NIRMALA SITARAMAN CALLS COAL CRISIS REPORTS BASELESS

While speaking at an event at the Harvard Kennedy School, Boston, organised by Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government on Tuesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman said the current reports that is coming out in India on the avid shortage of coal is “absolutely baseless”.

“There is no shortage of anything. In fact, if I recall the Minister’s statement, every power producing installation has the next four days’ stock absolutely available within their own premises and the supply chain has not broken at all”, she said in Boston.

She observed that Power Minister R K Singh two days ago said that the informations floating around are absolutely baseless. When asked about the ongoing anxiety on power shortages, she said, “There are not going to be any deficiencies which may lead to any shortfall of supply. So that takes care of India’s power situation. We are now a power surplus country.”

On the vaccination policy, she said the country has improved its structural facilities over the past years, and health care improvements are benefitting everyone. “These centres have over the years undertaken those inoculations for newborn children which have to be given in a periodic interval… India has been very successful in containing the spread of polio”, she said on the vaccination facilities in the country.

While speaking at the event, she also took a dig at Nobel laureate in Economics, Amartya Sen, saying some scholars can become ‘imprisoned’ and ‘influenced’ by their own likes and dislikes rather than by facts.

“We are also taking fairly good amount of risks to see what the basket of energy is available for India, how much is based on fossil fuel and how much comes from renewable and we are always looking at ways in which it can be shifted in favour of renewable energy. So the picture is not of short supply, but it is also a picture of newer components into the basket,” she said.

On vaccination drive in India against COVID-19 and how the Indian government has managed to come close to administering a billion doses, Ms. Sitharaman said over the decades, India has steadily built up this institutional arrangement where even down to the village level, primary health centres exist and they take care of basic requirements of the fundamental primary care that has to be given to patients in those areas.

“These centres have over the years undertaken those inoculations for newborn children which have to be given in a periodic interval… India has been very successful in containing the spread of polio,” she said. Further, she stated that over the years, periodic malaria or seasonal illnesses for which doctors attend to patients in a particular region have given India the capacity to handle large epidemic-proportion illnesses and to treat them.

“Just as soon as the vaccines became available, our systems were ready to fan out, even go to some of the far flung areas, and give the doses to people. So, institutional arrangement in India has always been the framework which has been built over the years,” she said.

She said the question regarding the vaccines was if they had to be preserved in a certain temperature to be carried around and distributed across India.

“Luckily the two vaccinations which we have used are quite amenable to the Indian conditions and therefore the logistics required for moving this from one place to another did not pose quite a challenge and therefore we have been successful,” she said.

The vaccine Covishield is the version of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. Covaxin is the indigenously developed vaccine by pharma company Bharat Biotech.

She noted that India has been giving vaccines for free through some of the bilateral arrangements with countries.

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