Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday, a day after the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting five ways to tackle the COVID-19 second wave across India. The letter, which comes across as high on rhetoric but low on substance has some mind-numbing ideas which explain how the country went into a downward spiral under Manmohan’s stint as the PM.
Former PM Dr Manmohan Singh writes PM Narendra Modi, "The key to our fight against COVID19 must be ramping up the vaccination effort. We must resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated, and focus instead on the percentage of the population vaccinated" pic.twitter.com/OiDXnngIJ8
— ANI (@ANI) April 18, 2021
One of the major talking points of the letter is the Congress leader’s suggestion regarding foreign vaccines. Singh suggested that any vaccine that has been cleared for use by credible authorities such as European Medical Agency or the USFDA should be allowed to be imported without insisting on domestic bridging trials. Those who would opt for such vaccines should be disclosed of this fact.
Singh is from the same congress party that caused helter-skelter when Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin was released for Emergency purposes by the government while phase-3 results were yet to be announced. Despite the government giving repeated assurances that the results will be out within a month and that the vaccine was completely safe in the limited trials — Congress and its leaders ostracized the vaccine, sowed seeds of doubts amongst the public with few super-intellectuals of the party dubbing it as a BJP vaccine and refusing to take it up
Pfizer, Moderna and other western vaccines haven’t been tested on the Indian populace and with the Indian mutant virus infecting people at a much faster pace, there is all the more reason to have bridging trials to ascertain the efficacy of the vaccines.
In other words, Manmohan also wants India to import more and export less. In less than two months since vaccine diplomacy began, the Modi government has reportedly distributed nearly 66 million doses of vaccines to 91 countries. Vaccine Maitri is being seen as part of India’s soft power diplomacy, which has the potential to give New Delhi a coveted strategic space in the emerging world order.
Moreover, being a former PM, Manmohan Singh should understand that there are certain diplomatic obligations that India cannot bow out of. And two months back, India was faring well in reducing the caseload when the vaccines were opened to the world.
The states had more than enough time to engage in the tried and tested three-fold strategy of tracking, testing and treating. Thus, blaming the Centre for the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative seems to be purely nonsensical.
Another ‘pearl of wisdom’ from Manmohan’s letter was his insistence to decentralise the vaccine distribution process by giving states the right to buy the vaccine.
“The Centre could retain 10 per cent for distribution based on emergency needs, but other than that, states should have a clear signal of likely availability so that they can plan their rollout,” wrote Singh.
The same states were given full authority by the central government after the first phase to set up the hospital and health infrastructure to counter any possible second wave. Look how that turned out and thus giving access to vaccines to the states might end up making another train wreck of a situation where rich states will usurp all the vaccines while small and poor states will scramble towards New Delhi and plead in front of the Centre.
The likes of Kejriwal will soon take it as an opportunity to further their political agenda by pinning the blame of their inefficiency on the Centre.
In another one of his proposals, Manmohan Singh said that the Centre must proactively support vaccine producers to expand their manufacturing facilities quickly by providing funds and other concessions.
Seems like Mr Singh was oblivious to the reality while writing the letter. The government has already ramped up the investment to support the vaccine production process.
According to a TOI report, the Centre is extending financial assistance by way of grants to Bharat Biotech and Indian Immunologicals in Hyderabad, Haffkine Biopharma in Mumbai and Bharat Immunologicals in Bulandshahr while setting aside another Rs 200 crore for Covaxin alone.
The separate support of Rs 200 crore is intended to increase Covaxin production from 1 crore doses a month to around 6 crores a month by August and 10 crores a month by September, which will mark a big step up. The Haffkine facility is expected to produce around 1.5 crore shots by August and 2 crores a month in six months.
And it is not only the vaccine strategy that was contrary to Singh’s statements, the Centre has also increased the capital investment. The anti-viral drug Remdesivir and its exports have been reduced while the manufacturing capacity has been increased, all at the behest of the Centre.
“The current total installed capacity of the seven manufacturers of Remdesivir is 38.80 lakh vials per month. Fast-track approval has been given for seven additional sites having production capacity of 10 lakh vials/month to six manufacturers. Another 30 lakh vials/month production is lined up. This would ramp up the production capacity for manufacturing to around 78 lakh vials/month,” a press release from the office of Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukh Mandaviya stated.
Under Manmohan’s ‘illustrious’ 10 year tenure as the subservient of Sonia Gandhi — the UPA regime only managed to take the total number of AIIMS to 8, out of which 6 came under the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. However, in PM Modi’s nearly 7-year tenure, 11 additional AIIMS have been added while the work is nearing completion in a few of them.
There is a grace in falling and, out of all statesman, Manmohan Singh should’ve understood this when he infamously remarked “I hope the history will be kinder to me”, but by shooting out the letter which is nothing more than hogwash, the former PM is inviting more misery upon himself.
The upshot of the article is that liberals who are currently salivating on the letter written by India’s weakest Prime Minister are merely exaggerating his correspondence. The points mentioned by Singh could easily have been churned by a high school student but because the left-liberal cabal needs something to stay in the limelight, they have used Manmohan’s letter as a weapon.