Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday questioned the Centre's decision to let private hospitals charge people for the COVID-19 vaccine in phase-II of the immunisation drive that began on Monday.
Last week, the government had announced that people above the age of 60 and those over 45 years suffering from co-morbidities can avail of the vaccine for free at government facilities and for Rs 250 at private hospitals.
According to a statement issued by his office, Chavan said in phase-I of the drive, the Union government had procured 1.65 crore doses of the vaccine at a cost of Rs 210 per dose.
As per the February 1 budget speech delivered by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Rs 35,000 crore had been earmarked for the vaccination drive, the former Maharashtra chief minister said.
In this amount, at the cost of Rs 210 per dose, more than 1.5 billion doses can be procured and 75 crore people can be inoculated twice, covering almost the entire adult population of the country, he said.
"If budgetary provisions have been made, why charge common people (at private hospitals)?" the statement quoted Chavan as saying.
The former Union minister further pointed out that countries including the US, UK and Canada were providing free vaccines to their citizens either through insurance schemes or by budgetary provisions.
"I demand that all beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (Ayushman Bharat) be given free COVID-19 vaccines," Chavan said.
Despite lofty budgetary announcements and India being the largest supplier of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Modi government is digging into the common man's pocket, Chavan alleged