Days after AIIMS Director Dr Rajeev Guleria warned that the third wave of coronavirus is inevitable, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed a press conference in which he released a ‘white paper’ created by the Congress party on how to manage the third wave of COVID-19.
While Gandhi claimed that the aim of the press conference was not to pinpoint the government but to help the nation prepare for the third wave of infection, he ended up peddling misinformation and misleading claims to attack the Centre and cast aspersions on its COVID management. What should have been a document presenting the way forward to the government and the country, turned out to be a propaganda instrument for virtue signalling and using the pandemic to revive the party’s dying political fortunes.
The suggestions made by Rahul Gandhi in the press conference and those listed in the white paper do not jibe with the Congress’ party’s stand during the pandemic. Incidentally, the white paper is prepared by the Congress Research team, headed by Rajeev Gowda, who is accused of developing the toolkit that was released by BJP leaders last month. The latest white paper seems like an extension to the alleged Congress toolkit, which suggested its leaders and supporters exploit the COVID-19 outbreak to the hilt and cast a dent in PM Modi’s popularity.
Here’s how the claims made by Rahul Gandhi and his deputy Randeep Surjewala during the press conference and the Congress white paper on COVID management is replete with flaws:-
Rahul’s deputy Randeep Surjewala disregards 86 lakh+ vaccination in a single day by citing 70 crores pulse polio vaccines in Feb 2012
Earlier yesterday, India jabbed more than 80 lakh people with COVID-19 vaccination. While the achievement is something to be proud of, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tried to belittle the feat by comparing it with the single day vaccination of pulse polio done in 2012 during the UPA-II regime.
Taking a swipe at the Modi government, Surjewala said while 80 lakh+ vaccination is good and desirable, India’s largest single-day vaccination took place on 19 February 2012 when 17 crore people were vaccinated with pulse polio. “Unfortunately, at that time PM Manmohan Singh did not boast about the single-day vaccination like the current PM does,” Surjewala said.
It is worth noting here that Randeep Surjewala is comparing apples with oranges when he compares polio vaccination with COVID-19 vaccination. The made in India vaccines were developed in December 2020 and within six months, more than 28 crore people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of either of the two vaccines developed locally. Moreover, vaccines from abroad have also been ordered and is currently on the anvil for them to be used for India’s vaccination drive.
In contrast, it took decades for India to completely eradicate polio. The vaccination of polio was introduced in the United States in 1960 and it took another 19 years for its introduction in India. Furthermore, for years India imported Polio vaccines from abroad since its IPV was not licenced for manufacturing in India till 2006. The polio vaccination was started in 1979 and India was polio-free only in 2012. Perhaps, this was the reason why then PM Manmohan Singh did not boast about the vaccination. It took more than 32 years for India to be polio-free.
When India became Polio-free officially in 2014, only three countries in the world still had the virus, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And it was the Congress party’s government at the centre for most of the years in that period.
Congress white paper says vaccination is the only tool to fight COVID while its leaders promoted vaccine hesitancy
The white paper released by the Congress party focuses on the need to vaccinate people to fight the subsequent waves of COVID-19. It included a laundry list of measures the centre should have taken to procure more vaccines and effectively distribute it among the states.
One of the measures said, “Placed orders globally for vaccines as soon as India faced the first wave”. India faced the first wave of coronavirus outbreak in mid-March 2020. At that time, the process for the development of vaccines was in a nascent state, with many pharmaceutical companies yet to start their research. However, the Congress party, in its bid to attack the Modi government, says it should have placed an order as soon as India faced the first wave.
Though the Congress party now pontificates on what the government should have done to procure the vaccines commensurate with the population of the country, it cunningly hides the treachery of its leaders, who promoted vaccine hesitancy when the Modi government launched an ambitious vaccination drive for the country.
Several senior Congress leaders such as Shashi Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh, Manish Tewari and others actively raised questions on the government’s decision to approve emergency use of indigenously made vaccines. However, Congress expediently skips the vaccine hesitancy part in its white paper. The Congress party has been so brazenly promoting vaccine hesitancy and engendering fear among people about the ingredients used in the vaccine. Recently, Congress leader Gaurav Pandhi shared misinformation that Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin contained calf serum.
It is also noteworthy to mention that it was Rahul Gandhi who had suggested the Centre to decentralise the vaccination policy and provide the state governments a greater say in procuring vaccines. The Centre heeded to the suggestion and allowed the states to issue tenders individually to meet their vaccine requirements. However, shortly later, they realised that the decision yielded no significant results as the pharma companies refused to deal with individual states and said that they will only talk with the federal government. But this failure of the opposition party was also swept under the rug as the aim was to criticise the government’s handling of COVID-19 outbreak.
The white paper says the Centre should have postponed election rallies even though Rahul Gandhi continued attending them
With the wisdom of hindsight, Rahul Gandhi now suggests that the government should have postponed the election rallies even as the coronavirus was priming itself for another wave of outbreak. However, it is notable to mention that the Gandhi scion was himself seen campaigning for the elections in various states and union territories before the elections. In fact, in a PR exercise, Rahul Gandhi also swam with the fishermen on the hustings in Kerala.
Gandhi also attended election rallies in West Bengal and called off only after it was speculated that the Wayanad MP was down with symptoms of COVID-19. This demonstrates that the suggestions made by the Congress party in the white paper released today were not followed by their supreme leader. He was busy campaigning for Congress before the elections.
Amusingly, a journalist recently ended up revealing that it was not due to concerns over COVID that Rahul Gandhi may have cancelled public rallies but it could be because he himself had tested positive for the virus.
As Rahul Gandhi claimed in his press conference that he has been cautioning the government about the subsequent waves of the coronavirus, he could have skipped the election campaigns and send out a powerful message to the country that Congress would not participate in ground campaigning in the view of the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyway, Rahul Gandhi’s campaigning has hardly been effective for the Congress party and they could have called off their election campaign to assume the moral high ground.
However, the Congress party, which now claims that the government should have postponed the election campaigns, gleefully participated in the campaigns leading up to the assembly poll elections. With the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak wreaking havoc, it conveniently pushes the blame on the Centre for going ahead with the election campaigns.
The white paper drew a sharp correlation in the spike in the number of cases in the states where the election campaigns were conducted. However, it did not explain why the states such as Maharashtra, Kerala and other states where there were no elections saw a dangerous surge in the COVID-19 cases. As Congress has been one of the coalition partners in the Maharashtra government, there was no mention of the high mortality rate and an increasing number of hospital mishaps reported across the state amidst the second wave of coronavirus outbreak.
Congress’ flip flop on India’s vaccine maitri initiative
In a bid to strengthen India’s diplomatic missions across the globe, the Indian government launched ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative, where in it sent a token amount of vaccines to countries across the world to help them in taming the coronavirus outbreak in their respective countries.
The COVID-19 outbreak has been a pandemic and there has hardly been any land untouched by the scourge of the contagion. In order to eradicate it from the face of the earth, it is important that the entire world is vaccinated against coronavirus. India being the “pharmacy of the world”, several countries looked towards New Delhi for fulfilling their vaccine requirements. India heeded their expectations and provided a host of countries with a nominal number of vaccine doses, with the promise of providing more doses after the manufacturing scales up. India is also a part of COVAX programme, which obligates it to provide a certain number of vaccines to the global vaccine forum.
However, when India was struck with the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, it promptly stopped all vaccine exports and concentrated on vaccinating its own people. Congress’s message in this regard has been profoundly confusing and inconsistent. In its white paper, Congress has slammed the government for taking credit for exporting vaccines to countries across the world.
Congress leaders have also added to the confusion on the party’s stand on Vaccine Maitri. At the time when India was overwhelmed with the second wave of COVID-19, Shashi Tharoor posted a tweet accusing the Modi government of sending vaccines abroad which were meant for Indians. A few weeks later, when the second wave subsided, Tharoor accused the government of letting down the countries that were looking forward to the vaccines supplied by India.
It is worth mentioning here that when India was hit with the brutal second wave, the countries across the globe had come forward to help India get over the wave. Help poured in from countries like Israel, Singapore, France and many others who stood by India and sent us relief material like oxygen cylinders, ventilators and other critical equipments amongst many other things.