I mean what’s your problem with “free” vaccine? Taking apart the charges, one by one

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

All hell has broken loose. For the BJP is promising free vaccination to Biharis ahead of the assembly elections. All muck-rakers usually in such situations are found in Indian Express. The order is set too: Randeep Surjewala. Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Farooq Abdullah, AAP come in that order. Mamata and Owaisi are catered day next just to keep the heat going. And yes, there is an editorial too. It’s a set matrix, a procedural norm, a codebook as it were. All comrades, be in red or covered in garb of Liberals, know the drill.

Man, when would I be serious.  It’s such a grave matter for people of India are being discriminated against. Didn’t the BJP say that it would cater to health-workers, co-morbid patients first? Who would fault a Mamata, Thackeray or Gehlot if they were to tell their people that you are paying the price of living in a non-BJP State? Where is equality and transparency in vaccine distribution? All this just for an election?

Let’s take the issue of “free” first. The process would be that Centre would buy the vaccine from the manufacturers and pass it on to the States on a subsidized rate. It’s for the States to offer “free” or “charge” its citizens. After all Health is a state subject. They could opt-in free-polio; they could stop Ayushman Bharat, as did Mamata’s Bengal. Bihar would give vaccine free. So would Tamil Nadu. And no other State would dare do otherwise. Who gains in these freebies? People of India.

And Bihar, by your own logic, should be the “first among equals”. I mean you shed bucketful of tears on the plight of migrants heading for Madhubani, Supauli etc .  You moved heavens if they bought train tickets for home. Your reporters and cameraman were virtually on India’s streets. Now the poor would get vaccine “free” and you have a problem. You call Bihar the poorest state in India; acknowledge that poor are the first to be guarded against the pandemic menace for they would lead to community spread. Yet you have a problem when something “free” is slipped inside their shacks.

Now what happens to health-workers and co-morbid patients? Those in the eye of Covid-19 menace? They would still be priority. Where has the manifesto said that Biharis would be given the priority. It would only be free. Not first. Why are you throwing wool over my eyes?

Now let’s look at the logistics and “science” part of it about which Express has given us a lecture in its editorial. The newspaper is pompous which it usually is in such moments. It finds BJP desperate and cavalier to science; not compassionate enough. I could imagine the editor in his glass chamber, hammering his keyboard, sipping a coffee or puffing out his cigar, and wondering when would India have a Pulitzer Prize of its own. I mean how long could one swoon over Ramnath Goenka awards, home awards as it were.

Man, once again I am off to cheap thrills—on a matter as serious as Covid-19 vaccine is and the BJP which is a power monster. I mean don’t BJP know like the Express does that Covid-19 vaccines would need to be stored at temperatures lower than those of MMR and other traditional vaccines such as BCG?

(You won’t know MMR and BCG. I didn’t too. Till Google informed me that MMR is “measles, mumps and rubella” vaccine and BCG is “Bacille Calmette-Guerin” vaccine for tuberculosis.)

Further, Express scares me that resources would need to be mobilized. That one is not sure if it would involve private sector and in what capacity. And that these issues are inextricable from those of equity and transparency (big words). It closes out with an appeal for required “discussion”–and a judgment passed that BJP’s move is “bad science, bad politics—and plain wrong.”

I don’t know how offering vaccine “free” to Biharis is “bad science.” It certainly is not “bad politics” for it would matter to poor.

And now that you find it “wrong”, I presume you mean BJP is bending rules to prevail in assembly elections, never mind the Election Commission finds it perfectly legitimate as it is a “policy” announcement. By “wrong” I guess you mean “ethical deviation” just for “power”—a charge which finds echo with the Opposition.

So, don’t you remember that free vaccination, free diagnostics and free medicines were promised by the Congress in 2019 elections? Why, they did the same in 2014 too  (That’s Anand Ranganathan informing us last night). You wouldn’t have questioned Congress then, nor did our Abdullahs and Yechurys and Rajas. But then selective memory is a wonderful quality: You could avoid questioning Congress on its duplicity.

Make up your mind on India’s poor, folks. I know migrants on foot trouble you, Hathras has you outraged. But don’t grudge them when a manifesto could save them from death. When it’s all-inclusive in Bihar: Everyone gets it; Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, SCs, STs, OBCs—everyone. Or say that you don’t like the idea of India aspiring to be a Welfare State.

 

Posted on: October 23, 2020, by : Ashish Shukla

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