A vaccination drive organised by Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwath Narayan was criticised by the Opposition Congress and local residents in Bengaluru's Malleshwaram on Wednesday after temple priests were given the vaccine. A video showed a heated argument at the vaccination centre where people who were gathered outside alleged that they were denied vaccination on the basis of their caste. Congress leader BK Hariprasad also alleged that vaccination was denied to the public because of caste.
The vaccine drive was held at the Government Women's College in Malleshwaram on May 31. But the drive led by Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwath Narayan was criticised for focusing on temple priests when they are not listed as a priority group by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for vaccination.
Visuals showed priests receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the facility. In the video shared on social media, people are seen gathered outside the vaccination site and arguing with police officials asking to be vaccinated.
A complaint was filed at the Malleshwaram Police Station by three people claiming that they were denied the vaccination on the basis of their caste but the First Information Report (FIR) has not been registered in the case. "I went to the vaccine centre but I was not allowed inside. There is no issue with the police but BJP workers were taking people inside and ensuring vaccination of the temple priests. We were standing in line and continued to remain there with no one calling us inside. When we asked about this, we were questioned about our caste," says one of the complainants speaking to TNM.
Responding to the controversy, Ashwath Narayan on Wednesday issued a statement about the allegations raised by BK Hariprasad. "Vaccines were given to frontline workers, priority groups and those who were taking care of them. According to the guidelines by the government, vaccination was given to whoever came. Every single persons' Aadhar number was written down and a vaccine was given. Moreover, Hariprasad must understand that caste is not mentioned on the Aadhaar card," Ashwath Narayan said.
"The vaccination was for senior citizens and caretakers, and priests were vaccinated in that category," an official in the Deputy Chief Minister's office told TNM.
Ashwath Narayan added that around 1,000 people living in slums were also vaccinated after raising money from donors.
In the last week, other BJP leaders in Bengaluru have courted controversy related to vaccine drives. Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya was alleged to have registered people for a paid COVID-19 vaccination drive, while CV Raman Nagar MLA Raghu was alleged to have diverted government vaccine supply for running a vaccination camp.