‘Vax’ing Eloquent As Grim Reality Jabs

This week too it is yet another round of distressing news, making it tougher for our citizens travelling the world.

Every day one thinks there will be some hopeful, mood-lifting information that emits from our Bharat Bhagya Vidhaata. Instead, what we get is high drama, loud, chest-thumping announcements that make India look stupider by the day. If you think this is an exaggeration, go seek authentic information, ask pertinent questions and then ask, why is the leader of our country even resorting to such gimmicks day after day instead of just facing the citizens, speaking honestly, giving accurate information and simply admitting to the fact that beating the coronavirs is NOT easy and we need certain protocols to be followed diligently. But no, this week too it is yet another round of distressing news, making it tougher for our citizens travelling the world.

Vaccine claims

So, if you are a rich Indian, the best option would be to briefly dash out of this country, take one of the following vaccines and return home safely. At the moment, the World Health Organisation has evaluated and approved only AstraZeneca/Oxford Vaccine, but not the Indian version, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/ BioN Tech, Sinopharm and Sinovac. Both desi versions are yet to get approval and that means more restrictions for Indians. The world over, it is getting tougher for Indians to travel, especially students. All this while, the Prime Minister has been harping on India being ‘atmanirbhar’ for manufacturing vaccines and being an exporter. But then what happened to getting approvals? Why has the data not been shared? Why have Indian authorities NOT ensured all protocols and processes for trials, data-sharing were not followed? Why has the government of India NOT taken the initiative to handle this at diplomatic levels? Both the Serum Institute of India (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) have been dealing with it on their own. As if, the ministry of external affairs changed hands suddenly? Meanwhile, our dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi is busy ‘keeping a watch’ on these negotiations. One would think the great orator would have negotiated with the world leaders, WHO and others. Maybe, taking a lesson out of China’s book on ‘How to deal with WHO’ would have helped us more.

Expectedly, the government has shifted the focus from being accountable and answerable on these issues. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced, (rather bizarre, but that aside), that India would issue the first five lakh tourist visas free of cost. I seriously wonder who would want to risk travelling to India, just as cases of the Delta-plus variant have been detected. Worse still, the FM has done NO homework to check on the number of countries which have implemented bans on travelling to India. There are 42 countries, which include USA, Australia, Canada, Greece, Italy, Israel and Iran, to name just some. Obviously, none of this is communicated clearly and honestly to the citizens. Now latest desi salvo is if any EU travellers want to come to India, compulsory 14 days quarantine and other restrictions.


FM Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday announced 5 lakh free visas for tourists. (Credit- PTI)


Shots gone wrong

Speaking of vaccines, remember the self-praise about India being among the first few countries to export vaccine? At that time, our leaders behaved pompous and shortsighted, refusing Pfizer and Moderna shots. The pressure from states has been increasing but obviously, only the Government of India can get them. Now, we hear that Moderna is expected to get clearance from the Drug Controller of India. If only instead of selfishly patting one’s own backs our leaders were to have allowed this a year ago, many more lives could have been saved.

Just as the public was busy trying to grapple with this announcement, there’s more chest thumping in store. On Monday, the Ministry of Health claimed India had overtaken the US in administering doses. The Indian government claimed, on Monday, 32.36 crore doses were given, while US has administered 32.33 crore doses till now. Firstly, it is appalling as a citizen to see the Indian media jumping with glee at this piece of news. Wonder if they all were failures in mathematics throughout their lives. Secondly, since when did vaccinating citizens became a competition? Thirdly what is there to gloat about? Lastly and most importantly, the Indian government and the media should be tried for spreading lies. According to the WHO, New York Times and Bloomberg vaccine- trackers, there are many countries faring better than India. We may have administered more shots than the US but 46 per cent of their population has been vaccinated, while only 4 per cent in India have been inoculated so far. Nearly, 45 per cent in China have received both the shots. The other countries way ahead of India are Malta (62 per cent), Bahrain (59 per cent), the UK (49) per cent and Mongolia (54 per cent). Germany has administered 35.4 per cent and EU, 32.2 per cent. Pathetically, not a single article highlighted these numbers in the news relayed or printed. Instead, Twitter and social media pointed out the glaring discrepancies and exposed the government claims. There is a reason why citizens have lost faith in the news channels and the leading media houses of this country.

Grim reality

When renowned editors and news anchors shower praises on the government, the basic principles of journalism have been discarded. It has created a wide distance between them and the people. Basically, the media too has forgotten those who died fighting the virus, some of whom were vaccinated, many others deprived of the same. At a time when grim reality should have been brought to the table, they were serving appetisers. Nowhere in the world has this pandemic been reduced to such frippery as in India.

In this entire rush for staking claim, the one glaring fact with which even the opposition should have bombarded the government – the average import tariffs for Covid-19 goods in India. Once again, quietly this news has been tucked away into a box and forgotten. In the category of Covid testing kits and instruments, Indian rates top the charts, as compared to China, the US and the rest of the world. India charges 6.9 per cent, China 2.9 per cent, US 1.3 per cent and the rest of the world, 2.8 per cent. With infinite wisdom certainly not drawn from our ancients but more driven by ‘aapda mein avsar’ urges, we slap a hefty tariff of 55.8 percent on disinfectants and sterilisation equipment as compared to China (11.5 per cent) , US (2 per cent) and the rest of the world, 12.8 per cent. For all Covid-19 goods, our tariff is at 15.2 per cent, while it is 6.3 per cent in China, 1.8 per cent in the US and 7.3 per cent in the rest of the world. Coming to the inputs for vaccine production and distribution, Indian tariff is 9.3 per cent, China 6.6 per cent and the US, by far the lowest, at 1.3 per cent while the rest of the world is at 6.2 per cent.

(Credit: Times Of India)


Also, while we are at it, some hard-hitting facts, according to the WHO: India has reported 46,148 new cases, 30,279,331 confirmed cases and 3,96,730 confirmed deaths. While the US has reported zero new cases, 33,285,377 confirmed cases and 5,98,504 confirmed deaths. Now, public debates and discussions should be around such data and information, which needs to be highlighted even more. Instead, the public discourse feeds on falsehoods.



Neeta Kolhatkar is a senior journalist with over 30 years of work experience across different media platforms. She is currently a freelancer and media consultant.

(Views Expressed Are Personal)


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