Citizens who can afford it should pay for the vaccine: Shivraj Chouhan
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has claimed that the proposed law in the state against the so-called “love jihad” — he did not use the term directly but alluded to it as being popularly prevalent now — is akin to a “Beti Bachao Andolan”, a campaign that sought to prevent female foeticide.
Speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, the CM — who took over the seat of power in Bhopal for the fourth time earlier this year — said: “Many things have opened our eyes. A mother came to me and said how her 14-year-old daughter was misled and taken away. Our police found her in Noorganj near the Nepal border... There are many such cases where women and girls have been subjected to coercion, allurement, deception and fraud. I have set up a team to investigate how many of our daughters have been taken away like this and pushed to a life of hell.”
“We need a strong law with strong punishment to protect the lives of our daughters and send a message to those who engage in this to fear the law...This is actually a beti bachao andolan,” he said. Asked about how this went against the principle of allowing women to exercise their agency, he said there are no objections if it is done willingly.
Opposition leaders and legal scholars have criticised the proposed legislation — Uttar Pradesh has already passed a similar law and cases under it are being registered — for violating personal liberty and deepening religious divisions.
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill hit back, saying: “When unemployment is at 45-year high, one in three MSME is closing down, China has illegally crossed Line of Actual Control and farmers are sitting in protest, the BJP instead of working hard on solutions is busy drafting laws to prevent “love jihad”... In 1954, the Congress enacted the Special Marriage Act providing for marriage between two adults irrespective of caste and religion. And in 2020, the BJP is introducing laws to prohibit interfaith marriage to fulfil 1950 dream of the RSS of demolishing the Constitution, chaining freedom and crushing women rights.”
On the pricing of vaccines to battle Covid-19, the CM said while the government should provide vaccines to the poor and the disadvantaged, those who were capable of purchasing it should do so. This is one of the first indications from a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister on the pricing strategy that is being contemplated for vaccine distribution. “But money is not important here. It is priority. The elderly, those with co-morbidities, and our frontline workers need to get it first. I will appeal to young and healthy people to come ahead and say that they don’t need the vaccine first.”
The CM also spoke extensively about the farm laws and claimed the new legislation gave choices to farmers to sell to private producers and earn a higher income even as the mandi system would remain intact. “Let there be competition...I also want to say that the minimum support prices will not be removed, will not be removed, will not be removed.” He claimed that most farmers were supportive of the law, this issue had been extensively discussed and debated in the past too, and that it was not through “obstinacy” but dialogue and discussion that all problems could be resolved.
Listing out the state’s priorities under the theme of Aatmanirbhar Madhya Pradesh — inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat — the CM said the four core areas his government will focus on include infrastructure, health and education, good governance, economy and employment.
Chouhan also spoke about his personal experience of dealing with Covid-19. He claimed that when he took oath on March 23, he headed straight to the secretariat and asked about preparations to deal with Covid-19. “I don’t want to blame but there had been no serious meeting on the issue, no systems in place, no labs, no personal protective equipments, and no dedicated hospitals and trained staff.” Since his cabinet hadn’t taken oath then, and he was in charge of both the home and health portfolios too, Chouhan described himself as a “single man army” — and spoke about the improvements in each element of the health infrastructure over time to equip the state.
Responding to whether the Kamal Nath government had indeed made no preparations, state Congress spokesperson Bhupendra Gupta said, “In March, there were just two laboratories at AIIMS, Bhopal and ICMR-National Institute for Research on Tribal Health, Jabalpur. The third laboratory was introduced by the then Kamal Nath government at Gandhi Medical College, Bhopal. The BJP government only permitted private laboratories to conduct the test and did nothing else. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has no right to blame the then Kamal Nath government particularly when he said in March that there was no Covid in the state. During bypolls, BJP leaders made mockery of Covid protocols by holding meetings.”
In July, Chouhan tested positive for Covid-19 and released a video message asking people to not hide their positive status and seek immediate treatment.