A. Extract of letter by Shri. Mallikarjun Kharge, Member of Parliament, Leader of Opposition,
(Ratya Sabha) dated 9th May 2021 to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

Dear Prime Minister.

On behalf of the people of India. I write to convey deep concern and sense of anguish regarding the unprecedented crisis the nation faces today. It is heartbreaking to witness millions of ordinary Indians scrambling to access basic healthcare, oxygen, medicines. ventilators. hospital beds and even crematoriums and cemeteries. Ordinary Indians are selling their land, jewellery and expending their savings to ensure treatment for their loved ones. And despite all this, people are dying in hospitals. on roads and in the safety of their own homes. Crematoriums and cemeteries arc choked while parks are being repurposes as cremation grounds.

Amidst this national crisis, it is truly heartening to see that we have conic together as a people. irrespective of creed, caste or region. Many state governments, opposition parties. doctors/nurses/allied health care organizations. civil society and citizen groups have taken up the mantle and arc working collectively on the front-lines in this extraordinary national battle against COVID-19. Unlike those sunshine patriots who arc ignoring the situation or obfuscating the truth or apportioning blame or communalizing the situation, all these conscientious organizations and people are working collectively in the national interest. One of the reasons they are compelled to do so is because the union government seems to lune abdicated its duties towards the people.

Sir, because the situation we face today requires a collective and consensual effort, I write to humbly submit the following suggestions for you to urgently consider:

I. I request you to convene an all party meeting to collectively forge a holistic blueprint to tackle the pandemic. This would be a good opportunity for us to meaningfully reflect on. and implement the recommendations of experts and activists, whose advice has unfortunately been ignored so far. It would also be expedient to pay heed to the constructive suggestions made by former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi. Sim Rahul Gandhi, and opposition parties. Sir, it is critical that the union government shed its antipathy to expertise and experience. and seek help.

2. Parliament had allocated Rs. 35,000 crores in the union budget to ensure free vaccines for all. Despite this, the union government has allowed private companies to set exorbitant and differential prices for vaccines, and outsourced the procurement of vaccines to already stretched state governments. This will adversely impact millions of Indians. Sir, corporate profit cannot triumph saving lives. I therefore urge you to not relinquish the State’s moral duty in immunizing citizens. This is completely doable because India has a history of successful. large-scale immunisation programmes.

3. Our priority must also be to boost vaccine production so we can successfully inoculate the 595 million Indians between 18-44 who became eligible on May 01, 2021. To do this, the union government must leverage the compulsory licensing provision and task India’s seven world-class public sector health institutes and other firms in the private sector to aid in vaccine manufacturing.

4. On humanitarian grounds, it is imperative that the union government also waive taxes on life saving products. Towards this end. I urge you to waive GST on vaccines (set at 5%), on purchase of ambulances (set at 28%), on Protective Personal Equipment (set at 05% if below Rs. 1000, and 12% if above Rs. 1000), on sanitizers (set at 18%). on ventilators (set at 12%) and oxygen (set at 12%). The union government must not be earning monies from the plight of our people.

5. Dozens of nations and the Indian diaspora have sent ventilators, oxygen and medicines to India during this difficult time. However, tedious red-tape. lack of transparency and partisan allocations have muddied these efforts. While a Standard Operating Procedure has been belatedly created, the union government must proactively disburse relief material, allocate it fairly to all states (irrespective of which party is in office) and proactively disclose when. and where relief material is shipped.

6. A number of Indians who had come to cities for opportunities have now migrated back to villages. It is therefore essential for the union government to enhance the number of work days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MG-NREGA) to a minimum of 200 days (which it had earlier reduced to 100 days), raise the wage rate, and shoulder the bigger burden of this enhanced allocation. It is incumbent on the union government to do so as states are severely stretched since they have to shoulder the financial, and functional responsibility of combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

7. Finally, over the past 70 years, India has built up a robust healthcare system consisting of hospitals. Community Health Care Centres. Primary Healthcare Centres, clinics. pharmaceutical companies. laboratories, and testing facilities. India also boasts of some of the world’s best scientists, doctors, nurses, allied healthcare state and has a vast network of community health workers. India undoubtedly has the bandwidth and the resources to effectively combat the pandemic. However, to do so. the union government must leverage our collective strengths by governing consensually and inclusively. It is impossible to tackle a crisis of this magnitude through the Prime Minister’s Office alone.  Sir. most nations planned in advance. prioritized their respective people and put in place contingencies for the anticipated second and third waves of the COVID-pandemic. Experts have warned us that although the situation is dire, it can become far worse if leadership is not immediately exercised. So. for the well being of our people and in the national interest. I urge you to consider the suggestions outlined in this letter sensitively and urgently.

Download Full Text of letter by Shri. Mallikarjun Kharge

B. Reply by Shri. Anurag Thakur, Union Minister of State for Finance & Corporate Affairs, India

Worlds Fastest & largest vaccine drive: 15 cr vaccinated – 103 days 17.56 cr vaccine doses provided to States/UTs Free of Cost 72 Lk doses still available w/ States/UTs to be administerd 46 Lk+ doses in addition will be receivd by States/UTs in nxt 3 days

COVID vaccines are being provided FREE OF COST by the GoI to those who are 45 yrs of age & above and to all frontline workers.

On Govt supplies, GST is also paid by Govt. From GST collected on vaccine, half is earned by Centre & other half by the States. 41% of Centre’s collections also get devolved to the States. States end up receiving almost 70% of the total revenue collected from vaccines.

A nominal 5% GST is in interest of the domestic manufacturer of vaccine & in the interest of citizens. If full exemption frm GST is given, vaccine manufacturers would not be able to offset their input taxes & wud pass them on to the end consumer/citizen by increasing the price.

A 5% GST rate ensures that the manufacturer is able to utilise ITC and in case of overflow of ITC, claim refund. Exemption to vaccine from GST would be counterproductive without benefiting the consumer.

Serum Institute of India

Total order: 26.60 cr doses

Total Supplied: 14.344 cr doses

Amount Billed: 2353.09 cr

Amount Paid: 3639.67 CR

 (includes advance payment Rs 1732.50 cr paid on 28th April for 11 cr doses to be delivered in May, June, July 2021)

Bharat Biotech Int. Ltd

Total order: 8.00 cr doses

Total Supplied: 1.8813 cr doses

Amount Billed: 342.28 CR

Amount Paid: 1104.78 CR

(includes advance payment Rs 787.50 cr paid on 28th April for 5 crore doses to be delivered in May, June, July 2021)

1.5 Lk doses of Sputnik V have already reached India and RDIF has also tied up with local Indian companies for bulk production.

Assistance to States/UTs

 6,608 Oxy Concentrators

 3,856 Oxy Cylinders

1500 PSA plants being set up across country via PMCARES & PSUs

4,330 ventilators/ Bi PAP/ C PAP

Over 3Lk Remdesivir vials delivrd/dispatched

400 ex-AMC/SSC medics, released betwn 2017-2021 expctd to be recruited

Delivered 4200 MT of LMO Via 268 tankers to various states across the country. 68 Oxygen Expresses have already completed their journey so far.

Indian Army:

Nearly 750 beds in various Military Hospitals set aside fr civilian use AFMS dedicated 19 hospitals,ovr 4,000 beds & 585 ICU units across the country.

Base Hospital in Delhi converted into a COVID hospital with capacity being increased from around 400 to 1,000 beds.

DRDO

Set up 500-bed COVID-19 facility in New Delhi & Lucknow 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad & converted ESIC Hospital in Patna to COVID hospital with 500 beds.

Indian Air Force:

IAF transport aircraft carried out 50 sorties, airlifting 61 oxygen containers of 1142 MT capacity from abroad Within India 344 sorties, airlifting 230 containers of 4527 MT capacity.

Indian Navy:

Naval ships viz. Kolkata, Kochi, Tabar, Trikand, Jalashwa and Airavat deployed for shipment of liquid medical oxygen-filled cryogenic containers and associated medical equipment from various countries in the Middle East and South-East Asia.

Full exemption from Customs duties, including IGST, is already available to ALL COVID relief material imported by Indian Red Cross Society for free distribution in the country. (See List)

List of Covid Items Exempted from IGST Custom Duty

List of items for COVID relief granted exemption from IGST for imports issued on 3rd May’21. It had exemption from Customs Duty/health cess even earlier. Since 3rd  May’21, full exemption from all duties provided to Remdesivir injections + Remdesivir API & for a chemical for manufacture of this drug.

Also to Medical Oxy, equipment used for manufacture, storage & transportation of oxygen, equipment used for providing oxygen therapy to COVID patients such as Oxygen Concentrators, Ventilators, Non-invasive oxygen masks, Inflammatory diagnostic kits & reagents for testing & COVID vaccines.

This exemption applies to all above mentioned goods when imported free of cost for free distribution in the country by any entity, State Govt, relief agency or autonomous body on the basis of a certificate issued by a State Government.

In order to augment availability of these items, Govt also provided full exemption from basic customs duty & health cess to thr commercial imports. GST rates varying 5% (on vaccines),12% (COVID drugs, oxy concentrators) is applicable to domestic supplies & commercial import of items.

Please see @cbic_india for swiftness with which medical consignments are being cleared in a matter of minutes. Arrival & Clearance time stamp is available transparently.

MGNREGA:

Not only did NDA Govt double the allocation during the COVID period last year from Rs 61500cr to a historic high of over Rs 1 Lk crore, but also increased the wages to Rs 202 thereby ensuring 300 crore person days of work in total. And it’s demand driven.

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