Vaccination needs to be done by Centre: Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren
Even as Covid-19 cases have started declining in Jharkhand, chief minister Hemant Soren says the state can’t let its guard down as uncertainty about the nature of the pandemic remains. In a telephonic interview with Vishal Kant, the chief minister batted for better coordination between the Centre and the states. Edited excerpts:
Q) We are in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic. The numbers in Jharkhand have started falling. What is the government’s assessment? Have we crossed the peak?
A) Our experience shows there is a lot of uncertainty related to this disease. It keeps going up and down. Now there are more features coming up like black fungus. I think the numbers going down could also be a result of the restrictions we have put in place. So we cannot lower our guard. Overall social distancing, using mask are the best practice to prevent oneself from the disease besides vaccination.
Q) As you said vaccination is key to fight this disease. But it’s very slow in the state, especially in the 18-44 age group. What’s the plan ahead?
A) There is no denying the fact that there is shortage of vaccines due to supply constraints. Initially, the Centre was doing the procurement and distribution. Then they suddenly left it to the state to procure it for the 18-44 group. That has led to a chaotic situation.
States are now going for a global tender. And then there is no parity in pricing for the states and the Centre. But we are still making the best of efforts because the same people would turn around and blame the states if there is a delay in vaccination.
Q) Will Jharkhand also float a global tender?
A) Yes, its in the process. We will issue it within the next few days.
Q) But do you think that would help?
A) I am not very hopeful. Even if they do it is going to be a huge burden on states, especially poor states like us. There is no price parity. Spending hundreds of crores would be a huge burden. But we have no choice.
Q) Some other states have said the Centre should be taking over the entire vaccination programme. Do you also advocate it?
A) Absolutely. I made a similar demand from the UPA platform. And I still think so. It’s not too late. The Centre should be doing all procurement and distribution. They are allocating oxygen, medicines and equipment. Similarly, vaccination needs to be done at the national stage.
Q) Centre-state relations often become a talking point. We have seen the conflict even during the pandemic. Your tweet about the PM went viral, with the BJP hitting back. Did you mean to say that such meetings/discussions are not fruitful?
A) The basic thing is that there needs to be transparency. I tweeted about the phone call only after news started flashing on TV that he spoke to CMs. We saw the incident of Delhi CM Kejriwal. He was reminded about the protocol of the meeting. But how come what the PM speaks comes in the media. So how do we (states) share what we had to say in such meetings and about the demands of any specific state. My view was that the state governments need to be taken into confidence before taking any decision. Or else there would be problems in implementation. We have the example of what’s happening with the ventilators supplied to states.
Q) CM Mamata Banerjee raised the issue of the PM-DMs conference? You were part of it. Do you share similar views?
A) I want to clarify that I have no ego hassles to sit there with the DMs. However, such meetings are against the principles of federalism. Have we ever seen any other PM doing that kind of review meeting directly with the DMs. I totally agree that such meetings are done to humiliate us where we have nothing to speak or contribute. Will the Centre be comfortable if I start doing review meetings with the Union health secretary?