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From Children’s Day to Vaccination Day: Here’s how India under PM Modi transitioned from glorifying politicians to prioritising the sanctity of human life

India has so far vaccinated close to 80 crore people with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the significance of this accomplishment can be gauged from the fact that it took India over 32 years to be completely vaccinated against Polio

Although March 16 is celebrated as the National Vaccination Day every year, from today onwards, September 17 will hold special significance as far as the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination is concerned, for this is the day on which India created history by administering more than 2 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccine in a single day, the highest single-day vaccination coverage perhaps in the entire world. 

On Friday, that is, on September 17, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated his 71st birthday. On this occasion, the central government and various state governments decided to celebrate the Prime Minister’s birthday in the service of the country—aiming to vaccinate a record number of Indians against a scourge that has insidiously swept across the globe, killing over 4.5 million in its wake. 

As of 8:45 PM on Friday, September 17, India had already jabbed over 2.23 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines, bettering the previous best of 1.41 crore vaccine doses in a single day, which was achieved on August 31. The country has now administered close to 80 crore doses so far, with around 20 crore getting two doses.

To put the matter into perspective, India has managed to inoculate about one-third of the United Kingdom population in less than 12 hours. September 17, therefore, will undoubtedly be hailed as the Vaccination Day for years to come. 

Central government planned to celebrate PM Modi’s birthday by boosting vaccinations

Ahead of PM Modi’s birthday, BJP had prepped its volunteers to ensure that the maximum number of people get their Covid-19 vaccines on September 17. The BJP had set the target of administering 2 crore vaccine doses on PM Modi’s birthday and had trained around 8 lakh volunteers for the same. 

Leaders of the BJP had urged healthcare officials and its volunteers to double the daily rate of vaccination. “Let’s do #VaccineSeva and give him (PM Modi) birthday gift by getting vaccinated those who have not taken the dose so far,” Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said yesterday, urging people to get the shots.

Similarly, several other ministers and workers hunkered down to increase vaccination coverage in their respective regions as a way to celebrate PM Modi’s birthday, a fitting tribute to a man who invoked the concept of trusteeship by portraying himself as a ‘Chowkidar’ overlooking the safety and security of the country.

India was in the throes of the coronavirus outbreak since March 2020. PM Modi had then placed the sanctity of human life above economic interests and imposed a strict lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. As the lockdown was underway, the central government also empowered pharmaceutical companies and scientists to create vaccines for the raging contagion. 

As a consequence, India was at the forefront of developing COVID-19 vaccines. It has two homemade vaccines to aid its fight against the virus. For the first time in history, India was no longer dependent on the benevolence of the western countries to fulfil its vaccination requirements. On January 16, 2021, less than a year since the first case of COVID-19 emerged in India, the country launched its free vaccination programme to inoculate its humongous population.

India has so far vaccinated close to 80 crore people with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. It is a stunning achievement, given that the country’s fledgling vaccination programme is just 8 months old and yet more than 60 per cent of the population is already jabbed. 

The significance of this accomplishment can be gauged from the fact that it took India over 32 years to be completely vaccinated against Polio. In fact, the vaccine for polio was introduced in India only in 1979, almost 19 years after it was made available in the United States. 

Congress culture of prioritising hero-worship over ensuring public safety

For years, India imported Polio vaccines from abroad since its IPV was not licenced for manufacturing in India till 2006. No wonder, India took more than 3 decades to eradicate polio. The polio vaccination was started in 1979 and India was polio-free only in 2012.

Not just polio, vaccines for other maladies also took years to reach India. In essence, the interminably long duration for procuring vaccines or should we call it the abject failure of not developing home-made vaccines was a scathing indictment of the successive Indian governments, which were overwhelmingly led by the Congress party, whose leaders were perhaps busy ingratiating themselves with the party leadership rather than prioritising vaccination for the Indian population.

Instead of harbouring concerns for the vaccination of people against lethal diseases, Congress leaders were perhaps preoccupied with demonstrating their loyalty to the Gandhi family. Important occasions such as the birth anniversaries of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and others were treated as opportunities to exhibit one’s fealty to the Gandhi family. 

The birth anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, which falls on November 14, was rechristened as Children’s Day, citing his love for children. Every year, several Congress leaders across the country organise extravagant programmes and elaborate ceremonies on November 14 to celebrate the birth anniversary of their foremost leader, possibly in a bid to convey their deference to the Gandhi family. 

Recently, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s image was excluded from ‘Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations, Congress leaders, supporters and sympathisers fell over themselves to accuse the government of deliberately omitting the contribution of Nehru in India’s freedom movement. 

It is profoundly amusing that despite years of deification of Nehru, with countless buildings, grounds, parks, airports, roads and other government properties named after him, Congress leaders still feel a sense of insecurity over the exclusion of Nehru’s image from an event organised to mark the contribution of freedom fighters. 

This sense of insecurity and lack of self-belief is the hallmark of the present-day Congress, where a culture of rewarding hangers-on and punishing meritocrats has taken root. It is because of this corrosive culture that those who seek to advance in the party focus their energies on appeasing the family instead of working for the welfare of people. 

Sanctity of Human life takes precedence over indulging in extravagant celebrations

By contrast, the BJP government at the centre has chosen to mark their leader’s birthday by providing as many vaccines to the vulnerable population as possible. Like their Congress counterparts, the BJP government had the opportunity to organise an extravagant function to celebrate PM Modi’s 71st birthday, but they instead chose to divert their resources in boosting India’s vaccination programme.

Administering over 2 crore vaccine doses is a phenomenal achievement. This feat would not have been possible if it were not for the vision envisaged by PM Modi, the determination of the central government, the hard work of the BJP leaders and most importantly, the commitment and dedication of tens and thousands of healthcare workers, who put their lives in dangers to spearhead the country’s vaccination programme. 

But the threat is not yet neutralised. Newer and more transmissible variants of the virus continue to spark outbreaks across the world. It is, therefore, all the more important that India doesn’t let its guard down and persist with its task of inoculating the remaining population.

The central government seems to acknowledge the devastation the virus can wreck. It remains resolute in its ambitious target of inoculating the entire population by December 31, 2021. Given the way the vaccination programme is galloping, one won’t be surprised if the goal of attaining total inoculation would be achieved well before the slated date.

 

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Jinit Jain
Engineer. Writer. Learner.

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