Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday hit out at "bloody" state governments for not doing enough to contain the spread of the H1N1 virus, causing incensed state ministers to castigate him for his "unparliamentary language".
"Bloody, hum yahan par 20-24 ghante kaam karte hai aur aap aish karte ho (Bloody, we are working 20 to 24 hours. And you people are enjoying yourselves)," Azad said at a meeting of state health ministers in New Delhi.
Stunned silence followed the outburst, but Azad was unfazed and continued to scold the gathering.
"You must wake up. Hum teen mahiney se aap ko jhel rahe hai (For the past three months, we are tolerating you people)," said the health minister after completing his written speech.
"In fact, you should chase me rather than I chasing you. There is a limit to everything."
When told that his language had angered some minister, Azad said: "It is between us."
Reacting angrily to Azad's remark, Gujarat Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas said: "This is the wrong language and not befitting a union minister. He is behaving like a headmaster and this is not the procedure in a federal system."
"We all know that there is a pandemic in the country. And the state and Centre must cooperate...'Bloody' is an unparliamentary word. This is not fair on his (Azad) part," Vyas, who came out of the meeting hall after the health minister's address, told reporters.
Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Anup Mishra said, "The Central and state governments must cooperate. The language was not right. I believe controlling the pandemic is a joint responsibility. No one can shift the blame."
Azad also blamed the state governments for not giving due attention to health.
"Some states are doing good but majority of states have not done well (on controlling swine flu). Health is a state matter, and so each state is duty bound to protect the lives of their people," Azad said.
He said states must shed their lethargy and do everything to control and contain the spread of the virus.
"I would request the state governments to spend more to improve the healthcare sector, but I am afraid if they are chickening out. Whatever I provide will not benefit much."
Currently, India spends 1.41 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health but more efforts are required on the parts of central and state government to mobilise resources.
Azad also announced that the government has given permission to 20 private laboratories to conduct swine flu tests and reiterated that there was no need to panic as the spread of the virus was being controlled.
So far, India has reported over 2,400 H1NI positive cases of which at least 36 have died.
"We have increased government testing laboratories from 18 to 23 and have also allowed 20 private laboratories to conduct the swine flu test," the health minister said.
Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi said the government was open to have more testing labs, provided they have infrastructure and quality. "More the merrier. But there will be no compromise on quality."