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Vaccination for foot-and-mouth disease delayed, govt concedes


Press Trust of India Mumbai
The Maharashtra government today told the Legislative Assembly that vaccination of cattle for the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is delayed as it hasn't taken a decision on procurement after an earlier tender was scrapped.

The Opposition had targeted animal husbandry and dairy development minister Mahadev Jankar over the issue during the winter session too.

When Opposition leaders raised the issue today through a calling attention motion, Jankar wasn't present. Minister of state for animal husbandry Arjun Khotkar said, "I am not aware of any tender procedure of this vaccine procurement hence, I cannot say anything about the issue.

"I am aware of the chief minister's assurance during the winter session that he would take some steps, but so far no action has been taken...Hence, the government could not vaccinate the livestock in the state," Khotkar said.

The minister also admitted that the Union government had issued a letter of caution. "I am aware of the letter issued by Union (agriculture) minister Radha Mohan Singh regarding the delay in vaccination against the FMD, which directly affects milk production and which could turn fatal," Khotkar said.

If the government failed to vaccinate cattle in time, the damage due to FMD could be as high as Rs 20,000 crore, the Centre had cautioned, the minister said, adding "but as far as I know, there has been no selection of a company to supply the vaccine."

The minister announced of setting up of a Chief Secretary-level committee to probe the issue.

Opposition leaders including NCP's Ajit Pawar, Bhaskar Jadhav, Congress's Prithviraj Chavan, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Abdul Sattar and others refused to accept the government's explanation.

Pawar said, "The tender procedure was carried out seven times in the last one and a half years only because everybody wants a cut in this deal."

As to Khotkar's announcement of a chief secretary-level probe, Pawar said, "If the chief secretary finds that a minister is involved, how can the secretary probe the minister? We want a judicial inquiry."

Jankar himself was responsible for the delay in vaccination, the NCP leader alleged.

The cattle has to be given two doses of the vaccine every year, but through 2017, no vaccination was carried out, Pawar alleged.

As Khotkar refused to announce a judicial probe, Opposition members created a ruckus.

Education minister Vinod Tawde, who is handling the charge of parliamentary affairs temporarily, suggested that as Opposition was firm on demand of judicial probe, the issue could be kept pending and discussed in the presence of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis (upon his return from Delhi). The Opposition accepted the proposal.

A senior officer from the animal husbandry department told PTI that a company earlier selected for the FMD vaccinedistribution was rejected for quoting a higher price in Maharashtra, compared to the price it quoted in Telangana.

Around 2.07 crore milch animals in Maharashtra need FMD vaccine, he said.

A new tender was floated in January when some cases of FMD were detected and another company was chosen for providing the vaccine, but the company which had been selected earlier complained about the shorter tender procedure, and the new tender too was cancelled, the official said.

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First Published: Feb 28 2018 | 7:20 PM IST

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