The Kerala High Court on Monday asked the Centre as to why wasn’t it providing free COVID-19 vaccination to people by using a part of the ₹99,122 crore dividend recently announced by the RBI.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will transfer Rs 99,122 crore as surplus to the central government for the nine months ended March 31 (July 2020-March 2021), it said in a statement on Friday.
This is much higher than what most had estimated and what the government itself had budgeted for. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had earmarked a transfer of Rs 53,511 crore.
The court told Centre that the free vaccines would cost about ₹34,000 crore and “now that you’ve excess from RBI…at least give it to the poor?”
Justice Vinod Chandran made the suggestion during a hearing of a petition that challenged the differential pricing adopted for the vaccines, depending on who buys the dose. The judge said the free vaccines would cost the central exchequer about ₹34,000 crore, pointing that the Centre could dip into the ₹99,122 crore dividend announced by the central bank last week.
“You have an additional income from the RBI, why don’t you use it for this purpose. We are asking you to ask your policy makers about this,” the court told Raj Kumar, the standing counsel for the Union government.
Raj Kumar said the pricing of the vaccines was a policy issue and he needed time to get back on this.
However, West Bengal and Rajasthan governments have already announced plans to approach the Supreme Court to seek a new policy that adopts uniform pricing and distribution for Covid-19 vaccines.