Tag Archives: COVID-19

COVID pandemic and vaccine shortage: There is more to this than meets the eye

Newsroom24x7 Network

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

A news report titled Who destroyed India’s vaccine self-sufficiency?” published by Business standard on 17 May, credits the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court for wanting to know while hearing a PIL earlier this month “why India had to rely on just two private domestic manufacturers–Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech–to produce Covid-19 vaccines,” when the country was a global leader both in production and export of vaccines.

The BS story goes on to point out and we quote: 

“India’s self-sufficiency in vaccine production was destroyed one and half decades ago under the UPA-I government. Anbumani Ramadoss, then the Union Health Minister in Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government effectively moved vaccine manufacture and government procurement to the private sector. In January 2008, the licences of three premier public sector vaccine manufacturers were suspended citing non-compliance with WHO good manufacturing practices (GMP). These public sector units (PSUs) were: Central Research Institute (CRI), Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh, BCG Vaccine Laboratory (BCGVL) in Guindy and Pasteur Institute of India (PII), Coonoor, both in Tamil Nadu.” (unquote)

After the license of 3 PSUs had been suspended, it has been pointed out that ex-bureaucrat and member of the Planning Commission, S P Shukla, had moved the Supreme Court against the government’s decision. His contention was that the government must preserve its role in vaccine manufacture and had warned that erosion of the PSU’s vaccine-making capabilities would threaten India’s health security and bio-security. Notices were sent by the apex court which eventually did not overturn the government’s decision.

Now we would like to focus on a particular input also shared in public domain by Business Standard  through its exclusive report, and we quote:

In UPA-II, Ghulam Nabi Azad as Health Minister, tried to undo the damage. In 2010, the licences of the three PSUs were revived on the recommendations of the Javid Chowdhury Committee which held the suspension of their licences incorrect, illegal and flawed. About Rs. 49 crore was allocated for the revival of CRI, Kasauli. By 2016, government funding had made two of the PSUs GMP compliant, despite this, they did not recieve any government orders as India’s vaccine procurement had moved definitely to the private sector. So the damage wrought by UPA-1 persisted under the Modi Government.” (Unquote)

This one excerpt from the story reveals more than what it apparently tries to hide by stating “the PSUs did not recieve any government orders as vaccine procurement had moved definitely to the private sector.” Also the responsibility of NDA-1 and NDA-2 has been brushed aside by adding: “So the damage wrought by UPA-1 persisted under the Modi Government”.

Notwithstanding the causes listed, including the role of Ramadoss, who has been depicted as villain in chief in this matter, what about the failure to create a balance and divert a proportion of vaccine procurement to the public sector even after Rs 49 crore had been allocated for revival of CRI, Kasauli. By 2016 two PSUs, including CRI, had become GMP compliant. This one input is sufficient to conclude that Modi Government also deserves to be blamed because it just did not fail, after 2016 but is also responsible for letting down the nation all these years. Failure means lack of success, here, in this case, what has happened is that the concerned Ministry and officials presided over a system that was hell bent upon favouring the vested interests and ensuring the PSUs remain dormant despite pumping of huge sums from the exchequer to ensure public sector continues to play its role in vaccine production. The concerned bureaucrats are accountable and deserve to be hauled over the coals. 

Click here for rejoinder to the BS report by Anmumani Ramadoss

Delhi CM does not speak for India: External Affairs Minister on Kejriwal’s Singapore remark

Lalit shastri

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejrival, who a vast majority in India view as the champion of petty, divisive and communal politics, has come under severe criticism after he said the new form of corona virus in Singapore, which is said to be dangerous for children, may come as the third wave in India.

Kejrival appealed to the central government to immediately suspend flights to and from Singapore and prioritise vaccination options for children. 

After Singapore lodged a strong protest with the Government of India over Kejrival’s irresponsible remark, India’s Minister for External Affairs Dr Jaishankar issued a statement clarifying – “Delhi CM does not speak for India”.

The Minister further said:
“Singapore and India have been solid partners in the fight against Covid-19. India appreciates Singapore’s role as a logistics hub and oxygen supplier. Their gesture of deploying military aircraft to help us speaks of our exceptional relationship. 

However, irresponsible comments from those who should know better can damage long-standing partnerships.”

Stung by this strong retort from the Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Maneesh Sisodia, instead of accepting the folly, addressed media persons on Wednesday 19 May afternoon and said the Delhi government is worried about children while the ruling BJP and the Union Government are worried about Singapore.

Kejrival, who chases narrow political ends, has failed to appreciate that Singapore has a few dozen cases now most of them are in clusters having Indian connection.

The Indian community in Singapore is incensed over this tasteless remark by Kejriwal. There are ethnic colours added in Singapore and Indians are uncomfortable.

The problem is, when in politics, they have to turn out to be idiots and have to show it.

Kejriwal says it is the Singapore variant!! One fails to understand why this IIT passout can’t keep quiet on matters foreign to him.

District Collectors are responsible for managing the COVID situation at the ground level: PM Modi

Newsroom24x7 Network

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacting with the State and District officials across the country on COVID-19 management, through video conferencing, in New Delhi on May 18, 2021.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told the district collectors across India in absolute terms that the onus of responsibility for managing the COVID-19 situation at the ground level in terms of enforcing regulations and protocols and ensuring supplies, both essential and medical, lies with them.

The Prime Minister, through video conferencing on Tuesday 18 May, was interacting with field officials from States and Districts regarding their experience in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Addressing the officials, the Prime Minister appreciated the dedication and perseverance shown by the nation’s healthcare workers, frontline workers and administrators during these difficult times, and urged them to continue working with similar vigour.

The Prime Minister said that every district in the country is different and has its own unique challenges. He told the district officials, “You understand the challenges of your district much better. So when your district wins, the country wins. When your district beats Corona, the country defeats Corona.” He commended the officials who were working without taking any leave in spite of contracting COVID-19. He added that they are inspiration to many and he understands the sacrifices made by them.

The Prime Minister said that all the officials have a very important role in this war against Corona like a field commander. He remarked that Local containment zones, aggressive testing and sharing of correct and complete information with the people are the weapons against the virus. At this time, the number of corona infections is decreasing in some states while it is increasing in several other states. So, he stressed on the need to be more vigilant in the face of decreasing infections. He emphasized that the fight is to save every single life and the focus should be in rural and inaccessible areas. He requested the officials to make the relief material easily accessible for the rural population.

The Prime Minister advised the officials also to ensure ease of living of every citizen in their district. He stressed on the need to stop thr infection from spreading and at the same time ensure unhindered flow of essential supplies. He informed that work is being done rapidly to install oxygen plants in hospitals in every district of the country through PM CARES Fund and these plants have already started functioning in many hospitals.

The Prime Minister spoke about the importance of getting vaccinated and how it is instrumental to lowering the severity of the disease and reducing hospitalisation and mortalities. He said continuous efforts are being made to increase the supply of Corona vaccine on a very large scale. He added that the Health Ministry is streamlining the system and process of vaccination. Attempts are being made to give a schedule of the next 15 days to the states in advance. He stressed on the need to stop vaccine wastage. He said the convenience of the people increases when information of bed availability and vaccine availability is made available to the public. In the same way, black marketing should be curbed and strict action should be taken against those who do so. He also talked of the need to mobilise the front-line workers by keeping their morale high.

The Prime Minister commended the way villagers were maintaining social distance. He said villagers grasp the information and modify it according to their needs. This is the strength of villages. He added  we must adopt best practices against coronavirus.

During the interaction, the officials thanked the Prime Minister for leading the fight against the second wave of Covid from the front. The officials shared their experiences and apprised the Prime Minister about the innovative steps that were undertaken to manage the recent surge of cases. They also informed about the efforts being undertaken to augment the medical infrastructure and capacity building in rural areas.  The Prime Minister asked the officials to compile the best practices and innovative steps so that these may be used in other districts of the country.

The meeting was attended by the Home Minister, Defence Minister, Health Minister, Chief ministers of Various states, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Health Secretary, Pharmaceutical Secretary, and other officers from PMO, Ministries and Departments of Central Government.

Biden Administration and sudden onset of humanitarian concern for India

Rajiv Lochan

“भय बिनु प्रीत न होय गोपाला” (there is no love or affection without fear)

You would have noticed the sudden onset of humanitarian concern in the Biden Administration for India. All of a sudden America is once again full of love and affection for the Indian people. This is not the result of Indian Americans or Kamala Harris putting pressure on old man Biden and his team of defense experts. This is the result of India, for once, using the danda (baton) on America.

It wasn’t Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who talked to the Americans. It were the officials of the ministries who did the talking. The American administration that is used to whimpering Indians and fawning Indians rapidly evaluated the import of what was being told to them, quickly reverted to being humanitarians, and revoked the order to ban the supply of vaccine manufacturing raw material to India.

What happened was this: while the Liberal and Left vultures in India were gloating over the news of the American ban and remembering the secularism and socialism of Nehru, things were moving.

Modi was certainly no Nehru. His ministers, who had never had been educated at Harvard or Cambridge, were not prone to being in awe of the Christian white man.

They quietly informed the Biden Administration that this was not the India of Nehru and Indira and Rajiv any more. This was a different India.

The Biden Administration was told that American companies will have to fulfil their contractual obligations. And that any administrative interference in that contractual obligation in the name of defence of America would result in an equal and opposite reaction from India. Biden’s officials were informed by Indian officials that India would immediately stop the export of phospholipids that were manufactured by VAV Lipids, an Indian company, based in India, manufacturing in India, using Indian raw material. Without these phospholipids the American vaccine manufacturers would be completely crippled.

Rajiv Lochan is a distinguished scholar, historian and columnist