By Mrgya V
The BJP started its journey in Bihar election by introducing the first item in its manifesto- free vaccine for covid to the residents of Bihar.
This news led to pouring criticisms on the internet from various sources. Two former election commissioners also commented on the validity of this move. It breaks the rule of not introducing any new policy by the government after the model code of conduct is in force. Complaint has been filed with the election commission. The BJP is trying to defend itself by saying that it is not very different from schemes like loan waiver.
There are few points attached to it which make it ethically and politically incorrect move. First, the vaccine for the virus is not just a problem of a certain section of society , it is a nationwide problem. So giving life saving assurance to just those who are voting will be considered nothing but a bribe. This is an obvious case of playing with fear of the people(fear to die).
Secondly, it is not a development agenda or some progress scheme that will be helpful at a regional level. It is a nationwide problem that should not be related to the winning or losing party. Providing vaccines to the citizens is the duty of the government, it can be free or at subsidised rate or subsidised for a particular section of society. The basis for subsidising should not be a vote in a particular election but the capacity of that section to afford vaccination. Leaving any section without vaccination won`t be meaningful until every citizen is vaccinated.This step is looking like a perfect example of poll populism-as an attempt to manipulate the anxieties caused by the most lethal pandemic. This is clearly manipulating stress suffered by society in its favour.
This move shows that the BJP is cavalier to the demands of science or requirements of administrative protocol. Even if we suppose this is going to happen then also it will take time for the medicine to reach the public. There are processes that need to be followed to launch a medicine into the market. There are stages for vaccine development and advocating widespread use entails much time. Even when it is launched, then also we will be needing required infrastructure and supply chain for the vaccine to reach the consumer. There are logistical challenges as well. The vaccine needs a lower temperature requirement for its storage than the existing vaccines. The infrastructure and cold chain needed to handle its distribution can be provided by the national government only as it is a concern for the whole country and needs large amount of money. States would definitely need subsidy or distributive help from the centre.
There is news that the central government is going to provide covid vaccine just as it provides other vaccines under the universal immunisation programme. So does this step reflect that if BJP will not win, Biharis will be left out. ?
The time we, as a country, are going through is to cooperate to get out of this crisis. What we are doing is competing at state level petty politics. Party needs to realise the gravity of the time and put its policies which are rationally correct and practically sound. A vaccine cannot be made an election winning ploy.