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Modi is the modern-day CEO of India — his vaccine leadership is proof

Vaccine diplomacy, which Modi is sure to deploy, will fetch India collateral benefits with Nepal, Bangladesh and other neighbours if we handle our domestic needs well.

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In a recent conversation, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev remarked to me, “In times of crisis, people need a strong leader. Confusion and vacillation can be very discouraging in such circumstances.” It immediately struck me why Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had scored so high in the ‘Morning Consult’ world leader approval ratings released just before we entered the new year.

With over 75 per cent of the polled populace approving as opposed to 20 per cent disapproving his performance, Modi’s ratings at 55 per cent were the highest of any leader of the free world. The Morning Consult Global Leader Approval Rating Tracker included ratings of 13 democratic countries, including the US, Brazil, Germany, UK, France, and Australia.

Now that our vaccine rollout is starting today, Modi has demonstrated his vaccine leadership decisively. Addressing the chief ministers of 16 states on 11 January, Modi had announced that India would be home to “world’s largest vaccination programme”. Spelling out the manner of the rollout, Modi said, “Health workers, government as well as private, will be vaccinated first of all. Sanitation workers, other frontline workers, defence forces, police and other paramilitary forces will also be vaccinated in the first phase.”

Two “atmanirbhar”, India-produced vaccines have already been approved for emergency use – the  Serum Institute of India-manufactured Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield and the indigenously developed Covaxin by Bharat Biotech. Vaccination of priority groups is now set to start. In the meeting, Modi focussed on efficient delivery and management of the vaccine rollout, including its safe storage, conveyance, and distribution. Home Minister Amit Shah was also present in the virtual meet.

Also read: In South Asia, a vaccine diplomacy has begun. Will India’s efficacy outdo China’s?

A clear plan for India

When it comes to handling the coronavirus pandemic, in both statements and actions, Modi’s intent has been clear. To demonstrate effective and reliable leadership in a time of crisis. Politics aside, which is grist to his mill as India’s greatest vote-getter in decades, Modi is also keen to project himself as the modern-day CEO of the country when it comes to dispensing good governance.

In his purposiveness and single-mindedness, Modi sometimes resembles Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Of course, when it comes to Modi’s more controversial decisions — “Tuglaqi firmans” as one wiseacre dubbed them — it might have redoubted more to his credit had he visibly engaged in a process of consultation rather than in time and energy-consuming narrative management and perception control after the fact.

If their statements are anything to go by, the Serum Institute already has a stockpile of over five crore doses and Bharat Biotech has shipped out some 55-lakh plus shots. Of this first batch of vaccines manufactured in India, the government has ordered almost the entire stock. It is estimated that the priority groups marked for vaccination including health workers and sanitation workers, defence, police and paramilitary forces, not to mention the high-risk elderly, already exceed some three crores in all.

All of them will receive the vaccine free of cost, with the states where they are to be distributed having to incur no expenditure on this account. Will this group include politicians? Although Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy wrote to the PM on 13 January asking political leaders, ministers and legislators to be vaccinated first, it is not clear whether his request has been accepted.

Also read: From onions to vaccines — India promises to be a ‘true friend’ to Bangladesh

On priority

Given the size of the population, apart from the government and its agencies, none of us is likely to have access to a private supply for several months. But government monopoly in this regard may prove counter-productive in the longer run. While it makes sense to control the distribution of a scarce vaccine to start with, later, with more approved vaccines and manufacturers able to ratchet up production, India should be the first country to make a life-saving medication freely available at reasonable cost to customers who can afford to and are willing to pay a fair price for it.

Else, we may well find ourselves staring down a sorry, scary, and slippery slope of hoarding, black-marketing, profiteering, and corruption with a life-saving drug. It is precisely to avoid such confusion or chaos that Modi urged his listeners to scotch rumours and fake news, also advising them to ensure that politicians don’t “jump the queue”, but wait till their turn comes: “All States and UTs must ensure that rumours around the vaccination programme are not allowed to spread. Corporate competition and vested interests of certain lobbies within and outside country may be at work to fuel the rumours.”

Also read: Who all will get vaccines free? When will they hit stores? 4 Covid questions on every mind

A cut above the rest

His supporters have been quick to shower praise on Modi for being a global vaccine champion. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that under PM Modi’s able leadership, India has become a global leader in vaccine delivery. Co-WIN – the government’s vaccination portal — well-illustrates our capability in this regard. He added, “The scientists of India have proven that the vaccine is absolutely safe. It will build antibodies and immunity. No one should be doubtful whether they should get vaccinated or not.”

Microsoft founder Bill Gates also congratulated India in a tweet: “It’s great to see India’s leadership in scientific innovation and vaccine manufacturing capability as the world works to end the COVID-19 pandemic.” India’s role in vaccine production, Gates also said, will be crucial to the whole world in combating the pandemic.

As if on cue, countries in our neighbourhood requested an early supply of India’s coronavirus vaccines by reason of proximity, with Pakistan, of course, maintaining a studied silence. Vaccine diplomacy, which Modi is sure to judiciously deploy, will fetch India collateral benefits if we handle our domestic needs effectively. This the Prime Minister knows only too well. Hence, he has taken on the somewhat high-risk, high-rewards mantle of India’s vaccine deliverer.

The author is a Professor and Director at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. His Twitter handle is @makrandparanspe. Views are personal.

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  1. What a dimwit. He does not address the Bharat Biotech goofup. Vaccine diplomacy? China is building bridges in all those countries. Also – It is beautiful that India is producing two vaccines indigenously. But it is NOT Modi’s credit. These companies have existed for decades, the schools and colleges the scientists studied in has existed for decades. India’s vaccine infrastructure has been built over decades. This is NOT Modi’s credit. But I don’t expect dimwits to understand. The very first para gave it away. Who the hell talks to Sadhguru about serious things?

  2. Lefties won’t make any comments until something goes wrong, and then they will be out in droves.
    Modi hey to mumkin hey.

    • Modi should have the vaccine first to lend confidence to the nation. It is of utmost importance since the efficacy report of the vaccine is still not available and third round of trial is not completed.

  3. When will my fellow Indias grow mentally? How many world leaders took vaccine just to prove and how many people around the world asked their leaders to take it. As a citizen we have a choice to not take it and secondly so many people died on Norway after taking pfizer vaccine, not a single word anywhere,

  4. The writer lives in a dream world. India’s economy has collapsed and the writer is giving Modi credit for the vaccine that was made by companies!

  5. Paranjpe is one of the few intellectuals that the BJP has managed to draw to his clueless side. He must write a better piece to wear the mantle of the present establishment’s intellectual numero uno.

  6. This guyvis so freaky that he has grown a beard so that a barber wouldn’t touch him the jab of both vaccines, 10 times and let’s see if he survives….#mitron

  7. More than a vaccine “leadership”, Mr Modi’s association with it reflects “adventureship”. He has been into it for ego kicks, as was evident from his eagerness that he should somehow be able to announce a successful vaccine on 15 August. Efficacy or no efficacy. He displayed then a lack of understanding of the reality, as he has done in other instances like demonetization and recently with the agricultural laws. No “CEO” of integrity anywhere in the world behaves like that. Even today a vaccine has been approved under Mr Modi’s “leadership” before fully completing tests. We can only pray to God that it does not prove to be a case of “adventurism” of our “CEO”

  8. Mr Writer India badly needs Statesman, not CEO.
    And What kind of Aatmanirbhayta is this? We are just producing and saling. We are not the inventors of the LIFE SAVING Vaccines,
    And whose certificate Mr Writer you are showing ? Mr Shivraj Singh Chauhan, and a The Morning Consult? Why you need these certifcates?
    And who will forget politics in the time of CORONA? MP, Bihar W Bengal, Maharashtra…not to mention danger propaganda to malign Tabligi Jamat…
    So if you, wanted to praise Mr Modi for his managerial skills, no one will object. But please Don’t partrait him as Savior of the Nation…THIS IS NOT MODI…

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