India may resume sending Covid-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka in July-August
BY S VENKAT NARAYAN Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, June 23: Depending on the scale of production of Covid-19 vaccines, within the country, India is aiming at July-end or August to at least release those vaccines that have been bought by Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal and are now in pending status, it is learnt.
The supplies to Bhutan, which received vaccines from India as grants, will be prioritised, too.
India, the largest vaccine producer in the world, started sending Covid shots abroad, both as grants as well as commercial shipments, from 20 January onwards under an initiative labelled ‘Vaccine Maitri’ (Vaccine Friendship). However, as India started facing a vaccine shortage, domestically, this came to a halt in April. India had shipped over 66 million doses abroad by then.
With the Indian initiative suspended, China as well as Russia have stepped in to offer their Covid shots to countries in South Asia.
After initial hiccups in the domestic Covid vaccination drive, caused by shortages, India has launched a policy under which the central government will be the sole public sector vaccine buyer in the country. On the first day of its rollout Monday, over eight million people were vaccinated against Covid-19.
The boost in numbers has encouraged the Union government to begin planning for the release of the pending Covid vaccines in the neighbourhood.
According to informed sources, the Narendra Modi Government believes that if India can maintain the record number of Covid-19 vaccinations, it will reach a position by August when shipments to other countries can be resumed.
“If the number of vaccinations that we saw on Monday continues, then the government expects that 40 per cent of the population can be covered by August and we will have a situation when herd immunity will kick in,” said a source.
“There are high chances that is when we can safely resume the shipments. It won’t be like before so soon but, of course, for the neighbourhood, we are responsible,” the source added.
However, the sources also said that, if and when the exports are resumed, it will only be for the neighbourhood since they are of “topmost priority”, and because some of them have also made payments to procure vaccines from India.
While other countries will get support from the US and other nations, it is the immediate neighbourhood that needs India’s attention. The vaccine distribution announced by the US will address concerns of the Caribbean and African countries. India believes it is time Europe stops “cornering” the vaccines and begins distribution in a significant way, said a senior government official.
According to another official, “no exports will take place unless the domestic vaccinations are really high”.
“It has to be a quick political call. Of course, the idea is to release the paid ones first. But priority now is domestic over exports. A lot depends on how much production we can ramp up,” the official added.
External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had said in an interview to Bloomberg Tuesday that he sees India “playing a global role in vaccine supply… as the production picks up again”.
When India started its vaccine programme, he said, “we were living up to our obligations with the Covax (WHO-backed initiative for equitable access to vaccines). We were supplying to some of our neighbours”.
Talking about the halt in Vaccine Maitri in April, he added: “Now, when the second wave hit us, obviously we looked to purpose the deployment of vaccines primarily at home.”
Sacked PUCSL Chairman fights back, writes to Prez
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) Janaka Ratnayake yesterday wrote to President Wickremesinghe denying all allegations levelled against him.
Earlier in the day, Ratnayake received a note informing of his removal from the PUCSL.
“I write in response to your above captioned letter dated 22 March 2023. At the outset I strongly deny all and singular the several allegations contained against me in your letter under reference,” he said.
The PUCSL Chairman said his letter contained a detailed response..
“I was given an extremely short period of one week, despite the serious consequences that could flow from the misconceived allegations made against me,” Ratnayake said.
He said that the PUCSL was not a rubber stamp for proposals put forward by the Electricity Industry including the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).
“But the PUCSL should duly exercise its powers and functions as an independent regulator even when the consequent decision reached by it may be one which is not desired by the CEB or the Government,” he said.
Ratnayake said that the PUCSL acting independently has resulted in the Minister of Power and Energy being unable at times to act at his whim and fancy.
“This appears to have irked the Minister of Power and Energy, and also the President. In May 2022, the secretary to the President had phoned my personal assistant instructing her to “ask the Chairman of the Commission to refrain from making any announcement or statement contradicting the speech made by the Prime Minister.”
Singer Sri Lanka bags top awards
Singer Sri Lanka PLC clinched the People’s Brand of the Year and Durable Brand of the Year Awards for the 17th consecutive year at the SLIM-KANTAR Awards held at the Monarch Imperial on 27th March, 2023. Singer Sri Lanka PLC Chairman Mohan Pandithage receiving the award from Chief Guest, Sri Lanka Test Cricket Captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Guest of Honour, Past President-SLIM Kalana Ratnayake at the glittering ceremony. Singer Sri Lanka PLC CEO Mahesh Wijewardene, Marketing Director, Shanil Perera, Marketing Manager, Piyum Jayathilaka and other senior officials were present. Pic by Kamal Bogoda
SJB trade unionist calls for significant fuel price reduction
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Convenor of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) trade union wing, Samagi Joint Trade Union Alliance, Ananda Palitha yesterday (28) said that with the appreciation of rupee against the USD and comparatively lower crude prices in the world market, the government could reduce the price of litre of petrol (92 Octane) and diesel by as much as Rs 100 and petrol (95 Octane) by Rs 125.
The trade unionist said that the price of a litre of kerosene, furnace oil and naphtha, too, could be decreased by Rs 100 each.
Responding to The Island queries, the former Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) employee said that fuel prices should be revised as fast as possible for the benefit of the public.
Lanka IOC should follow the new pricing formula, the former UNP trade union leader said, strongly urging the government to re-examine the petroleum sector. It would be pertinent to mention that petroleum and water sectors, too, should be brought under the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in terms of PUC Act No 35 of 2002, Ananda Palitha said.
Former Power and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that he was out of the country.
Therefore, I couldn’t comment without studying the latest developments.
Ananda Palitha found fault with political parties represented in parliament for the inordinate delay in fully implementing the Act that was meant to regulate three vital sectors. The PUC received authority to regulate the electricity industry, in terms of Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009, Palitha said. However, respective Acts, pertaining to Petroleum and Water, were yet to be passed by Parliament, the trade union leader said pointing out that the delay on the part of the parliament seemed deliberate.
Asked whether they opposed the further liberalisation of retail market with the entry of more foreign companies, Ananda Palitha said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was exploiting the current political-economic-social crisis to advance the original agenda of Wickremesinghe.
“We are facing a frightening situation,” the SJB activist said, urging political parties represented in parliament to review rapid developments taking place. The entry of four foreign entities should be examined against the backdrop of Lanka IOC further expanding its operations here, Ananda Palitha said.
The outspoken trade unionist warned against moves to gradually weaken Sapugaskanda oil refinery to pave the way for increased import of refined products. “The refinery that launched operations in 1969 during Dudley Senbanayake’s era received the attention of President J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa. But, since then no President paid attention to the facility,” Ananda Palitha said. Instead of enhancing its capacity, successive governments were working overtime to weaken it for obvious reasons, the trade unionist said.
According to him, all were attacking Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera over the continuing crisis in the petroleum sector. “We should question President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Cabinet-of-Ministers headed by the President and the relevant Sectoral Oversight Committee,” Ananda Palitah said.
Ananda Palitha said that political parties as well as some trade unions should accept responsibility for the pathetic situation in the petroleum sector. For want of a cohesive action plan, politicians and interested parties regardless of on and off setbacks were able to pursue their agendas detrimental to Sri Lanka, he said.
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