Kolkata, Jun 5: The West Bengal government is issuing certificates of COVID-19 vaccination to the people in the age group of 18-44 sponsored by the state 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 from its own resources. While beneficiaries of 45 plus are getting certificates of vaccination with the photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as in other parts of the country, but those falling in the 18-44 age bracket have photographs of Mamata Banerjee.
"The government has started procuring vaccines directly from the manufacturers and arranging for inoculating the population. That is the reason it has been decided to use photograph of the CM on the certificates," a senior state official told PTI on condition of anonymity. When contacted, state minister for Housing and outgoing Mayor of the city Firhad Hakim, who is also the chairman of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation board of administrator, justified the practice, saying since the Centre was not vaccinating 18-44 years of the population and the state is spending money for it,then there will be a photograph of the CM.
"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 of the CM," Hakim said. 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 in the 18-44 years with photographs of their respective chief ministers. But, the move has created confusion among some recipients of the jabs as whether they will be getting another certificate issued by the central government through CoWin having photographs of PM Narendra Modi, officials admitted.
Till Friday, the state government has spent nearly Rs 150 crore to procure vaccines to inoculate 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 had started issuing certificates to people administered shots through CoWIN with Modi's photograph since the inoculation drive began on January 16.
Amidst state polls, the Trinamool Congress had moved Election Connection of India (ECI) on the issue, stating that the PM's photograph on such certificates were violating the model code of conduct. Following this the PM's photograph was removed from the certificates and soon after the results of the elections were out, the images started resurfacing on the certificates of people getting inoculated. Reacting to issuance of certificates with Banerjee's photo, BJP MP from Bankura Dr Subhas Sarkar, when contacted 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. PM is our custodian and under his guidance people are getting vaccines and 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.