At a time when India is witnessing a daily death toll due to a deadly second wave of Covid-19, a federal minister has sparked anger with a throwaway comment on whether people in the government should “hang themselves” if they fail to produce vaccines.
Union minister for chemicals and fertilisers, DV Sadananda Gowda, was responding to questions over the shortage of vaccines in the country on Thursday.
He said that the “court has with good intention said everyone in the country should get vaccinated,” according to news agency Press Trust of India.
“I want to ask you, if the court says tomorrow that you have to give this much (of vaccine) and if it has not been manufactured yet, should we hang ourselves?” he said.
Mr Gowda said the government has been doing its job “sincerely and honestly” throughout the pandemic, but some shortcomings have surfaced.
He said that if the vaccine “production is not as per projection and when sufficient APIs (active pharma ingredients) do not come from other countries—when things are beyond our control, can we manage it?” according to The Indian Express.
Several state courts in India have pulled up the central government over the shortage of vaccine and oxygen required to deal with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
India’s vaccination drive against Covid-19 has slowed down despite the central government opening inoculation for all adults from 1 May. India has administered nearly 179 million doses, the most after China and the United States, but fully vaccinated only 3 per cent of its population, a Reuters analysis of government data showed.
Many states in the country have curtailed their vaccination programme and raised an alarm over the shortage of vaccines. At least two states — Karnataka and Maharashtra — have temporarily suspended vaccination for those in the 18-44 age group.
The central government has said more than 2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines will likely be available in India between August and December.
Reacting to Mr Gowda’s comments, social media users said the prime minister and other government officials should resign for their response to the pandemic:
Mr Gowda’s statement has sparked anger at a time when India’s official tally of infections crossed 24 million. Health ministry data showed that 4,000 deaths and 343,144 new cases were reported in the 24 hours ending Friday morning. Experts have said that actual numbers are much higher than official figures.