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25% of COVID vaccines reserved for India Inc still unutilised: Piyush Goyal

Goyal advised corporates to 'put some money where their mouth was' a few months ago, and step up vaccination in less developed regions such as Bihar and the Northeast.

August 12, 2021 / 06:02 PM IST
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal (File Image)

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal (File Image)

Indian industry had demanded that vaccination be opened up to them, but has since then consistently failed to buy enough of the 25 percent of all vaccines that were allotted to the private sector, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said.

Speaking at a virtual session of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)'s annual conclave on August 12, Goyal said the 25 percent of doses that were reserved for the private sector continues to go unutilised.

On June 21, the revised guidelines for vaccine management mandated that the government would procure 75 percent of the vaccines being produced in India and make them available to states for free for all above 18 years of age. The remaining 25 cent could be directly accessed by the private hospitals.

The move had come after the government had faced sharp criticism from the private sector for failing to raise the pace of vaccination. Led by major industry bodies, many corporates had demanded that they also be allowed to vaccinate their staff, on their own.

"Everyone had demanded the same thing back then. Every one had demanded the same thing, saying why the government is holding back the vaccination to itself. They (corporates) had asked to be allowed to vaccinate on their own. Each one had made tall claims saying they would vaccinate not only their employees but also their families, the neighborhoods, the villages around our factories... I am waiting to see that synergy," Piyush Goyal said.

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The Centre had recently told the vaccine manufacturers that they do not need to keep 25 percent of their produce for private manufacturers and can supply to them only as much they buy, giving the rest of the doses to the government.

Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Rajya Sabha earlier this month, in response to a question by MP Sushil Kumar Modi, that the government had taken over 7-9 percent of the private sector’s quota since it had not been utilised.

Industry needs to do more

Goyal also pointed out that industry needs to invest in skill development and creating value chains in India. Speaking to leaders of corporate India, Goyal said industry needs to be more 'nationalistic', consider domestic interests and buy more from Indian MSMEs even if prices quoted by them are a bit more that foreign sellers.

The same can be said about startups. I've said this many times to all corporate leaders, but there hasn't been any movement. All foreign companies are coming and buying up Indian startups. Can't CII members come together to create atleast a Rs. 10,000 crore fund to provide early stage capital to startups ?" Goyal said.

Instead of asking for restrictions on import of foreign goods, and incentives from the government, Indian industry should instead focus on their competitiveness, the Minister said.

"Companies should not be adamant in the demand that the raw materials they need should come in free (with nil or low import duties) but their Indian market should be perennially protected from foreign goods," he said. He added the example of European wines, automobiles and textile imports entering the Indian market, against which many domestic companies had lobbied.
Subhayan Chakraborty has been regularly reporting on international trade, foreign policy, and evolving industry and government issues for the past 6 years.
first published: Aug 12, 2021 05:19 pm

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