When you change the world no one notices it, history is full of such examples. When Henry Ford convinced the world he was onto something, Congress in USA published a memo, brushing it off as a silly idea. What happened afterwards is History as we all know. Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood, this holds true also for nations such as India whose contribution often go unnoticed and underplayed by the West for myriad of reasons. We forget to notice great events unfolding in front of us due to our own selective bias. One such event is unfolding in front of us in the form of Humanities greatest ever mass production of Covid vaccine and its supply to the different nations by India to tackle Corona pandemic.
On 8th of December 2020, UK was the first country to officially start vaccinating its elderly citizens under an emergency use clause. On 16th January, 2021 India too, under an emergency use clause, gave a go to vaccinate all its front-line health workers, doctors, military, police and all those involved with health care and nursing. As part of the first phase of vaccination, an ambitious task of vaccinating 30 million people [SW1] was planned and is currently being executed successfully. Meanwhile, as many European and North American nations started vaccinating their citizens, the President of WHO, Dr. Tedros, on 18th January, 2021 addressed the media and said “More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries. Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country. Not 25 million; not 25 thousand; just 25“
The sad reality of some of the “rich” countries (India not included) was caught naked in front of the world. Just 25 doses of vaccine was provided out of 39 Million doses. Countries forgot their responsibility of taking others together while healing their citizens —India did not. India on the other hand, a developing nation, had its aim clear to vaccinate its citizens, but never forgot its duty to HELP the needy. Dharma prevailed yet again. A global challenge requires global alliances to overcome the shortage of vaccine. Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the first batch of vaccine to its neighbor, Bhutan, on 18th January, 2021.
Bhutan’s PM Dr. Lotay Tshering was overwhelmed by this kind gesture. He said, "It is of unimaginable value when precious commodities are shared even before meeting your own needs, as opposed to giving out only after you have enough". By now, China too pursued its own vaccine diplomacy. This was to damage control its global image which had taken a huge hit due to the spread of the deadly coronavirus from its soil – of course on a commercial basis. Looking at India’s large heartedness, government to government deals with Nepal, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Indonesia, Cambodia, Latin America, UAE, Africa and many more countries were inked to procure the vaccine from India.
The tweet by Brsils's President Jair M. Bolsonaro thanking India for Covid Vaccine exports to Brazil went viral
What does this all tell about India and its culture? As mentioned in the beginning, for ages, India has stood for humanity, it has gone beyond petty geopolitical policies and stretched its hands to help others. Taking a note on India’s selfless service to the world, UN Secretary General, António Guterres said “India is one of the best assets the world has today“.
It is neither the first time nor will it be the last. India will always stand shoulder to shoulder in humanity’s fight against any challenging situation. While India shipped boxes of Covid-19 vaccines to the world, it had a message to share - printed respectfully on the boxes was “Sarve Santu Niramayah” – “MAY ALL BE FREE FROM DISEASE”.
About the Author: Deepak Desai. The article was submitted for review on Jan 31. Since then some more developments took place on this front.
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