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Mamata Bannerjee’s Vaccine Diplomacy

Mamata Bannerjee’s Vaccine Diplomacy


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Feb 24: Even as the second phase of Corona vaccination is due to begin from March 1 covering the senior citizens in the country, the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Bannerjee wants the entire population of her state to be covered before the state Assembly elections due in April-May.

In an apparent bid to make Covid vaccine an election issue, Bannerjee has sought the prime minister Narendra Modi’s help to procure enough vaccine to cover the entire state in the next couple of months. She has also announced that the vaccination in West Bengal would be carried out free of cost with the entire financial burden for the drive to be borne by the state exchequer.

Banerjee has written to the Prime Minister Stating that she felt worried for the general public to go to the polling stations without any vaccination coverage in the upcoming April-May election. The Chief Minister said the West Bengal government had decided to procure adequate number of Covid-19 vaccines and inoculate the people of the state free of cost.

In the letter, Mamata stated that her government feels it is equally important to reach out to the public with a rapid vaccination programme immediately “in the interest of health and well-being of all concerned with the election process.”

Stating that the Covid-19 inoculation programme has started off in the right earnest with health workers and other frontline workers being vaccinated first, she said it was equally important to reach out to every government and parasternal employee on an urgent basis in West Bengal to make the election safe.

Mamata further requested the PM to take up the matter with the respective authority so that the TMC government can purchase vaccines from designated places on top priority basis and, thereby, provide vaccination free of cost to all the people.

The letter to the PM comes on a day when the government announced that people above the age of 60 and those over 45 with comorbidities will be able to receive Covid-19 vaccines from March 1.

The Centre has estimated that this priority group is approximately around 27 crore strong.

The government has decided that at around 10,000 government facilities, the vaccination will be free of cost; however, at private hospitals, beneficiaries will have to pay for vaccination. The Health Ministry is expected to announce the cost at private hospitals in the next two-three days.

Last month, in an open letter, the West Bengal Chief Minister had said that her government is sending the vaccine free of cost to all people in the state.”

“The people of Bengal should get vaccines free of cost as early as possible, and the state government is willing to bear the financial burden,” she had said in a statement.

However, the BJP hit back accusing her of “wrongfully” claiming the credit with the Assembly polls due in April-May. Her announcement to cover the entire population ahead of the elections is likely to provide a major plus point in favour of her party since it is highly unlikely for the Modi government to manage the huge quantity of vaccine required to cover the entire state within the short period of just about three months.



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