The Supreme Court of India questioned the Central government’s handling of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The court demanded answers from the centre over three main issues- Vaccine Pricing, Information Clampdown, and Shortage of Medical supplies.
This week, India has been setting some grim records. Over 2,00,000 have officially died due to the COVID-19 virus, even this figure is known to be heavily under-reported. India has been logging the highest number of new cases every day for the past week. The health infrastructure of the country is crumbling under massive pressure, as can be noticed by the phenomenon of the affected resorting to social media to gather crucial medical supplies.
In the midst of all this, the Central Government has been downplaying the severity of the crisis.
The Supreme Court of India questioned the Central government’s handling of the situation, raising concerns over several issues.
The State Government in Uttar Pradesh recently arrested a man in the Amethi district for making a plea for medical oxygen on social media. Moreover, the Central Government has claimed that a lot of people are raising false requests for medical supplies with the motive of showing the government in a bad light and spreading misinformation. Twitter confirmed the deletion of several tweets in response to a legal request from the government.
The Supreme Court strictly shot down this claim and said that no state should clamp down on information if citizens communicate their grievances on social media. It further stressed that the court will “treat this as contempt if any citizen is harassed”
“There should not be any presumption that grievances raised on the internet are false” the Supreme Court declared.
The Government of India recently announced the differential pricing scheme for COVID-19 vaccines, wherein 50% of the supply will be reserved for the Centre, while the rest 50% can be procured by State Governments and private players at pre-declared prices. The government also opened the fourth phase of vaccinations to the age group 18-44.
The Supreme Court questioned the government on this pricing strategy. “Why is the government not buying 100% of doses produced? Why should there be two prices for the centre and the states…what is the rationale?” the top-court inquired.
Calling the pricing issue extremely serious, the court asked how the poor people of the country are to find the funds to get vaccinated. It further stressed that India must follow the “national immunization model which the country has followed since Independence”
Several hospitals in the country are facing a severe shortage of medical oxygen as patients and their families are left on their own to arrange oxygen from outside sources. At the same time, several key figures in the government have been stressing that there is no shortage of oxygen in the country.
The Supreme Court questioned the government on the same, stating that the situation in several states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Delhi are facing oxygen shortages. “How much oxygen are you going to provide to these critical states?” asked the Supreme Court.
The centre in response claimed that there is no oxygen shortage, however, a logistical challenge of transportation of oxygen exists as oxygen tankers are scarce.
The centre also claimed that “By and large, we have been supplying oxygen to all states”.
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Featured Image Credits – DNA India
Abhishek Singh Chauhan