As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect people across India, Prime Minister Modi will be holding a virtual all-party meeting on Friday morning. This is the second all-party meeting called by the Central government to discuss the COVID-19 situation since the outbreak of the pandemic, and floor leaders of all parties from both Houses of Parliament have been called.
Ahead of the meeting, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter with a jibe at the Prime Minister over a recent controversy that has erupted. "In today's all-party meeting, we hope the PM clarifies by when will every Indian get free COVID-19 vaccine," he wrote. This incidentally is the latest of several posts along the same lines.
In recent days, there seems to be some confusion about how the vaccination process would be carried out. While officials had earlier said that every Indian would get the COVID-19 vaccine free of cost, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan recently made it clear that there was never a plan to inoculating the entire population of India.
"I just want to make this clear that the government has never spoken about vaccinating the entire country. It's important that we discuss such scientific issues, based on factual information only and then analyse it," said Bhushan. Responding to a question, Bhargava said the purpose of the COVID vaccine drive would be to break the chain of virus transmission.
This has prompted a flurry of comments from Opposition leaders and critics, who took to social media reminding that Union Ministers had, over the last few months, indicated on multiple occasions that all Indians would get free vaccines.
The BJP poll manifesto for Bihar Assembly Elections was released by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and included a promise of free vaccines for all in the state. As this sparked outrage in some quarters, Union Minister Pratap Sarangi had, on October 25, assured that all Indians would be given free COVID-19 vaccines.
The top brass of the government including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan are expected to attend the meeting. Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi and minister of state Arjun Ram Meghwal will also be in attendance.
The meeting is being held at a time when it is being contemplated to merge the winter session of parliament with the budget session in wake of rising COVID-19 cases in the national capital. The meeting also assumes significance as it is being held after Modi's visit to pharmaceutical companies in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune to review coronavirus vaccine development work there.
(With inputs from agencies)