ith India achieving the milestone of administering 100 crore vaccines to contain the scourge of COVID-19, the government has gone on a propaganda blitzkrieg to ‘celebrate’ the event. The fact that the government’s inept handling of the pandemic since it broke out over a year back led to colossal suffering of the people is being glossed over. The way the government’s propaganda machinery has been deployed to project the event shows the ruling party’s desperation to erase from the memory of the nation the loss of countless lives, grossly inadequate hospital infrastructure, shortage of oxygen cylinders, agonies of migrant workers stranded due to a thoughtless lockdown and job losses. Along with the show of bravado over the claimed vaccination milestone, the statement of Union Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri is noteworthy. Puri has been quoted by media as saying “I think the simplistic political narrative in India (that), prices have gone up, why don’t you reduce your taxes? So every time prices go up due to something else, it says you axe your own feet in the process. I am not very sensitive to that kind of discussion.”
The last sentence was possible for Puri to utter as he is not an elected Lok Sabha member of Parliament but a retired bureaucrat inducted through the Rajya Sabha path.
The minister went on to claim that the excise duty levied on petroleum products is funding ‘free’ Covid-19 vaccines and other welfare schemes. If what the minister claims is true, then it completely demolishes the Union government’s assertion that it has administered one billion ‘free’ Covid vaccines since the vaccines were paid for by the people paying an ever increasing tax on essential items of survival.