The West Bengal government is issuing certificates of COVID-19 vaccination to those in the 18-44 age group with the photograph of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
An official said Saturday this is being done since the state government has been procuring vaccines directly from the manufacturers.
However, beneficiaries from the 45-plus group are still getting certificates of vaccination with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photograph.
“The government has started procuring vaccines directly from the manufacturers and arranging inoculation of the population. That is the reason it has been decided to use the photograph of the CM on the certificates,” a senior state official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
When contacted, Bengal minister Firhad Hakim justified the practice, saying the centre was not vaccinating the 18-44 group.
“All information regarding inoculation is there on the certificate. Starting from the batch number of the vaccine, there is also a CoWIN Registration number. Besides, a special message from the CM,” Mr Hakim said.
Mr Hakim said there is nothing unusual about this as the state governments of Punjab, Chhattisgarh and neighbouring Jharkhand have already started issuing similar vaccination certificates to people with photographs of chief ministers.
Till Friday, the state government has spent nearly Rs 150 crore to procure vaccines to inoculate the population in the 18-44 age group, an official said, adding that so far around 29 lakh people of this category have been vaccinated.
Earlier, controversy had erupted in Bengal after the centre started issuing certificates with PM Modi’s photograph in January.
The Trinamool Congress had moved the Election Commission of India (ECI) over the issue, stating that the PM’s photograph on such certificates were violating the model code of conduct.
Reacting to the issuance of certificates with Ms Banerjee’s photo, BJP MP from Bankura, Dr Subhas Sarkar said: “It is petty politics of the TMC”.
“There are only five countries in the world who are manufacturing vaccines and India is one of them. We are proud of this. The PM is our custodian and under his guidance people are getting vaccines and the citizens of the country know that”.
“What is the problem? It’s not necessary that the person who is purchasing the vaccines should have photographs on the certificates for those getting the jabs,” Dr Sarkar told PTI.
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