NEW DELHI: Left parties on Thursday attacked the government over the handling of the COVID-19 situation, saying it has failed to provide oxygen and beds, and termed the pandemic the worst calamity since the 1943 Bengal famine in terms of human lives lost.
They also alleged that the implementation of the inoculation drive against COVID-19 has been "callous" and the Centre is encouraging "duopoly" to let two vaccine companies earn "super profits".
India, according to Union health ministry data updated on Thursday, recorded a single-day rise of 3,79,257 cases and 3,645 fatalities.
"It (COVID-19 pandemic) is the worst calamity in terms of human lives lost since the Bengal famine of 1943 when around three million people died due to hunger, malnutrition and disease," according to an editorial in the Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) mouthpiece Peoples Democracy.
The COVID-19 death toll in the country stands at 2,04,832, the data showed.
"In the current pandemic, disregarding the grossly underestimated official tally, at least a million have died and the toll continues to mount. This figure, however, is a conservative estimate, multiplying by five, the two lakh dead officially declared," the editorial in the latest issue of the Peoples Democracy said.
"It will not require any historical research to pin the responsibility for this catastrophe on (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and his government," it said.
The editorial said that the tragedy unfolding in the country is of "epic proportions".
Registering a steady increase, the active cases in the country have increased to 30,84,814, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has further dropped to 82.10 per cent, the ministry said.
"There is the scandal of people dying because of lack of oxygen in hospitals; there is the scandal of lack of hospital beds and medicines; there is the scandal of deaths due to COVID-19 being covered up and there is the scandal of the vaccine shortage and profiteering sanctioned by the government. But the biggest scandal of all is the Modi government itself," the editorial said.
Communist Party of India general secretary D Raja said the COVID-19 situation is "out of control" because of the "failure" of the central government.
"The country is passing through an unprecedented worst health crisis since the period of the Bengal famine in 1943 where 2. 5 million people lost their lives. The present COVID-19 pandemic has already taken the lives of more than two lakh people," he said.
"The present situation is almost getting out of control due to the overall failure of the Union government. No adequate beds in hospitals, no oxygen, no medicine and scarcity of vaccines have increased the number of deaths out of proportions," Raja said.
The CPI(M)'s Peoples Democracy editorial said that in the immediate future, the vaccination drive to cover all adult citizens should be a priority.
It alleged that the government's vaccination programme is "most callous, discriminatory and iniquitous policy designed".
The party accused the Centre of abdicating its responsibility by pushing the entire burden of procuring vaccines for the 18 to 45 age group on states.
States do not have the resources to do so, it said, claiming that the government has opened the way for a "debilitating" competition among states to get hold vaccines.
The editorial also accused the government of encouraging "duopoly of the Serum Institute of India (SSI) and Bharat Biotech companies".
The Pune-based SSI manufactures Covishield, while Bharat Biotech produces Covaxin, which was jointly developed by the Hyderabad company and the Indian Institute of Medical Research.
They "have got the licence to profiteer and earn super profits at the expense of the people," the editorial said.
"The government has to immediately scrap its policy and announce a new one that is based on free and universal vaccination," it said.
The party has urged the government to use its powers under the Disaster Management Act and the Drug (Prices Control) Order, and fix the price for procuring vaccines in bulk by the Centre.
The centre then should supply vaccines to states as per a transparent formula, it said.
To accelerate vaccine production, compulsory licensing must be invoked and the production of Covaxin, research for which was publicly funded, must be assigned to the six public sector drug companies and other private concerns, the CPI-M said.
This is apart from speeding up the production of the (Russian origin) Sputnik V vaccine in India by various companies who have applied for its production.
These efforts must be supplemented by the urgent imports of vaccines from wherever they can be acquired, it said.