Weekly Update: ModiVac Certificate; Promiseland COP26

ArunBhai Shah was fully armed with all paperwork to get into the UK on a visit. He had his passport, visa, invitation and a Covid Vaccination certificate. Everything was fine according to the immigration officer. Except the Covid certificate. Her Majesty’s Border immigration officer (IO) looked puzzled at the certificate and asked Mr Shah if this was his certificate.

‘Of course sir,’ Mr Shah replied. Not satisfied, officer said, ‘It has your name, but the picture on the certificate does not look like you. You are only 36 and this picture looks like your grandfather or father.’ Oh, said Mr Shah proudly, ‘that is Mr Modi’.

‘Modi?’ asked immigration officer. ‘Why have you got someone else’s certificate and your name on it? Is this gentleman part of your team? Where is he?’ Mr Shah was confused. He is a die-hard Modi fan, Mr Shah is a Gujarati and is nationalist about everything that comes from Gujarat. He is dead proud of Mr Modi, the PM. How dare the officer not know Mr Modi whose party has spent millions to reach the number of followers that Trump had on Twitter.

‘Mr Modi, sir is our Prime Minister!’ said Mr Shah some what irritated that this English immigration officer did not know who the great man was.’ If you see TV or newspapers, you will know.’

Immigration Officer, ‘No need to get irritated Mr Shah, but why have you got your Prime Minister’s Covid Certificate and put your name on that?’

‘He is our PM and it is under him that the Covid vaccination programme was done in India. So all Covid certificates have a picture and we are very grateful.’

‘But you are a democratic country, isn’t the programme under the Government? We don’t have picture of Boris Johnson on our certificates and we haven’t seen pictures of any other world leaders on any Covid certificates. Even Mr Xi does not put his picture on certificates of Chinese. Was this funded by Mr Modi’?

‘No, I paid for vaccination and certificate sir.’

‘Ok. Not to worry. Just take a seat please’. Off went the immigration officer to his superior, quite unconvinced.

‘Dave,’ he said to his superior, ‘There is a chap here form India with a Covid certificate with his name but the picture of who he calls is his Prime Minister. It doesn’t make sense to me, can it be a forgery?’

‘Oh don’t start. I have nearly a plane load of people sitting in the interview room all with the picture of the same man. They say he is their Prime Minister. I haven’t seen that before. Not China, Putin or even tin pot countries have done that. I don’t get it. Must be a forgery. Sheena is on to the Home Office who are on the Foreign Office. Let’s wait see what they say, I’ve stopped the interview for the time being,’ said immigration officer Peter’s superior, Dave.

Meanwhile, Mr Shah was getting annoyed and agitated. How come they don’t know Modiji and why are they surprised that his picture is on the certificate. After all, without Modiji, no one would have got a vaccine.

Three hours later and no pani puri or channa bhatura, the senior immigration officer came back. And told his staff to let them all through. ‘Just check the names.’

Peter the immigration officer asked Dave the senior officer. ‘So what’s the story?’

‘Well Foreign Office called the High Commissioner who made some enquiries and said that yes although the tax payer pays some of the costs and the patient also pays, the Prime Minister has seen this as a great opportunity to promote himself. He is apparently having some problems in the popularity stakes. There is a farmers’ dispute that has dented his standing and he has failed to win a couple of regional elections. So he wants to make people believe that he made and delivered the treatment.’

‘Wow, I tell you if Boris does that, I am personally going to rip the certificate in front of him. Bit desperate isn’t it?’ Said Peter. Back at the desk, ‘Mr Shah, our apologies. Have a good stay in United Kingdom and thank your Prime Minister.’

ArunBhai Shah was happy as can be. The British officer even said ‘Thank the Prime Minister’. I will personally write to Modiji and tell him world appreciates what he has done. No other PM would have allowed vaccination! Modi ji ki jai jai, Corona ki hai hai.

No Xi, No Putin, So Modi Will Save COP26

The great Boris who promised a British version of Disneyland for everyone after Brexit, is now keen for the world climate summit COP26 to be ‘a whopping’ (his favourite word) success and promise a perfect atmosphere where fossil fuel and coal can be used without any danger to the climate. Unfortunately, President Xi and Putin who believe in delivering on their word, decided to miss the great world climate jamboree at Glasgow. But Boris is saved by no other than fellow democrat and show biz PM, our own superstar Narendra Modi ji who had promised ₹15 lakh in every Indian’s account and a job waiting for all yet to be born Indians. It is easy to see what COP26 will be like.

Neither Boris nor Modi has ever shied from fulfilling the ordinary voter’s dream call. No referendum needed. If ten citizens dream up their version of the perfect world, it will be announced. No problems. The Government will be committed to it.

Committing and delivering are two different ministerial departments both in UK and India. Fulfilling a dream by announcing its ambition from the steps of Downing Street or PM house (India) is not same as delivering it. In both democracies, there are more elections to come and someone else (new PM) can have the headache of delivery if they want. The thick wall between Dept of Hope and Dept of Reality is yet impenetrable in both countries.

So COP26 will be a great success by spin and plans that make a rainbow look dull. While Boris is committed to building a new coal plant, refuse to put Sellotape or even Blu Tack on houses leaking heat, he is also going to give the speech of his life on how within a few years, every one’s lung will have 100% oxygen without any soot in it.

There may be something in it. Many Covid patients, and patients with pneumonia or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, usually end up getting 100% Oxygen in the Intensive Care Unit through an Oxygen cylinder. If everyone’s lung gets clogged with Carbon and everyone gets pneumonia because heating becomes too expensive to afford, then they can all carry 100% Oxygen around.

What will Modi ji Promise? There are rumours that by the year that India becomes Jagat Guru, i.e the Oxbridge of the world, he will have net zero carbon in India. Well there are some milestones to achieve. He didn’t say all of India will be net zero. With leadership of world’s most polluted cities, net zero is a tall order. Unless like note bandi, there will be overnight order at 00.01 on some day after COP26 that no one is to use petrol, gas or diesel. Even Modi ji won’t dare do that, tough as he is in seeing the aam aadmi suffer and still vote for him. So net zero addicts can trek to the Himalayas in India.

Secondly, the Jagat Guru time is a few centuries in the future when the rest of the world collapses and Indian scholars stop copying western ideology but put ‘made in India’ on it. So there is in fact a long time before net zero carbon is to be delivered.

The rest of COP26 will no doubt remain mesmerised as most British are in UK with Boris, despite him competing with Bolsonaro and Trump for the highest Covid deaths. Masochism is an English trait. And the conference will no doubt be in awe of Modiji in his holy attire and announcement of climate nirvana through yoga.

Putin and Xi know that if they go, Boris and others will try and blame them for bringing the world to this disaster while they (Boris and Biden) will save it. Not withstanding that the industrial revolution started in good old Britain and the fact that Britain has probably been responsible for more than 50% carbon in the climate over the centuries. Both Xi and Putin will be blamed even in their absence but they can watch the circus from home. Even oil dependent Saudi Arabia is going to announce it will be net zero by 2060. Perhaps that’s when its oil will dry up. COP26 is going to be a great PromiseLand.

‘Police Band Gave A Guard Of Honour To 1st Vaccinated Lot’

Dr Arun Gaur, medical superintendent of Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Bhilwara, one of the first Covid hotspots in India, recounts the vaccination launch and the battle against the pandemic

For the vaccination on the launch day, January 16 that is, I personally invited the frontline staff enrolled for the serum shot. We had enrolled 900 persons from our hospital which not only included doctors but also nursing staff, lab technicians, computer operators, sweepers, guards and the canteen staff – in equal numbers. We included all these persons in the first list as this team has been working tirelessly since the pandemic outbreak in March, 2020.

I am proud to say that we successfully vaccinated 100 persons on the first day. There had been some apprehensions, even among frontline workers, regarding the vaccine and its after-effects. So, each person was kept under observation for half an hour after being vaccinated. I am glad that none of them showed any side effects.

ALSO READ: ‘Proud To Be A Part Of Vaccination’

So, after the process was over, we organised a guard of honour by the police band for the first batch. We also issued an appreciation certificate to all of them. The district administration also supported us in managing this. The district collector and SP had joined us and felicitated the workers.

Today, as I look back at our battle against pandemic, I take pride in our efforts. When Bhilwara became a Covid-19 hotspot, the challenges were unique and unknown. No one knew about the novel virus, how it spread, how a sample was to be collected, or how to treat the patient. But the challenges also motivated us to fight back. Fortunately, not a single case was referred to any outside facility. On the contrary, we saw patients coming in from other districts, even states, to Bhilwara for treatment in the past six months. I see this as an achievement.

We were greatly supported by our families, the administration, the state government and health workers. We formed a critical care team, made all decisions in a group, took suggestions from every faculty member be it a physician or a pediatrician and involved them. We were the first to start some of the investigations that were required in the treatment. We even managed a C-section of a Covid-19 patient who delivered twins. There were anxious moments about the new-born health but the infection was not transmitted.

ALSO READ: ‘Ignore Fake New, Vaccines Are A Must’

The credit also goes to the state leadership. Our chief minister Ashok Gehlot was directly in contact with us after the district was declared a hotspot. He provided all necessary support that we required, including RT-PCR testing machines, 40 ventilators, other resources, and a help desk. The support from the media was also unprecedented.

I believe every achievement brings an extra responsibility on your shoulders. I still have to protect my team and patients because the expectation is high. Even before the second dose we get, we have to follow the prescribed preventive measures for another six months very strictly. We understand that 30 percent population has already been infected by the virus and when 30-40 percent population get vaccinated, the overall immunity will be more than 60 percent. Only then there could be some relief for all of us. Till that time, our fight against the pandemic is not over.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

Will Covid Crisis Create A Better World?

It is sad that when India is poised to fight back Covid-19 pandemic with the help of a vaccine it has produced in collaboration with the British, it will not be hosting Prime Minister Boris Johnson for this year’s Republic Day celebrations.

The visit was not intended by either nation as a ceremonial, goodwill-good talk event. The media in both countries had painted a bright collaborative picture despite the pandemic and the economic woes that it has accelerated and despite criticism of their respective leaderships in their respective homes and elsewhere.

To the British media, Sean O’Grady of The Independent for one, India was (and remains) an ideal British destination as an economic powerhouse that could help Britain post-Brexit to reach out globally. This has also been the trend in much of the Indian thinking, although Brexit itself is considered a disastrous move.

Much cooperation was in store, on several fronts, and this should continue, visit or no visit.

Going beyond bilateral issues, and the limited impact they would have in both South Asia and in Europe, it is worth stressing on the oodles of hope that the New Year has brought, but without enough effort to apply the correctives that made last year disastrous worldwide.

The New Year has ushered in or reinforced some supreme ironies that are not likely to go away. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, is that of the United States, the most powerful nation with the best of doctors, medicines, hospitals with the support of science and technology –and money to buy anything from anywhere – having the highest number of Corona-casualties.

And Johnson, who could have acknowledged the role of the British-found vaccine in India, had to cancel his visit because of the grim turn Corona has taken at home. The Doctor has failed to heal himself.

Many leaders across the world feel that Donald Trump might have won the US presidential polls but for the Covid-19 devastation. But is the man who threatens to “fight like hell” till his last day in office at all sorry or repentant for his deliberate and conscious neglect, and repeated misdirections in fighting the pandemic? Are other leaders across the world, too, who find scapegoats to justify their omissions and commissions on the Corona front ready to mend their ways?

ALSO READ: A Vaccine Of Hope

Trump will go, but Trump-ism survives. The storming of the Capitol by his supporters on his exhortations was an unprecedented, almost unthinkable, challenge to American democracy. It exposed the depths of the divisions that have coursed through the US during Trumps four years in office. This is how democracy dies.

The incident rang alarm bells worldwide for other leaders. It is gratifying that Johnson and India’s Narendra Modi joined other serving and retired heads of government in condemning the storming of the Capitol, pleading that democratic processes be allowed violence-free.

Having talked of the leaders of the ‘greatest’ and the ‘oldest’ democracies with regard to the pandemic, some observations on the performance of the ‘largest’ are essential because India is also the world’s third-highest for Corona deaths. The shock lockdown ordered on March 24 last year gave barely three hours to prepare to 1.3 billion people. Over 40 million migrant labour were displaced and walked hundreds of miles to seek work or deprived of it, to their impoverished homes.

A bulk of them were from Bihar. After a subsequent election victory in the state, Modi cited them as “endorsement of our policy” to fight Corona. Other chief ministers have also hastened to take credit, while glossing over the failures and miseries they have caused. 

A year hence, the government is to begin a study to examine the impact of this world’s largest mass movement caused by job-loss. If not avoidable, it could have at least been managed better.

India was in an economic mess long before Corona exacerbated it. But the blame continues to be placed at the door of the past government that went out of office over six years ago.

The story is similar to Brazil’s Jared Bolsonaro, the Indian Republic Day’s Chief Guest last year, and quite a few others who have used their electoral mandates to ride the rough shod on political critics and non-government bodies among others, and suppressing popular protests. Sadly, sections of bureaucracy, judiciary and media have played the ball with the politicians in power.

It may sound anti-democratic, but give them large majorities in legislatures, and they run berserk. Does the problem lie with leaders and their parties winning popular mandates with massive majority in legislatures? What tempts them to impose personal/ political agenda with potential to divide people?

The largest functioning democracy, India currently has examples of a chief minister building a 900 million palace (Telangana), another razing an entire city and battling courts that question his decisions (Andhra Pradesh) and at least three chief ministers issuing ordinances that penalize marriages among consenting adults, if they are by a Muslim man and a Hindu woman.

They take their cue from New Delhi that has enacted three federal laws on farming, virtually snatching away a subject that is with the states as per the Constitution. How can there be a single federal law in a country of India’s size with its differing weather conditions, water resources, crop patterns and marketing systems?

ALSO READ: ‘World Is Taking Note Of Farmers Protest’

With millions affected, over a hundred thousand farmers have blocked entries to the national capital for the past several weeks. Three scores have died in freezing cold. Talks are dragging on. Notably, the farmer is the only one to produce record quantities of food when India’s industrial output, the service sector and the commercial activity suffered thanks to Covid-19.

In saying all these things, one cannot be ignoring the strong support base such leaders and their governments enjoy. One is the middle class and the other, the corporate sector – both suckers for a ‘strong’ leadership and the political stability that supposedly comes with a popular mandate. All other things do not seem to matter. Modi, at least, continues to enjoy this support, and his party continues to win elections in one state after the other.

India’s middle class embraced the lockdown dutifully and enthusiastically, lighting lamps and clanging food plates. The fleeing migrant worker was a good riddance till his absence was felt. But to its credit, the middle class also organised relief. The lead was taken, not so much by governments overwhelmed by the crisis, but by the NGOs and charities.

Vaccines, both British-found and Indian, may – and must – raise hopes, although Corona is still not going to go away soon. The larger question is: Will this create a semblance of churning, among the leaders and those who place their faith in them by voting them to power, to work for a better world and may be, leave a few good examples for the future generations to emulate?

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com