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'Health Is A State Subject, Any State can Make COVID-19 Vaccine Free' Clarifies BJP Over Bihar Manifesto Backlash

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Summary

Centre will give the vaccine, whenever it is developed, to all states at a nominal price and the state governments will decide whether to make it free or charge people for the same. Likewise, ahead of Bihar polls, Bihar BJP has made the announcement that they will provide free COVID-19 vaccines if they win in the state. 

At the launch of the BJP manifesto for Bihar assembly elections that are scheduled to begin on October 28, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that once a vaccine to treat the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is available for production at a mass scale, it will be provided for free to everyone in Bihar.

Following this major announcement, questions are being raised against BJP for announcing free vaccines only in Bihar ahead of elections. 

Targeting BJP, Aam Aadmi Party wrote 'What about non-BJP ruled states? Indians who didn't vote BJP will not get free Covid vaccine?'

Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah wrote, "Will@BJP4India be paying for these vaccines from the party treasury? If it’s coming from the government treasury then how can Bihar get free vaccines while the rest of the country has to pay? There is so much wrong with this blatant populism that shamefully exploits COVID fears."

However, BJP leaders like Bhupendra Yadav and Amit Malviya put out a clarification following the backlash that 'Central govt will provide medicine at a nominal price to state. Heath is a state subject. And only state govt can provide it for free. If we win in Bihar, we will do so.'

In reply to Shahi Tharoor's tweet, Yadav wrote, "Your attempt to twist Smt Nirmala Sitharaman’s statement reeks of desperation. All parties issue manifestos. Vaccines will be made available to all Indians at nominal costs. States can make it free. In #Bihar, we will."

He explained that like all other immunization programs, the Centre will provide vaccines to states at a nominal rate. This will include BJP-ruled and non-BJP ruled states. Then it is up to the states to charge for vaccines or not. Health is a state subject and should BJP come to power in Bihar, they have promised to make the vaccine free. Similarly, non-BJP ruled states like Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal can choose to either make vaccines free for all or charge its citizens for the same.

This could be compared to some states not implementing the Central govt's Jan Arogya Yojana-Ayushman Bharat that aimed to be a "game-changer initiative" to serve the poor. The scheme is the world's largest fully government-funded health insurance program. However, four states of Delhi, West Bengal, Odisha, and Telangana have not yet implemented the ambitious Ayushman Bharat Yojana due to which the poor in these states are unable to derive benefits of comprehensive healthcare facilities.

Hence, the Centre will give the vaccine, whenever it is developed, to all states at a nominal price and the state governments will decide whether to make it free or charge people for the same. Likewise, ahead of Bihar polls, Bihar BJP has made the announcement that they will provide free COVID-19 vaccines if they win in the state. 

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