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

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

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.

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

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".

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

2002 riots: Gujarat assembly 'misinformed' about dereliction of duty, says ex-DGP

By Rajiv Shah  Former Gujarat topcop RB Sreekumar, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch, has alleged that the Gujarat government gave “totally false information” on the floor of the State Assembly regarding the appeal he made to the Gujarat governor for the “initiation of departmental action against those responsible for culpable negligence in maintenance of public order and investigation of genocidal crimes” during the 2002 riots.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

'Devastating impact': Rural workers suffer as Govt of India NREGA budget down by 34%

Counterview Desk  A civil rights group, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj stating that 34 per cent decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 has added to woes on India’s rural population, already suffering from “devastating impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Catholic women warn: Kerala Bishop turning Church into puppet in political games

Counterview Desk A group of Catholic women under the banner Concerned Catholic Women of India has said that they are deeply concerned over "a bishop’s controversial statement" which may threaten communal harmony in India. As many as 89 Catholic women from across India have urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and its Kerala unit to take special steps to "foster peace and avoid strife."

Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk  While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.