NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the new COVID-19 vaccine policy, terming it as arbitrary and discriminatory and urged him to intervene immediately to reverse it.
Why is the government allowing a policy that reeks of such "insensitivity", she said in the letter to the prime minister.
The Congress chief alleged that the new vaccine policy implies that the central government has abdicated its responsibility of providing free vaccine to all Indians between 18 and 45 years of age.
"This is complete abandonment of the Government's responsibility towards our youth," she said.
Noting that any reasonable person will agree on the benefit of a uniform price for vaccination, she said, "I would urge you to intervene immediately and reverse this ill-considered decision."
She said the nation's goal must be to ensure that everyone over 18 years is given the vaccine, regardless of their economic circumstances.
Gandhi said she is writing to him to convey the deep concern and sense of anguish that the new COVID-19 vaccination policy has caused amongst the people.
"It is surprising that despite the harsh lessons of last year and the pain inflicted on our citizens, the Government continues to follow an arbitrary and discriminatory policy, which promises to exacerbate existing challenges," she said in her letter.
The Congress president claimed that as a consequence of this policy, vaccine manufacturer - Serum Institute of India has announced a differential pricing mechanism - Rs 150 per dose for the Central Government, Rs 400 per dose for State Government and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals.
This means that citizens will be compelled to pay these high rates to be vaccinated, she alleged, adding that this will also bleed the finances of state governments.
"This begs the question, how can the same vaccine manufactured by the same company have three different prices? There is no rationale or justification that allows for such arbitrary distinction," she said.
"In these unprecedented times, how can the Government of India permit such brazen profiteering from people's misery? At a time when medical resources are scarce, hospital beds are unavailable, oxygen supply and availability of essential medicine is dwindling rapidly, why is your Government allowing a policy that reeks of such insensitivity.
"Even with regards to the fifty percent quota for vaccination available with the Central Government, the allocation must be transparent and equitable, in line with the spirit of cooperative federalism," Gandhi said.
The Centre on Monday announced a liberalised vaccine policy, making all adults above 18 years of age eligible for getting vaccination from May 1.
The Serum Institute of India on Wednesday announced a price of Rs 400 per dose for its COVID-19 vaccine 'Covishield' for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals.