A national unity project
In a polarised time, there’s one issue on which parties can come together: Vaccination. Such a campaign can achieve two objectives — it can help shed vaccine hesitancy, and provide a glimmer of cross-party unity at a time when society desperately needs a display of political solidarity rather than division. The virus is the enemy — and we are all in this together.On Monday, India ushered in a new vaccine policy framework, and vaccinated a record number of people. This is good news. But sustaining the momentum of vaccination will require adequate supplies (which the Centre has to manage), smooth coordination between the Centre and states, and ensuring that citizens turn up for vaccination. Anecdotes and reports from the ground — particularly in rural areas and urban slums — suggest that vaccine hesitancy is real and segments of citizens, even those in high-priority groups, are reluctant to get the jab (in many urban areas, of course, supplies are the issue). This stems from misplaced apprehensions about adverse effects, a distrust in the public health system, and social and religious misconceptions.
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It is clear that there is no way out of the pandemic until universal vaccination is achieved. It is also clear that India has lost valuable time because of its failure to order vaccines in time, and a flawed vaccine distribution and pricing policy. But even as the Centre remedies these errors, it is time for all of India’s political parties and leaders to come together in this moment of national crisis with a common message for citizens — get your vaccine shot.
There are deep ideological differences among India’s political formations, there is polarisation at the ground level where even a civil dialogue between supporters and opponents of the central government is difficult, and there is competitive politics where each party has an eye on the next election. But this is one issue on which all leaders — from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, from West Bengal chief minister (CM) Mamata Banerjee to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath — can come together, perhaps even issue a common video appeal in favour of vaccination. Imagine political workers deploying their networks with the same message on the ground. Imagine a poster which has images of all former and serving CMs of a state, in the language of the state, with an appeal to vaccinate. Such a campaign can achieve two objectives — it can help shed vaccine hesitancy, and provide a glimmer of cross-party unity at a time when society desperately needs a display of political solidarity rather than division. The virus is the enemy — and we are all in this together.