Politics, ideology drive Govt’s vaccination programme

India’s vaccination programme is also intended to promote Swadeshi and nationalism

Rajesh Dikshit |

India vaccination

Vaccination in India (https://vigyanprasar.gov.in/)

Only bhaktas can deny the fact that the Narendra Modi government’s response to the corona crisis has been suboptimal. Right from the nationwide lockdown—which occasioned unprecedented misery for all, especially the poor—to approval and dissemination of vaccines, its response has been guided more by politics and ideology than facts and reason. Its recent scuffle with the Maharashtra government over the subject should be seen in this overall context.

It seems that the second surge, much steeper than the first one, has something to do with the tardy pace of vaccination. In the last 24 hours, India got 131,968 Covid cases, taking the total number to more than 1.3 crore. For the fourth time in five days, the country has seen over 1 lakh new cases. There were 780 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the total fatalities to 167,694. Only the United States and Brazil have had more Covid deaths.

Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, is suffering because of, among other things, shortage of vaccines. Many vaccine centres in Maharashtra, as in other states, have been shut because of the paucity of jabs. Many districts in Maharashtra are without any shots.

Now, these things happen in such times. But when the Maharashtra government said so, the Centre took it as a criticism. Perhaps, it was, as the folks running the state are no angels; they too indulge in politicking. The Modi government, however, should have responded in a statesmanlike fashion.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan instead decided to fight fire with fire, calling the allegations of vaccine shortage as “utterly baseless.” He said, “This is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic.”

He alluded to the ongoing extortion saga being played out in Mumbai: “It is shocking to see how the state government is putting Maharashtrians in danger by letting people escape institutional quarantine mandate for the sake of their personal Vasuli [extortion]. Overall, as the state has lurched from one crisis to another, it seems as if the state leadership is happily sleeping at the wheels.”

Now, Dr. Vardhan, the politicians and policemen in Mumbai may not be the paragons of virtue, but should you, as Union Health Minister, be talking about the Antilia-Param Bir Singh-Waze story at this time? And why don’t you acknowledge the simple fact that there is a vaccine shortage? There is no other reason that jabs are not available to all age groups.

As we mentioned earlier, politics and ideology hugely influence the Centre’s response to the novel coronavirus. Its vaccination programme is also intended to promote Swadeshi and nationalism. Hence both manufacturers, Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech, are domestic companies. Many other vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik—are there, but there government doesn’t seem very keen to bring them in.

Further, till a few days ago, the government has been keener on exporting vaccines rather than giving shots to Indians. By the time India vaccinated 3 crore people at home, it had exported almost double that number. Prime Minister Modi may like to boost India’s image, and his own, in the world, but this should not be at the pace of vaccination in the country.

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