What is Ailing the Indian Covid Vaccination Programme? by Jaipal Singh SignUp

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What is Ailing the Indian Covid Vaccination Programme?
by Dr. Jaipal Singh Bookmark and Share

In a free and democratic society, every individual has liberty to express views that inter alia include criticism of the programmes and policies of the government and there is no second opinion about this concept. Ever since Covid-19 pandemic overtook the community of nations under its malevolent grip in the 2020, this author has seen numerous blogs/articles in national and international media including this very literary forum. In the Indian context, there have been many independent individuals and organizations which have objectively evaluated and acknowledged the role of leadership and government in handling such a huge and complex population with umpteen oddities and contrasts. But I feel sorry to note that the majority of these articles/blogs are contributed with a lopsided vision with rather a hit and run approach. As the conflict and controversy has tremendous sale value in the modern age, they often tend to put forth own wisdom simply highlighting some inadequacies in executive functioning and thereby concluding faulty planning and approach, real or imaginary, as if those handling it in the government have no idea or vision, and are doing nothing to take out the country and people from the difficult pandemic times.

Toolkit Connection of the Open Letter of Retired Civil Servants

During the second fortnight of May 2021, a controversial Toolkit erupted in the Indian media generating a lot of political heat and controversy. This document contained detailed instructions under six main categories to target and embarrass the Indian Prime Minster led Central Government in the background of the recent dramatic surge in Covid-19 cases in the country. To achieve this, several obnoxious activities were listed inter alia recommending use of religion through propaganda to propagate Kumbh Mela at Haridwar as the super spreader of the pandemic, call the virus as “Indian strain” or even “Modi strain”, publicise that the ventilators sent by the Central Government to Punjab and Chhattisgarh (Congress rules states) out of the “PM Cares fund” were defective and mobilize the former friendly civil servants to write open letter to raise questions on the functioning of the government. Consequently, allegations and counter-allegations were exchanged between the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress about “who was behind it” or “who done it!” but it could be any rational and logical mind’s guess or interpretation as to who would be ultimate beneficiary of such propaganda.

It is not for the first time that the superannuated civil servants, many of whom are part of a well-groomed ecology of politicians and bureaucrats in the past regime and enjoyed considerable attention and perks for long even after retirement, have written against this government. They have done it on previous occasions too in various contexts; and being a retired senior bureaucrat self, this author can vouch that this genre of ex-civil servants knows their job well. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that they have promptly obelized by drafting a polished yet strongly worded letter personally addressed to Prime Minister Modi just within a few days of the Toolkit made public. It’s rather a long text only a few lines are excerpted below:

“We, a group of former civil servants from the All India and Central Services, with a deep commitment to the Constitution of India and with no political affiliations, have written to you as well as other constitutional authorities on a number of occasions in the past, whenever we felt that executive actions violated the provisions of the Constitution…”

“The steady erosion of the Cabinet system of governance, the worsening of federal relationships with the states, especially those governed by parties opposed to the party ruling at the centre, the lack of informed consultation with experts and Parliamentary committees, the failure to take the timely advice of expert committees and the absence of effective coordination with state governments have had disastrous consequences for the poor and disadvantaged and now for the better off sections of society as well. Despite warnings from the international community and our own scientists, the breathing space between the first and the second waves was not used to augment critical resources such as medical staff, hospital beds, oxygen supplies, ventilators and drugs and other medical supplies. Even more inexcusably, no advance planning was done to secure adequate stocks of vaccines, despite India being one of the major vaccine suppliers to the world… your Atmanirbhar Bharat is today compelled to seek the help of the outside world to lessen the agony inflicted on its own people by your government.”

With the above introductory barbs, the letter goes on to infer how the government has failed in its duty on all fronts. Then they go on making many liberal recommendations on Covid vaccination, and so on, which is already known from the opposition parties’ public utterances, many individual blogs/articles written disregarding the available resources and constraints. The letter even recommended Prime Minister to monthly pay Rs 7,000 to all families of certain pecuniary status, of course without revealing their wisdom on the sources of revenue. The author has reasonable knowledge about at least a dozen of these luminaries such as Wajahat Habibullah, former CIC, Najeeb Jung, former Lt Governor of Delhi, Shivshankar Menon, former NSA in Manmohan Singh government, Noor Mohammad, former Secretary NDMA, TKA Nair, former PS & Advisor to ex-PM Manmohan Singh, Julio Ribeiro, former Advisor to Punjab Governor and Jawhar Sircar, former CEO Prasar Bharti. " Your Atmanirbhar Bharat" dig suggests as if they are not part of Bharat endeavouring to achieve self-reliance and perhaps also explains to a considerable degree why many of them oppose and ridicule along with political masters any evolving Indian industrialists or companies while merrily endorsing multinationals, other foreign companies and goods.

In the opening para, they vouch for their commitment to the Constitution and political neutrality, but their last assignment itself speaks volumes of their loyalty and alignment with no need of spilling any beans. The author doesn’t want to divulge into personal details of the listed individuals and their leanings and links, yet it would not be out of context to mention that after serving in a constitutional post in Delhi, Najib Jung found it worthy to address and support anti-CAA rally of a particular community in Delhi despite knowing very well that the law being opposed had nothing against the Indian Muslims. Yet another luminary, Jawhar Sircar, as if his nearly daily outrageous tweets often with personal attack on prime minister were not suffice, recently tweeted a morphed image of PM Modi with the wife of country’s top industrialist then quickly deleted it when news channels revealed the truth and he was trolled for spreading untruth. So, these are just two illustrative accounts of their being apolitical and I leave it to the audience to make their own worthy opinion about them as also those who used content of this letter to further own cause.

Opposition and Critics’ Perspective of The Vaccination Programme

(A) Criticism and Fault

Finding The focus and spirit of the political opponents criticizing the Indian vaccination programme, and tenor and texture of the retired bureaucrats in the aforesaid open letter has largely remained the same. While blaming the Indian prime minster and his government for the casual attitude towards the magnitude of the pandemic, they have charged that the government has not assessed systematically the funds requirements to tackle the pandemic since its inception in March 2020. In a nutshell, these ex-bureaucrats have linked almost every project or development with the alleged Covid-19 mismanagement that the Congress and Left parties have been raising so far such as the PM-CARES fund, the Central Vista project, restrictions imposed on certain NGOs about foreign remittances, and so on. None of them even bothered to consider or refer to lakhs of crore already spent on people hit during the pandemic since March 2020, including the present allocation of Rs 35,000 crore for the vaccination programme. Similarly, none of them even deemed it necessary to think why president of only one particular political party should be a core member of the Prime Minister National Relief Fund or the fact that the Central Vista is the project for which a need was felt and project conceptualized in the previous regime itself.

In fact, finding faults with the India’s tackling of the Covid-19 pandemic and its vaccination programme have been perhaps the most popular theme in the international media these days and opposition parties, mainly the Congress party. Actually, the healthcare is a state subject but the Central too has certain obligation in the contingencies like the current pandemic situation. Domestically, such opposition has been so intense at every development that it has assumed a comic situation. For instance, when the opposition ruled state(s) are seized with a problem, there is a tendency to squarely pass the blame on to the Indian Prime Minister and Central Government; Conversely, if the problem is in a BJP ruled state, the Chief Minister concerned shall be blamed for it. The classic instances are from the opposition ruled Maharashtra and Delhi in the former category and the BJP ruled Uttar Pradesh in the latter case.

While the vaccines were under development, the same opposition parties constantly raised questions and doubts about the credibility and capability of the scientists and government as also the efficacy of vaccines in providing protection against the Covid-19 disease. When the vaccines namely Covishield (in collaboration with Oxford-AstraGeneca of UK) and Covaxin (indigenous by Bharat Biotech and ICMR) were approved by the DCGI for the emergency use in India, the same set of critics raised questions and scepticism about inadequate trial and unwarranted rush for the vaccination in sheer disregard of procedures thereby risking the life of citizens. Now that the vaccination programme is successfully implemented (Over 260 million people covered on date), same parties and people are raising bizarre and impractical issues including impromptu vaccination for all. In the beginning, India had also helped other underdeveloped and poor countries with certain vaccine doses as a humanitarian cause and international protocol, and for this the opposition not only put the government under dock but also waged a poster war in person against the Indian prime minister.

In fact, overzeal and unwarranted interest of the international media synchronized with the country’s main opposition party’s criticism of the government’s Covid management and vaccination programme constantly refuse to die down. It may be recalled only few weeks ago, Reuters had created sensation through drone images of a cremation ghat on the banks of the Ganga River by linking all burials to the Covid victims. Now few days back, Reuters has again exploded another bombshell by claiming that the Indian government had increased the gap between two doses of Covishield from 12 to 16 weeks in May 2021 disregarding the advice of scientists of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) at a time when the supplies of the shot were falling short of demand and infections were surging across the country. Again Reuter’ intention is not clear in making this claim when many other countries such as Canada and Spain in the West, and Sri Lanka in the neighbourhood are also maintaining same interval between the two vaccine doses.

Ever since the development of vaccines started in India, the opposition parties, particularly the Congress, have left no stone unturned in creating vaccine hesitancy in the country and derail the government’s efforts to contain the virus. The latest such attempt being on 15 June 2021 when Gaurav Pandhi, the Digital Communications & Social Media National Coordinator of Congress, shared a RTI document on Twitter claiming that the Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin contains new-born calf serum obtained after slaughtering 20-days-old calves. In a tweet, he wrote that the Modi Govt has admitted that Covaxin consists of New-born Calf Serum, which is a portion of clotted blood obtained from less than 20 days young cow-calves, after slaughtering them. Then he added “THIS IS HEINOUS!” and the information should have been made public before. This is for anybody’s guess what kind of resentment and anger this news could create among masses when many of them are already refusing to take shots. Only some time back, a controversy was created about the use of pork gelatine in the vaccine and makers of AstraZeneca (Covishield) had to clarify that they did not use products made from pork at any stage.

Apart from the spate of misinformation and confusion constantly created by the opposition politicians, international and a section of national media; some intellectuals and free-lance bloggers too have expressed reservations about the modus operandi of the Indian government vaccination programme. Some of them have criticized the government for the shortage of vaccines ever since the programme of the vaccination of the people of eighteen years plus age group was undertaken. They feel that the government did not do their assessment correctly about the availability of vaccines in a rush to vaccinate the whole nation. Some have also opined that the government must prioritise the vaccination of the auto and cab drivers, bus drivers and conductors, e-commerce agents, food delivery boys, workforce in the shops supplying essential goods and services. In other words, the government should plan vaccination horizontally too besides the ongoing largely age-based vertical drive.

(B) Author’s Take on Aforesaid Issues

As of now, apart from the measures like social distancing, and use of mask and sanitiser, taking prescribed shots of available vaccines appear the only silver lining or viable defense against the Covid-19 disease across the globe. The fact remains that every person is afraid of death and even for continuing to oppose the Modi government, it is essential for the opponents to survive covid menace and remain alive. Therefore, whether politician or mediaperson or masterpiece Indian liberals and intellectuals – most of the people who constantly find faults, criticize and oppose the vaccination programme – have gone to the nearest or any other convenient vaccination centre or hospital and taken prescribed shots quietly away from public gauze or in full public view.

As for the recent misinformation and flutter created by Reuters prompting Indian politicians, media and intellectuals opposing the vaccination programme with the hint that the increased gap between the two shots of Covishield was on account of an arbitrary decision of the government due to their failure to augment vaccine supplies rather than a sound decision based on the scientific advice. In the aforesaid context, the author would like to verbatim quote what Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said sharing insights around the Covid-19 vaccination few months back, “We have very good data showing strong protection for the first three months between the two doses. A three-month interval produces very good protection, this gets even better with a longer interval from three to four months. A longer time gap gets a stronger immune response after the second dose.”

Till recently, UK’s approach has been to maintain a gap of 12-16 weeks between two shots of Oxford-AstraGeneca (Indian Covishield), only now in June 2021, they have started talking the reduction of this gap to 8 weeks in the context of the new corona variant with genome B.1.617. As already mentioned, other countries like Spain, Canada and Sri Lanka are also maintaining the same gap of 12 to 16 weeks between two doses. Those who are seeking opportunities of indiscrete criticism should also remember that this gap was revised only in case of Covishield based on global experience and recommendation of the empowered scientific group that advises the government in these matters while the original periodicity of 4 to 6 weeks in case of Covaxin has remained unchanged.

When the Indian government notified increase in the duration between two doses of Covishied on 13 May 2021, it inter alia cited that this decision was based on the real-life evidences, particularly from UK. Those who are not aware may know that this vaccine was jointly developed by the Oxford University and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraGeneca in UK. According to the chairperson scientist who heads India’s Working Group that guides and advises the government, it is too early to change the track (gap between doses) again and India need not blindly follow UK in this matter. According to him, the peak of the current surge is over with country already faced the music of the B.1.617 corona variant.

India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization is an expanded body of many accomplished scientists and technical luminaries. Some of the Indian news channels and websites such as The Wire and Scroll.in are constantly found engaged in criticism not only of the present government but also of Hindus and the nation in general. In their largely misleading blog titles, they have reported that “three” of the advisory group comprised of fourteen core members did not support the increase in gap between two doses of Covishield. Although none of the members made any public statement but even if we assume that three of them indeed had reservations, it is so very normal to have divergent opinion or disagreement in a heterogenous group. And how the decisions are taken when all members do not agree with the same view point: As per a universal practice in all such cases, decisions are taken by a majority view/vote, and dissenting member(s) is given choice to record their reservations, if any. So, what is the fuss about it and the intent of foreign media like Reuters in meddling in India’s matter?

In the context of the Congress’s recent allegation of calf-serum in Covaxin after slaughtering 20 days old cow calves and their “THIS IS HEINOUS!” jibe, they must be jubilant now that they succeeded in embarrassing the government and Bharat Biotech to a considerable extent. Had the answers given to queries in the alleged RTI been learnt and interpreted with the correct wisdom and intent, they would have found no reasons for controversy. In every vaccine development and manufacture, the bovine or some other animals like sheep, monkey, guinea pig, mice, etc., is used in intermediary processes. The serum is used as a standard method to produce cells as necessary medium to culture viruses and other pathogens in any vaccine development. This is true to the previous vaccines like BCG, Polio, Rabies, Influenza, and so on; and this is true to the development of the Covid vaccine. Some of these vaccines were for sure developed in earlier decades during the Congress regime, so it is ab initio wrong to say that the government or the Bharat Biotech had hidden any relevant information now.

The Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has formally refuted the claim of Covaxin containing the newborn calf serum and clarified the position through a formal press release. It has explained that the said calf serum is used only for the preparation/growth of the VERO cells. The serum is completely removed by thorough wash of the Vero cells which are then used for the multiplication and growth of the virus. These cells are completely destroyed in the process of the viral growth which is followed by the killing (inactivation) and purification of the virus culture. Thus, inactivated and purified virus only is used to make the final vaccine and the final vaccine formulation does not contain even the trace of serum in it. This is the technique followed in Covaxin as well as others such as Polio, Rabies, Influenza, etc vaccines. India does not produce calf serum due to ban on cow slaughter in the country and the serum used in the intermediary process is mostly imported from the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Coming to the opinion of some intellectuals and bloggers that the government must prioritise the vaccination of super spreaders like the auto and cab drivers, bus drivers and conductors, e-commerce agents, food delivery boys, and so on, the author would recommend that they must ab initio correct themselves in calling these people as super spreaders. They could instead be rightly addressed as the “high risk” or “vulnerable” group of people. The super spreaders are those with corona infection, for instance, the Tablighi Jamaat in March-April 2020, who had deliberately defied, escaped and mixed with the healthy population in disregard of the government guidelines. Even those political leaders, religious teachers, mediapersons or intellectuals should fall in this category who deliberately indulge in misinformation and incite people to defy Covid guidelines and refuse vaccination. On the contrary, these high-risk people belong to low-income group, who have been worst hit during the pandemic period since March 2020 losing their employment, earnings, and so on.

Let us take drivers and conductors, nearly all public and private transport vehicles have been either completely off the road or allowed with severe restrictions during the prolonged lockdown, day and/or night curfews in states whenever the coronavirus was on surge. In fact, the majority people have suo moto stopped using such transport except in dire need or some emergency since March 2020. The restaurants, sweet shops and fast-food joints have remained closed for prolonged periods with the majority delivery boys out of employment these days. In any case, people have started taking utmost care with the delivery of e-commerce goods and food ordered from outside. Hence calling them super spreader or demanding a separate priority route for vaccination do not auger well. While finding faults with the government approach and making fresh recommendations, one must also make a realistic analysis of the volume and magnitude of the problem as also overall resources and constraints of the system. The current age based approach for various target groups allowing leverage to certain qualifying comorbidities has been universally accepted and implemented by various countries.

Citing shortage of vaccines since the eighteen years plus people were undertaken, some savant people have opined that government did not do their assessment correctly about the availability of vaccines in a rush to vaccinate the whole nation:) It is true that the two vaccines namely Covishield and Covaxin have their own production limits, and now Sputinik V has commenced, and vaccines for the entire population cannot be produced in a short timeframe of few weeks or months for the country that has nearly 1390 million population. According to an old census data, about 59 percent adult people were above the age of eighteen years; broadly, on this consideration, India would need about 1640 million doses to cover the entire adult population. It is desirable that the entire population undergoes vaccination but it is voluntary not only in India but globally too and cannot be forced on anyone unwilling to go for vaccination.

Therefore, on one hand the government need to educate and persuade people for vaccination, on the other hand they have responsibility of making it available to all such willing people. In the first phase, the experts had estimated about 30 million health and sanitation workers, and policemen but after vigorous efforts only about 50 percent of the aforesaid target was accomplished. Further, the existing shortages for the older age groups are partly real and partly artificial. While it is true that in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai as also some other places, shortages were indeed reported at some centres but it is also true that some state governments under the opposition rule have been using the alleged isolated incidents too as a ploy against the Central Government. As the entire vaccination process is transparent and IT driven, it is open for personal verification by any interested person that people are not utilizing daily full capacity/slots available in many centres across the country. In such scenario and the fact, the government is taking all possible measures to augment vaccine supply now, it appears quite sane and reasonable to extend it simultaneously to all adults of the age of 18 to 44 years rather than keeping them on wait for long. Those who doubt and criticize should at least learn the essential aspects of the Indian vaccination programme.

Indian Vaccination Programme

India started its vaccination drive of Covid-19 on 16 January 2021 albeit some 2-3 weeks later compared to US, Canada and few other Western countries. So far, 222 countries and territories have been hit with the pandemic but only four countries namely the US, UK, Russia and India were able to successfully come out timely with their own vaccination research, development and implementation programme. The author has consciously not considered the People’s Republic of China programme because of its mystery and ambiguity and the fact that they are largely responsible for pushing the entire mankind into this mayhem. While the ex-US president has openly claimed their role in spreading the virus seeking compensation, as more data and information is emerging out, more the view is strengthened that the coronavirus was leaked from the Wuhan virology lab, intentionally or accidentally, and people in Wuhan were made to suffer like a guinea pig for a limited period before the virus engulfed the globe sparing its place of origin.

On 1st January 2021, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) approved emergency use of the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine (Indian trade name "Covishield") and next day on 2nd January, another vaccine candidate namely Covaxin. While the former was developed in UK and produced under licence by Pune based the Serum Institute of India, the latter was developed by the Bharat Biotech based in Hyderabad in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology. Recently in April 2021, the Indian government has also approved the Russian Sputnik V vaccine distributed locally by Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, and being also used now.

In the first phase, the vaccination programme was commenced at over three thousand centres across the country involving all health workers and other frontline workers associated with the sanitation, police, paramilitary forces and disaster management personnel. Out of the initial estimates of about 30 million such people, about 14 million healthcare and frontline workers volunteered for vaccination till early March 2021. It may be kept in view that due to various issues and doubts associated with vaccination, and its voluntary nature, many people have remained hesitant for these shots across India and globe.

During the second phase starting from 1st March 2021, the vaccination programme covered all the senior citizens of the age of sixty years and above as also the people in the age bracket of forty-five to sixty years, provided they had one or more qualifying comorbidities. Needless to mention, any health care or frontline worker who did not get vaccinated in January and February months also remained eligible for the vaccine shots. The entire process was IT driven whereby users were required to register via Aarogya Setu or CoWin Apps to take vaccine shots on the scheduled centres and dates. Even those who had difficulties in registration or failed to do so, were manually assisted on vaccination centres and got vaccinated.

While the US and other Western countries only focused on their own population, India simultaneously resolved to help other poor and underdeveloped countries across the globe. Accordingly in January 2021, the Government of India undertook a humanitarian initiative known as Vaccine Maitri (vaccine friendship) that aimed to leverage the country's pharmaceutical industry to export Indian-manufactured vaccines to other countries in need, particularly of the aforesaid category. In the initial months, India supplied nearly 66.4 million vaccine doses to 95 countries either free or on commercial terms. However, when the massive surge of the second coronavirus wave gripped the nation, India had to suspend its humanitarian cause of the vaccine export in March 2021. While some opposition parties, a section of media and Indian intellectuals have continuously criticised the government, this author feels that the government should resume this humanitarian approach as soon as the situation is conducive again commensurate with the ancient Indian vision of the Vasudhiva Kutumbakam.

Although the rationale of commencing the vaccination of people in the age group eighteen to fourty-four has been explained in the last para of the previous section yet the third phase of the Indian vaccination programme reminds me ancient fable of the old man, son and donkey going under the public gauge. The essence of the story is whatever you do and however well-meaning you are in the society; people will find reasons to criticize and oppose your action. During the second surge of Covid-19 disease, comparatively a large number of people of the lower age group were infested and suffered casualties. Under the growing anxiety and demand from this group, the government decided to start vaccination of the people in this age bracket too with effect from 1st May 2021 despite constraints in vaccine supply. In the obtaining circumstances and that the two existing vaccine producers gave optimism to further augment supplies, DCGI approved Russian Sputinik V for production/use after initial import and embargo of vaccine supplies to foreign countries, the decision to go for eighteen plus people seems quite reasonable. People have short memories and may have forgotten that ill-timed decision of the new US president to stop supplies of raw materials to India also caused a setback for few weeks in domestic vaccine production and supply.

The government had simultaneously revised its procurement and distribution policy to render more leverage and free hand to the individual states and private stakeholders in vaccination including fixing the ceiling of the price of different vaccines including the service charges by the private hospitals, details of which are already available in public domain. During the same period, in-house research and development of the children’s vaccines has continued and DCGI has approved phase 2 and phase 3 trials of Covaxin among the children of age group 2-18 years. Citing non-availability of adequate doses, some of the states even postponed their programme for the eighteen plus age group. Under the growing confusion and hullaballoo among the states, particularly the opposition rules states, the prime minister himself announced on 7 June 2021 that the central government would now purchase and procure all vaccines in bulk and make it available to the states free of any charge.

The government has planned to cover the entire Indian population under vaccinated category by end of December 2021. In this endeavour, so far, they have ordered and approved 750 million doses of Covishield, 550 million doses of Covaxin and 156 million doses of Sputinik V. In addition, at least three vaccine candidates, namely Corbevax, Corovax and ZyCoV-D are at an advance stage of Phase III trials and the government has already placed the letters of intent on the first two vaccine manufacturers for the purchase of 300 and 200 million doses, respectively. Few other RNA and Adenovirus vector-based vaccines are also under development in the first or second stage trails. Separate negotiations with US private manufacturers like Pfizer and Moderna is also under process but their extravagant claims, legal terms and exorbitant cost appears prohibitive; hence in all likelihood, India would rely more on its own manufacturing capacity through the augmentation of the existing and new developments. In the long run, there may be few slippages but in all likelihood the maximum population shall be covered by 2021 year end.

This leaves the larger question “what is ailing the Indian vaccination programme?” The government has earmarked a sum of Rs 35,000 crore to be spent on the vaccination programme. Also, from the aforesaid data and analysis, it is apparent that the Indian establishment has fairly a clear vision for procuring nearly 2,000 million doses required for the target population in the ensuing months. The system is in place, where needed it is further augmented, some teething problems may arise here and there but as it appears there is nothing on date that cannot be addressed with time. So, what is this ailment about and where does it lie then? Obviously, this ailment is in the minds of people who are unable to see or remember any positive development in their obsession to oppose it lock, stock and barrel. In a healthy democracy, opposition has a crucial role of pointing out the mistakes and deficiencies of the government programmes and policies so as to pressurise them to take corrective actions. But when the opposition, including some political parties, media and intellectuals in the instant case, is viciously engaged in scheming against a people’s welfare scheme to let is down just because they cannot accept the particular person and party in power, the entire activity becomes counterproductive jeopardizing the interests of the very nation. Needless to mention, precisely this is the critical phase that the Indian democracy is experiencing now during the Covid-19 pandemic.


While checking on the profile of few luminaries signed the famous “Open Letter” to prime minister vouching allegiance to the Constitution and political neutrality, I was shocked to find a senior ex-bureaucrat in the list recently using a morphed photograph to malign the Indian prime minister’s personal image as also umpteen tweets with vicious personal attacks. In yet another bizarre tweet, the same gentleman tweets, “Demonic Trump gone! Now, Modi’s buddy Israel’s Netanyahu finally thrown out. Modi’s friend Brazil’s Bolsonaro going, going, gone! …Biden doesn’t want to see Modi. G7 criticises Modi’s Internet-Shutdowns. Xi hates Modi… Few retd IFS may clap for him, but does Modi have 1 friend?” There are many more such luminaries in the list and they call self politically neutral. Already having served in high offices as senior bureaucrats and being well aware of the resources and constraints under which the system works, I wish these critics and baiters could have also appreciated aforesaid developments to understand the holistic picture of Covid-19 in the country. Those who have retired need to come out of their erstwhile political loyalties and slave mentality if they are indeed true to the society, and genuinely interested in the welfare of the nation.

Let us also realize the hard realities under which the entire Indian establishment has to operate with the obtaining resources and constraints to carry out the vaccination programme for over 1,000 million targeted people. As can be seen from the recent calf serum controversy and other such unsavoury incidents, how a section of opposition, media and so-called Indian intellectuals, on one hand, incite the people against the vaccination, and then on the other hand, criticize the government citing failures in vaccination programme in utter disregard and denial of all development and achievement. In a complex society like India divided on caste, region, religion, etc., people tend to follow the voice of their political and religious leaders. Consequently, a large section of people of the particular minority community everywhere and ignorant people in rural and semi-urban areas have constantly refused to take vaccine shots and follow other prescribed Covid protocols. Constant misinformation campaign has made many of them weary and led to believe that the Covid vaccine would cause severe body harm, including death, or impotence and infertility. The Government of India and frontline workers on ground have to work under these constraints and odds to take out the country from the mayhem caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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