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Vaccinating The World’s Largest Democracy

The ferocity of the second attack of pandemic has rattled everybody – with Covid toll hitting 1,500 a day after new cases surged from 50K on March 24 to 261K on April 18. Ten states – including UP, Delhi and Maharashtra — account for 79% of all new cases. For the argumentative Indians, it’s a moment to speak truth to power, to hold up a mirror to the all-powerful Prime Minister – with Mann Ki Baat (words of wisdom) pouring from plucky crusader Prashant Bhushan, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Saamna editorials. Beginning February, the tone was set by Bhushan: “FM announces Rs 35,000 crore of our money to be spent on Pvt Vaccine Companies for untested Vaccines at a time when Covid is naturally dying down in India! But this money cannot be given to poor migrant labour who lost their jobs or to Farmers for MSP on their crops. Wah FM sahiba!” The tweet was as confusing as it could be. The State had the opportunity to counter the disturbing narrative: instead of wasting time haggling over the MRP for the atm-nirbhar, all-affordable jab, it could have simply taken a leaf from America’s Operation Warp Speed that made the Big Pharma the nation’s ally. India’s fresh $17-million funding to ramp up Covaxin should hopefully lead to more investments in capacities – which are needed now to save lives as much as defend its $3-Trillion economy (and also, the $5-Trillion dream).