All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), part of the coalition of agitating farmers, has said that Narendra Modi government's approach towards COVID-19 vaccine policy is same as the one which resulted in the framing of the contentious farm policies, which they oppose. In both cases, the government is allowing corporate profiteering, the organisation alleges.
In a statement issued in Delhi on April 24, AIKS strongly condemned the vaccine policy of the Government of India for its total apathy towards the miseries of the people who are facing the severe danger of COVID-19 pandemic.
"This policy is essentially an effort to liberalise vaccine sales and deregulate prices, without augmenting supply. Modi government is succumbing to the market forces to make rapacious profit out of the life-saving medicines and vaccine, exposing its brutal neo-liberal mindset", Hannan Mollah, AIKS general secretary, and Ashok Dhawale, AIKS president, said in a joint statement.
AIKS alleged that the policy that drives both farm laws and vaccine pricing is bound to breed large-scale black marketeering and hoarding. "The farmers are on struggle to expose the same policy that the Modi government had brought through the amendment in the Essential Commodities Act of 1955 that deregulated and facilitates hoarding and black marketeering on essential commodities", AIKS said.
COVID-19 vaccines were distributed free of cost in the initial phase of vaccination. Later, government allowed vaccination to also happen in private centres at a pre-fixed price. In the latest round of COVID-19 vaccination phase, the new policy of the government allows companies to fix the price of vaccines in the private market. It also allows differential prices for central government supplies and state government procurement. AIKS said such a policy will "facilitate competition in the market thus helping the corporate sector to amass huge profits out of sale of vaccine. This policy will exclude an overwhelming majority of the people who cannot afford the huge price," they said.
AIKS wants Modi governmnet to publish a white paper on the cost of production of vaccine and medicines.
"The union government has failed for a year to do anything to ramp up adequate and needed vaccine supplies and now is trying to absolve from its responsibility to save the life of the people of India. AIKS demands the Prime Minister to give up the pro-corporate vaccine policy and take up the responsibility to provide vaccine, oxygen and medical support to the entire population free of cost. The union government has to ensure 100 per cent procurement of the vaccine, oxygen and medicines including Remdesivir and re-distribute to states and ensure mass vaccination programme free and universal. This has been independent India's heritage and practice," AIKS leaders stated.
They wanted the central government to declare the COVID-19 pandemic as a national calamity and ensure all the expenditure will be met through the central package by providing 20 per cent of the GDP to revive the economy from its disastrous impact. Details of the money spent from the PM CARES Fund were also sought.