After the Modi government announced a decentralisation of India’s vaccination campaign in late April, which was to come in force from May 1 – the states made a complete mess out of a campaign which was going absolutely fine thus far, with India clocking new heights in terms of daily vaccinations. Since the decentralisation was announced, however, daily vaccinations plummeted – showing how states were simply inept to procure and distribute vaccines on their own. So, on June 7, PM Modi announced a recentralisation of the vaccination campaign – in a move which shamed various states quite publicly.
Interestingly, it was the states who had been clamouring for the vaccination campaign to be ‘decentralised’, with Rahul Gandhi going as far as shooting a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to let states have a “greater say” in the campaign to vaccinate Indians. After the embarrassment faced by states on Monday, however, when PM Modi exposed them – the opposition coterie unleashed its propaganda tools in order to craft the image that the states never demanded decentralisation of the campaign in the first place.
Leading this effort of defending the opposition parties was a portal which goes by the name Alt News. In its shoddy “fact check” of the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Monday, the said portal goes to great lengths to absolve opposition ruled states of all culpability. Its most formidable weapon appears to be rhetorical, as the portal tried its best to convince its readers that since the BJP and NDA are in power in most Indian states, it would be wrong to say that “opposition ruled states” were demanding a decentralisation.
But here’s where this portal – funded allegedly by Naxal-sympathiser Arundhati Roy, falters. When we say that states led to the decentralised vaccination campaign proving to be a failure in the month of May, by no means are the BJP-ruled states being absolved of all that they might have done wrong.
And then, Alt News mounts an aggressive, albeit false campaign to prove how opposition ruled states never demanded decentralisation of vaccines. However, the portal’s claims are abject and unabashed lies, weaponised by selectively quoting sections of documents which suit their narrative. Mamata Banerjee was first on the target list of Alt News to be absolved. So, the portal decided to convince its readers falsely that Banerjee never demanded vaccine decentralisation.
In a letter quoted by the portal, it can be clearly seen how Mamata Banerjee is asking the Centre to allow them to procure Covid-19 vaccines directly from manufacturers ahead of the assembly elections in the state. However, according to the brilliant editorial team (if any) at Alt News, Banerjee’s request was “not mandated” and hence it cannot be considered as demand for decentralisation.
In a letter to PM Modi on 18 April, Mamata Banerjee made a direct call for decentralisation as she said, “You may recall that I had written to you on 24 February to allow the state to purchase vaccination doses directly with state funds and launch a massive free vaccination campaign in the state covering the entire population.” Alt News chose to not include this document in its “fact check”.
West Bengal CM @MamataOfficial writes to PM @narendramodi for initiating a rapid vaccination process in West Bengal before elections are held.
Letter says, the West Bengal Government wants to provide vaccine free of cost to all the people. pic.twitter.com/2lyIgbBw8s
— Ayushman Kumar (@Iam_Ayushmann) February 24, 2021
And then, Alt News itself quoted Mamata Banerjee as she said the decentralisation of the vaccine campaign was “much-delayed” and appears to be “hollow, without substance and a regrettable show of evasion of responsibility”. Thus, Alt News quoted Mamata Banerjee saying exactly what it was trying to convince its reader she never said.
Turning to Maharashtra, Alt News claimed that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Uddhav Thackeray never demanded decentralisation of the vaccination campaign until after the decision was actually announced by the Modi government. This too, is a lie. Prior to the Centre decentralising vaccine procurement, the Maharashtra government had already decided to import vaccines from other countries and had allocated funds to various departments to do the same. So, the Maharashtra government too was enthusiastically operating with a wild and free attitude.
But here’s the most hilarious part. Rahul Gandhi shot a letter to PM Modi on April 8, in which he demanded that states be empowered with a “greater say” in Covid-19 vaccine procurement. To defend Rahul Gandhi, Alt News wrote, “But Gandhi’s statement is open to interpretation. He merely said that state governments should have a “say” without implying that they should purchase vaccines.” This shameful defence of Rahul Gandhi’s direct call for decentralisation has now been deleted from the substandard fact check published by Alt News.
Additionally, all Congress leaders calling for decentralization of vaccines were discounted by Alt News as those who do not represent the states.
In its endeavour to somehow prove that the opposition-ruled states and Congress had never demanded decentralisation of vaccine procurement, Alt News has, in fact, proven to be counterproductive. Now, all the facts lay bare before us, and it has been established that the call for decentralisation came from opposition-ruled states. Those funding Alt News might want to rethink spending on a portal which has to edit and delete parts of its articles after being exposed. But those funding this portal seem to be equally shameless, and so it’s a symbiotic relationship founded on idiocy.