Skip to main content

Vaccination policy: Modi’s One Earth One Health only for international consumption?

By Bobby Ramakant, Sandeep Pandey* 

When India was reeling under the severest impact of the Covid pandemic, and the peak of around 450,000 new cases was reported in 24 hours around mid April 2021, then an interesting chronology of events were taking place regarding the Covid vaccination programme (along with Kumbh in Uttarakhand and elections in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh).
The government of India had observed ‘teekautsav’ from 11-14 April 2021, then soon after had taken kudos by announcing vaccination for everyone above 18 years nationwide, and on April 23, 2021, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, declared its ‘Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy’ as part of which it abdicated its responsibility of vaccinating the citizens in age group 18-44 years.
The ‘liberalised’ in the phrase did not pertain to people, it was intended for private corporations and no wonder the government was working in tandem with them. Two private vaccine manufacturers were allowed to declare their exorbitant costs for state governments and private hospitals. Nobody would believe that the companies acted at their own behest.
After protestation from various state governments, civil society, lagging behind in vaccination drive and pressure from the Supreme Court, which described its liberalized vaccination policy as arbitrary and irrational, the government has come up with Revised Guidelines for implementation of National Covid Vaccination Programme on June 8 under which it has now taken responsibility of procuring the 75% vaccines by the union government, including on behalf of the state governments.
However, the Prime Minister has still allowed 25% vaccines to be procured by private corporations. A ceiling of Rs. 150 has been put on the vaccination charges for private hospitals which will procure Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik vaccines, respectively at Rs 600, Rs 1,200 and Rs 948. With GST, the final cost would be Rs 780, Rs 1,410 and Rs 1,145, respectively.
It is important to note that the cap of Rs 150 was announced on vaccination charges for private hospitals, but vaccine manufacturers were given a free hand to announce their prices. We should remember that government had procured Covishield and Covaxin at Rs 150 per dose earlier. Then why has the government agreed for such inflated prices announced by the manufacturers?
The office memorandum says that if Covid Vaccination Centres over-charge then strict action will be taken against them but vaccine prices can be suitably modified if the manufacturer declares changed prices. Why is the government while being strict against the private hospitals being lenient towards the private companies?
Why is the Prime Minister, whose priority should have been to vaccinate country’s population to an extent so that herd immunity would have kicked in, still allowing private companies to mint profit? Narendra Modi makes an appeal for ‘One Earth, One Health’ at the G7 outreach summit seeking support for Covid vaccine patent waiver but is reluctant to implement ‘One Nation, One Vaccine’ policy in his own country.
It turns out the private hospitals’ reach is very limited. Out of 7.4 crore vaccines made available in the month of May, 1.85 crores were allocated to private hospitals. While we witnessed government vaccination centres closed due to shortage of vaccines, the private hospitals were sitting over vaccines being able to administer only 22 lakh of the doses. Out of 1.2 crores vaccines actually procured by private hospitals, half of them were cornered by nine big hospitals in metropolitan centres.
The glaring criminal complicity of the government in helping private players make profit at the cost of people’s lives stands exposed. It also apparent that people with money will have excess supply and poor will suffer the shortage. It goes against Modi’s call of One Earth One Health, which was probably meant only for international public consumption. In Amit Shah’s words this is merely a ‘jumla.’
In a vulgar display of favouritism now the government is preparing to give indemnity to foreign vaccine manufacturer Pfizer, an advantage which is not extended to any vaccine manufacturer so far. If the indemnity is offered to all manufacturers it’ll also cover Bharat Biotech, whose vaccine is being administered under Emergency Use Authorisation as the phase III trials have not been completed.
Haunting question should be why are basic services failing to reach the most in need? Why has routine immunization not reached every child?
The clumsy handling of vaccination policy by the government gets more confounded with every decision. On one hand Indian government is joining other nations worldwide in negotiating a global treaty on human rights and businesses, so that multinational corporations can be held legally liable for human rights abuse if any, but on other hand, it is to be seen will it walk the talk on corporate accountability? People have not forgotten several instances of corporate abuse in our nation including the heart wrenching Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984.
Government has to move beyond market based so-called ‘solutions’ (as often they add to the problem) if it is to impact positive change for the most in need. Initiatives like using drones to deliver vaccines need to be very carefully reviewed because of the past history where profits for corporations have taken primacy over people’s interests.
Also, the haunting question should be why are basic services failing to reach the most in need populations? Why has routine immunization not reached every child? Why do most deaths happen due to diseases that were primarily preventable? Why corporations whose products make us sick and ill continue to mint profits while our populations suffer several pandemics of avoidable diseases? Why profiteering from illness is a norm and not a crime against humanity?
In a mock drill on April 26, 2021 morning at Paras Hospital at Agra, the owner Dr Arinjay Jain facing acute shortage of oxygen shut off its supply for 5 minutes to 96 patients to check which patients were critical. 22 patients were identified who started turning blue. Rest 74 were told to arrange for their own oxygen.
The hospital claimed only seven patients died over the next two days, however an enquiry reveals that 16 died. Paradoxically, the hospital has been given a clean chit. While Jain has been naïve enough to admit his dilemma and so-called biggest experiment, who should be held responsible for deaths of patients due to negligence inside government hospitals and while waiting for beds in hospitals in ambulances outside?
We have to remember that in 2017 when oxygen shortage was not yet a ubiquitous phenomenon, Dr Kafeel Khan lost his job merely because oxygen supply to the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, where he was nodal officer of encephalitis ward, was cut off due to non-payment of dues, something for which he was not responsible as was proved in a departmental enquiry. 
Seventy children had then died. If punitive action is the answer, then scale of deaths this time require some more heads to roll and some more institutions and establishments or even the entire governments should be sealed for abdication of its responsibility! But probably by giving a clean chit to Paras hospital, the government doesn’t want to open a Pandora’s box.
---
*With Socialist Party (India)

Comments

TRENDING

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.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

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".

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Cyrus Mistry, PM Modi’s brother: What do these accidents have in common? Merc!

By Rosamma Thomas*  In September 2022, in an accident at Palghar near Mumbai, Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of the Tata Group, died in a road accident . On December 28, 2022, a road accident in Mysore left one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brothers injured. What is common in these accidents? The car that crashed into the divider on the road, in both these cases, was manufactured by “prestigious” German manufacturer Mercedes Benz. One former dealer of Mercedes Benz cars in India has been raising issues of the threat to the lives of those riding these cars for many years now. Cama Motors, among the oldest dealers of foreign cars, having started business in pre-independence India, noted over 10 years ago that Mercedes Benz was indulging in corrupt practices . The cars are currently priced between Rs 41 lakh and Rs 2.92 crore in India; few people realize that the pride of owning a Merc comes at considerable risk to life. Cama Motors carefully documented several of the flaws on a websi

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen