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The Great Abdication

Decoction
Dear Reader,
By the time this newsletter hits your inbox, our country would have hit yet another global record for the most number of daily COVID cases. It’s now overwhelmingly likely that we all know at least someone in our network who has succumbed to the virus. I wish you and your family safety and security during these trying times. We shall overcome.
Arun

The Great Abdication
Last year, I was having a conversation with someone in Tripura on the state of health infrastructure there. He narrated stories of how the poor sell anything they have, borrow from anyone who’d lend and travel to Silchar in Assam, or Kolkata in West Bengal to get their loved ones cured. Why is India not doing the same for its own citizens?
Arun Sudarsan
It's therefore imperative that the Government of India announces free & universal #COVID vaccination. Cost of vaccine alone? Approx 65,000 crore. Possible? Yes.
We have the money.
In December 13 of last year, I tweeted the above, calling for free and universal vaccination. This is not a radical or a unique idea. I’m one in millions of people asking for the same. The only way to break the chain and get on with our lives is to vaccinate everyone for free, and as quickly as possible.
Extract from the Union Budget 2021-22
Extract from the Union Budget 2021-22
Before the Union Budget on February 1, I hoped that Nirmala Sitharaman would announce free and universal vaccination. I was wrong. Instead she allocated Rs.35,000 crore as Support for COVID-19 Vaccination, with a promise to allocate more if needed. That “if” is here now.
As miserable as a place Twitter is now given the desperate SOS calls for basic medical supplies, it does give some idea on how certain sections of the population are thinking. “Health is a state subject”, “We are a poor country, we cannot afford free vaccination” etc. are some of the most popular statements. Let me break this to you. INDIA CAN AFFORD FREE AND UNIVERSAL VACCINATION.
Consider this. Last year, when the strict lock-downs dried up government revenues, India went ahead and borrowed more. From an estimated Rs.8 lakh crore before the pandemic, we ended up borrowing nearly Rs.19 lakh crore to fund our expenses. The cost of vaccines for every adult in India at Rs.400 per dose? Only Rs.77,600 crores. Split 60:40 between union and states, the outgo will only be Rs.46,500 from the center’s kitty.
Cost of #Vaccine4All compared to the combined budgets of union and states
Cost of #Vaccine4All compared to the combined budgets of union and states
To be honest, I cannot wrap my head around the fact that there’s no national commitment to universal vaccination. It’s cheap and certainly effective in ending the needless suffering that millions are going through right now. What is the endgame here? There’s no wishing away the virus and its variants until a substantial number of us are vaccinated.
I don’t usually use strong words, lest it divert the conversation into the propriety of such language. Yet, this moment in time is not for niceties. The Great Abdication by Narendra Modi will result in deaths. Over and over again.
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Arun Sudarsan
Arun Sudarsan @mrarunsudarsan

A countdown seems to be ticking on how long we can express ourselves freely in this country. While I hope my pessimism is misplaced, that we are not headed for an unfathomable future, I want to make the most of this time. Read on for strong opinions and vignettes from my life.

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