Skip to main content

Whither Vaccine Utsav? How India lost 4 precious months in self-congratulatory mode

By Harshavardhan Purandare, Sandeep Pandey* 

India has been advertised as ‘the country with a great future’ ever since we globalised in the 1990s, but now this narrative of the future has become empty rhetoric to hide our weaknesses. At present, we paint a pathetic picture of ourselves. 
As Covid-19 second wave reaches the marginalised sections of our society with the slow but silent spread of the pandemic to rural India it is the worst nightmare faced by us in recent history. The dead bodies are floating in Ganga in hundreds. It appears to be a humanitarian crisis now. ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is now “Ram Bharose” and there are dark stains on ‘Clean Ganga.’
The most important work ahead of us is to vaccinate, vaccinate and vaccinate. India has traditionally been weak on public health infrastructure, so shortage of oxygen, beds, medicines and ventilators in government facilities is expected. The health services owned by the private sector are affordable only to a very limited well-to-do section of population.
The market economy might have managed to put cell phones in every hand, but markets are bad keepers of health. So overall, we are struggling to cure the infected. But we could have done a lot better in not getting infected in the first place. Vaccination is the mantra and it has been our forte. But as weeks pass we are now losing on that advantage and opportunity too.
The recent roll out of the vaccination blueprint by the Modi government gives us a rosy picture that we are going to get ‘216 Crore’ vaccines between ‘August to December 2021’. Considering that the vaccination programme in India began on January 16, 2021, and the fact that vaccine is going to be effective only for a year, even if everything works out according to plan, which appears very unlikely given the present state of uncertainty, by the time we vaccinate enough population to kick in herd immunity it’ll be time to begin fresh round of vaccination all over again.
This blueprint avoids very basic questions that need to be asked about the present failure of our vaccination programme and shuns us from the lessons that we should be learning while in battle field. It appears to be more of a headline management by the Modi government as seen on numerous occasions in the past. We were once told that we are going to become 5 trillion dollars economy, but that fantasy balloon has busted. We cannot afford a vaccination programme to meet the same fate.
In spite of having a strong pharmaceutical sector, we have failed in procurement of vaccines. India is called the pharmacy of the third world and has largest vaccine producing capacity. We have successfully vaccinated our population against small pox and polio in the past. The complacency and superstition did lead us to think that Corona was over after the first wave and we were told to celebrate ‘Vaccine Utsav’. We lost 3-4 months of precious time in self congratulatory mode.
We even began exporting the vaccines beyond our real exporting capacity and lost balance with domestic demand. We projected ourselves as a potential vaccine powerhouse of the world, and now we have positioned ourselves as bulk purchaser from global market. Adar Poonawala, on whom the government had put its bet and Modi visited Serum Institute as symbolic gesture, has left for London, probably for greener pastures and possibly for ever. Poonawala’s exit with his statement that “He is pressurized for vaccines in India'' is symptom of our broken system in spite of a ‘strong’ Prime Minister at the helm of affairs.
Corona vaccination is basically a race with time and it was a grave mistake that our leadership assessed that we have time at our disposal
Corona vaccination is basically a race with time and it was a grave mistake that our leadership assessed that we have time at our disposal. We have no bulk of vaccine flowing in before July-August and by that time lakhs of Indians will be dead with statistical underreporting by various state governments.
As a remedy, the states are given freedom to procure for themselves. It is abdication of responsibility by the centre, but also depicts that the bargaining capacity and diplomatic power of the Modi government is not of much use when it is needed most.
There are problems with delivery, too.
Idea of the vaccination process being administered through the virtual backbone of Cowin App is exciting. Connecting to the system through mobile and Aadhar is a good thing to streamline the rush at the centres and allocate slots. But that is about it. Cowin cannot ensure anything beyond that. Cowin earned its own internet jokes as it never was end in itself. Delhi High Court has ridiculed the irritating message on vaccination before every phone call when there are no vaccines available.
India should have a universal vaccination programme like it had for small pox and polio and government should have taken complete responsibility of it. Decentralization with effective knowledge transfer and appropriate investments into vaccination networks of diverse kinds should have been our strategy. Multiple stakeholders should have been empowered. There is no sign of any innovative ecosystem consciously created by our political leadership. The country has run out of ideas to create faster and impactful model of vaccination movement. All we have are vaccine shortage boards outside our centers and usual Indian chaos and melodrama around vaccination.
Modi sits staring at us on our vaccination certificates for the fortunate ones who are vaccinated. But Modi’s political style of functioning has yet again failed to create a sense of security in our polity and any kind of real vaccination assurance across length and breadth of India.
Bhartiya Janata Party leaders never fail to commit faux pas, especially in crisis time. While Sambit Patra is still defending the vaccine export by the government, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has come out in defense of right to life of the Corona virus, knowing little that virus is not a living organism.
What the blueprint reflects is: Covid is there today and vaccines can only come tomorrow. The government has released a blueprint of possible availability of vaccines, when what we need is vaccine itself.
---
*Associated with Socialist Party (India)

Comments

TRENDING

What's behind public sector banks showing huge profits in 2nd quarter of 2022-23?

By Thomas Franco*  The quarter two results of the public sector banks (PSBs) appear to be noteworthy compared to a few years ago. All these banks showed good profits in the financial year 2021-22. Twelve PSBs made a net profit of Rs 25,685 crore in quarter 2 of FY23 and a total of Rs 40,991 crore in the first half of 2023. The combined profit of 12 banks in March 2022 was Rs 66,539 crore which was 110% more than 2021 – Rs. 31,816 crore. The Asset Quality Review of 2015 saw a surge in NPAs of PSBs jumping to Rs 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018 from Rs 2.17 lakh crore in March 2014. This was simply because the norms for NPAs were changed from 180 days to 90 days, and all restructuring of even genuine accounts was done away with. In 2018 NPA of SBI was 5.73% which has come down to 0.8% in Q2 of FY23. The NPA of Canara Bank has come down to 2.19% from 7.48% in Mar 2018. The same trend is seen in all public banks. Now SBI has seen a jump of 74% in its net profit, while Canara Bank’s profit is

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Business back to normal? IIM-A survey says, sales expectations have sharply improved

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), which polls a panel of business leaders to find out their perception of slack in economy, including their inflation expectations, year-ahead cost expectations and the factors influencing price changes, such as profit and sales levels, etc., has said that the cost perceptions data indicates signs of moderation in price pressures. Carried out for September, the survey says, the cost pressure of the reporting firms has shifted from “very significant increase (over 6%) to moderate increase (3.1% to 6%).” It adds, “The percentage of firms perceiving over 10% cost increase y-o-y has declined. Over 21% of the firms in September 2022 round of the survey perceive that costs have increased very significantly (over 10%) – down from 26% recorded in August 2022.” Claiming to be a unique survey, in that it goes straight to businesses -- the price setters -- rather than to consumers or household

GoI's productivity linked incentives to corporates 'without independent analysis'

Counterview Desk  Wondering how prudent is the Government of India's (GoI's) Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, EAS Sarma, former secretary, GoI, in a representation to Nirmala Sitharaman, Union finance minister, has said it appears to be nothing more than subsidy to the private sector without any responsibility. Giving a specific example against the backdrop of announcement of 50% subsidy covering the project cost of the Vedanta Group's decision to set up a semiconductor fabrication plant in Gujarat, in collaboration with Foxconn, Sarma says, "The total cost of this project is reported to be Rs 1,54,000 crore. 50% of this works out to Rs 77,000 crore." Stating that this creates the impression that the entire subsidy allocation for the semiconductor manufacturing sector would be appropriated by this company, Sarma says, "The Gujarat government did not lag behind in liberally announcing similar incentives for the Vedanta-Foxconn project. It offered 7

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Diminishing returns: Hydro projects contribute less than 10% of India's power generation

Counterview Desk  Pointing out that India’s hydro generation remains around 10% for the last six years, the advocacy group South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has said that power generation from hydropower projects continues to show diminishing returns, as has been the story close to three decades now. Yet, says SANDRP in a note, the Government of India continues to push large hydro by announcing a slew of additional subsidies for hydropower projects, more for political economy reason. In fact, attempts are being made to flog unviable hydropower projects with various kind of manipulations, illegalities and violations, it adds. Text : In last six years, from 2016-17 to 2021-22, India’s large hydropower projects (projects above 25 MW installed capacity) have contributed just around 10% of the total power generation, going as low as 9.68% in 2017-18. In fact, in three of these six years, large hydro contributed less than 10% and recovering only marginally in the rest,

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.