Vaccination camps a new political tool; BJP has put up banners in Juhu for vaccine drive

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In Juhu, BJP has put up banners of MP Poonam Mahajan, MLA Ameet Satam and corporator Anees Makwaaney stating BJP and BMC’s K-West Ward have together started a vaccination centre in Rotary Club. 

Dr Ajit Pampatwar, the medical officer in K-West, BMC said, “BMC has not tied up with any political party. BMC is setting up a vaccination centre in each corporator’s ward. Ward number 71 is Makwaaney’s ward. We have not tied up with the BJP.”

BMC commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said, “We will issue show cause notice to the corporator. BMC cannot be pulled into such activities; we do not have a tie-up with any political party or politician for vaccination.”

In a letter to all states on May 29, Manohar Agnani, additional secretary in Union ministry of health and family welfare, had said that as per Covid guidelines only four options are available for carrying out vaccination — government centre, private vaccination centre, government office to be run by a government hospital, private office to be run by private hospitals, along with “near to home” vaccination centre for the elderly and differently-abled person, to be organised at group housing societies, RWA offices, community centres, panchayat bhawans, schools/colleges and old age homes on a temporary basis. Aiming at municipal corporation elections next year, the political vaccination camps have become a new attraction. Some leaders have started organizing vaccination camps (both free and paid) for citizens by directly tying up with private hospitals, or simplifying with the tie-ups between hospitals and housing societies even as the government scuffles with the scarcity of Remdesivir vials, the anti-viral drug used in Covid-19 treatment, now it is vaccination camps.

In Borivali, BJP leaders Darekar brothers helped people to get vaccinated, paid and free both ways, by helping people to get appointments at various centres.

In Thane, BJP MLC Niranjan Davkhare has organised a vaccination drive for 1,000 people in Hiranandani Park, Ghodbunder Road, in a tie-up with Apollo Hospital.

The BJP leader Davkhare said, “I am trying my level best to reduce rates by talking to the hospital and through the CSR (corporate social responsibility) scheme. Right now, citizens have to pay for the vaccines.”

BJP MLA, Ameet Satam, tied up with Apollo Hospital, which is charging each person Rs 1,000 for a dose, higher than the Rs 850 it charges on the hospital premises. So far, Satam has got 16,000 people vaccinated in Walkeshwar, Bandra and Andheri.

Satam told Afternoon Voice, “We have arranged a camp at Shree Ram Welfare School in Andheri, very soon I will be arranging camps at Borivali and Kandivali. My intention is to serve people keeping all political differences aside. We are not at all aiming for municipal corporation elections through this drive. There is still one year time, I don’t think we need to rush.”

With Central government rules not providing scope for political parties or leaders to tie up with private hospitals directly, these drives are being registered under an MoU between hospitals and housing societies.

A BJP member Nilesh Bhojane in Navi Mumbai, announced free vaccines exclusively for 18–44-year-olds at a camp at Marathi Sahita Mandir, Vashi, on Thursday.

A pamphlet and registration form he widely distributed has his photo along with that of senior BJP leader Ganesh Naik and the party logo. 

Bhojane has tied up with Reliance Hospital, and will only provide vaccines to residents of ward 64, from where he is likely to fight the upcoming corporation election. “A lot of 18–44-year-olds are unable to book a slot on CoWIN”

N Ramaswamy, director, National Health Mission, said government guidelines are clear and allow vaccination in housing societies only to facilitate easy accessibility for the elderly and specially-abled people. 

“Private camps are not allowed unless this requirement is fulfilled, especially not for just the 18-44 age group,” he said.

Dr Satish Pawar, Directorate of Health Services, said “Municipal corporations have to take action if private drives are organised for people who are neither elderly nor specially-abled.”

BJP Parliamentarian Manoj Kotak has facilitated vaccination drives for more than 20 housing societies in Mulund. Party banners carrying Kotak’s name can be seen in housing societies where the camps were held.

BJP MLA Mihir Kotecha recently arranged a vaccination drive for over 250 people slated to travel abroad for studies.

In the last week of May, BJP leader Ashish Shelar organised a three-day vaccination drive with Apollo Hospital, with each person who registered asked to pay Rs 1,000 per dose. The camp was organised at Bandra Hindu Association, Linking Road, for 1,000 people.