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India can vaccinate 50 cr people in 60 days if it engages with private sector: Azim Premji – Mint

IT czar and Wipro founder-chairman Azim Premji Sunday proposed to the Indian government to immediately allow private participation in the country’s mega vaccination drive against Covid-19 saying that over 500 million people can be vaccinated in 60 days if the government engages with private sector.

Addressing an interactive session hosted by Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Premji hailed India’s vaccination programme and said that the Covid-19 vaccine has been developed at a record time. He said that deploying and administering the vaccine in large proportion was the key requirement today.

“There is a possibility that we can get the Serum Institute to supply vaccines at about 300 a shot and hospitals and private nursing homes can administer this at a cost of 100 per shot. So with a 400 a shot, it is possible to do mass vaccination of the population,” Premji told Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at a post-budget interaction at the venue.

According to him, if the government engages the private sector, it can rest assured that the country can achieve a coverage of 500 million people within 60 days.

Premji also spoke about the IT industry’s transformation amid the coronavirus pandemic. He said 90 per cent of the workforce in the country’s technology industry continue to work from home, and lauded the hybrid model of work.

Premji said the IT industry and the government have appreciated the value of a permanent hybrid model where people would work partly from office and home even after the end of the pandemic.

Stating that the hybrid model would have huge comparative advantage, Premji said it would drive inclusive growth, better participation from all parts of the country and greater number of women who would have flexibility to work from home. “Technology is becoming the lifeline for us as individuals and also businesses,” he said. If there was any doubt, the year 2020 showed how fundamental technology has become.

Premji stepped down as Wipro chairman and managing director in 2019 and handed over the company’s reins to his son Rishad. The septuagenarian currently holds the position of Wipro founder-chairman and non-executive director.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who was also present at the event, said the Union Budget 2021-22 is about the role of government as a facilitator and the private sector as a key driver of economic growth, without which the country would be losing a big opportunity.

“The most important component or input required here is the participation of the private sector. Unless the private sector is energised enough, unless it is facilitated enough, India is just losing a very big opportunity,” Sitharaman said.

According to the Finance Minister, the coronavirus vaccine was a big example of government-private partnership. “To be a world leader with that specific India touch, which is more humane, more about bringing everybody together, which is peaceful, which actually wishes that the world progresses for everybody’s good. If that is the way India approaches its responsibility, that will be incomplete unless the government plays the role, it is expected to play the facilitator and unless the private sector plays the role of a key driver. So that’s the message this budget has talked about,” the Finance Minister told the gathering.

Apart from Premji and Sitharman, the event witnessed a galaxy of tycoons including former director of Infosys T V Mohandas Pai, noted cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Prasad Shetty and president and chairman of Volvo Group India Kamal Bali.

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