evident that these states are trying to divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goal-posts? Politicising such a public health issue is a damning indictment of certain political leaders who should know better."
Dr Vardhan went on to blast the Maharashtra government for Covid-19 mismanagement:
I have seen statements made by public representatives in Maharashtra about shortage of vaccines. This is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic.
The inability of Maharashtra government to act responsibly is beyond comprehension. To spread panic among the people is to compound the folly further. Vaccine supplies are being monitored on a real-time basis, and State governments are being apprised regularly about it. Allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless.
Throughout the last year, as the Health Minister of India, I have been a witness to the mis-governance and utter casual approach of Maharashtra Government in battling the virus. The lackadaisical attitude of the state government has singularly bogged down the entire country’s efforts to fight the virus.
We, in the central government, have regularly counselled the Maharashtra state government, made them available all resources and sent central teams for help. However, the lack of efforts of the part of the state government is now clearly visible and come to haunt us all.
Today, Maharashtra not only has the highest cases and deaths in the country but also has one of the highest test positivity rates in the world! Their testing is not up to the mark and their contact tracing leaves a lot to be desired.
The performance of Maharashtra government in terms of vaccinating healthcare workers and front-line workers is also not great. It is shocking to see how the state Government is putting Maharashtrians in danger by letting people escape institutional quarantine mandate for the sake of their personal Vasuli. Overall, as the state has lurched from one crisis to another, it seems as if the state leadership is happily sleeping at the wheels.
Maharashtra Government needs to do a lot more to control the pandemic and the Central Government will help them in all possible ways. But focusing all their energies on playing politics and spreading lies to create panic is not going to help the people of Maharashtra.
The Health Minister went on to criticise the Chhattisgarh government for comments purportedly intended to spread panic over vaccination:
Similarly, we have seen regular comments by leaders from Chhattisgarh that are intended to spread misinformation and panic on vaccination. I would like to humbly state that it would be better if the state government focuses its energies on ramping up their health infrastructure rather than on petty politicking.
The state Government in fact refused to use Covaxin despite it being given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Drug Controller of India. Not only this, by its actions, the leaders of the state government have the dubious distinction of being perhaps the only government in the word to have incited vaccine hesitancy.
I am constrained to speak out now because my silence should not be misconstrued for weakness. Playing politics is easy, but improving governance and health infrastructure is the real test.
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