New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has drawn criticism for allegedly instructing higher education institutions to put up posters and messages thanking PM Narendra Modi for the centrally-sponsored free Covid vaccination drive for adults that kicked in Monday.
Delhi University was among the institutions that put up posters expressing gratitude for PM Modi. It also shared the photos of the posters on social media and the university website. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, a state institution in Jammu, also tweeted a similar poster.
— University of Delhi (@UnivofDelhi) June 21, 2021
"Vaccines for All. Free for All. Thank you PM Modi." pic.twitter.com/IROKmtxknw
— Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University (@SMVDU_mediacell) June 22, 2021
The message read: “Vaccine for All. Free for all. World’s largest vaccination camp. Thank you Modiji.”
Sources in universities shared with ThePrint a WhatsApp message purportedly sent to the vice-chancellors and college principals Sunday by the UGC, and appeared to have been signed by UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain.
“The Government of India is starting free vaccination for 18 years and above age group from tomorrow — 21st June 2021. In this regard, universities and colleges are requested to kindly display these hoardings and banners in their institutions,” the message read.
The posters, the message said, were to be put together using creatives sent by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
“The approved design (creatives) of hoardings and banners in Hindi and English, as provided by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, is attached for your ready reference,” the message read, adding that the creatives are embargoed until the morning of 21 June.
Reached for comment, Jamia Millia Islamia Registrar Nazim Jafri confirmed getting the message. DU Registrar Vikas Gupta denied it, but a source in the university confirmed that such a message was indeed received, and also corroborated its contents.
ThePrint contacted Jain over text messages and calls for a comment on this, but there was no response till the time of publishing this report. An email to the Ministry of Education also remained unanswered.
A source in the ministry, however, said UGC directives are not mandatory. “Whenever UGC gives any directives, official or unofficial, they are not mandatory. If the universities are able to follow a certain order, good enough, otherwise it’s not like they will be liable to action,” the source said.
Opposition leaders criticise move
Soon after the posters came to light, it came under criticism from political leaders from opposition parties.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said she wished the UGC “worked with same alacrity for students”.
UGC asked all government funded universities and college to put up posters thanking PM for free vaccines.
Firstly, the vaccines are being bought from taxpayers money. Secondly, wish UGC worked with same alacrity for students&asked about lack of jobs amongst the youth.
— Priyanka Chaturvedi🇮🇳 (@priyankac19) June 22, 2021
Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala criticised PM Modi’s photo on the posters, while Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav described the UGC directive as “disgraceful”.
The highest vaccination record in this country is 17 crore vaccinations on a single day for Pulse Polio in 2012. Of course, the then PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh did not put up his posters: @rssurjewala
— Ruchira Chaturvedi (@RuchiraC) June 22, 2021
As a former member of the UGC, I am mortified.
Things were rotten at the UGC even then (2010-12), but such servility was unimaginable.
Everyday, we discover a new low. https://t.co/IwKXaMbJiW
— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) June 21, 2021
India witnessed more than 85 lakh Covid vaccinations Monday as the central government’s new vaccination policy — with 75 per cent of all vaccines to be purchased by the central government for free administration, and 25 per cent by the private sector — kicked in. Earlier this month, the central government also waived the requirement of pre-registration on the CoWIN portal, allowing beneficiaries to walk into centres and register there.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)