Pune (Maharashtra), June 16: The much-castigated decision to print the photos and a message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on crores of Covid-19 Vaccination Certificates, was apparently taken by the ‘Government of India, a RTI reply has revealed.
A Pune-based activist Prafful Sarda had filed a RTI query in May (last month) seeking details and circumstances that culminated in the PM's photo plus message figuring on all the privileged, but provisional, Covid Vaccination Certificates (CVC), issued in the name of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW).
"The due procedure has been followed at Government of India level to use and affix the photograph and name of Prime Minister on the vaccination certificate to provide message on Covid-19 appropriate behavior," says the terse reply from Sarita Nair, FAA & Deputy Secretary, MOHFW.
Surprisingly, the officer has also clarified that she does not deal with matters pertaining to the Co-Win portal, nor was she in the hierarchy pertaining to the decision/process/system, and the RTI reply has been given by some other person.
"Therefore, the RTI application was sent to the concerned office/officer/technical officer who deals with the Co-Win/Co-Win portal matter (but due to some technical/administrative reasons, he has not been nominated as CPIO yet), therefore the information/reply provided by them is as under," Nair said.
Sarda contended said that the MOHFW'S reply seems to "hide more than revealing anything" about who actually authorized the use of the PM's photo on the CVCs, as the term "Government of India" used is vague and confusing.
"Since India is the only country in the world currently known to print its PM's photos on the CVCs, there must have been a due procedure followed, a proposal by some authority, its approval by an authorized panel, and other subsequent norms, before it was cleared… Who were the individuals/authorities in the huge ‘Government of India' behind this crucial decision remains in the dark," Sarda pointed out.
The MOHFW's CVCs have a printed strip with Modi's photo, along with slogans English and Hindi – "Together We Will Defeat Covid-19" and "Medicines As Well As Rigour" (Davai Bhi Aur Kadai Bhi"), with the National Emblem of the Lion Capital of India at the top left.
Sarda said that as per the RTI reply, if the "due procedure" was indeed followed, then, were there any other alternatives suggested, "like the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhiji, Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan who is a renowned Otorhinolaryngologist and currently WHO Executive Board Chairman, or the two Vaccine developers, Bharat Biotech International Ltd Chairman Krishna Ella and Serum Institute of India CEO Adar C. Poonawalla, or a completely neutral one like the Indian Tricolour, etc".
In the past few months, all major Indian Opposition parties have severely slammed the move to affix the PM's photos on CVCs as "a publicity stunt" while West Bengal is now issuing the CVCs to those given the jabs with the picture of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee!
Till date in India, the provisional CVCs have been issued to over 26,19,72,014 people who got their doses (including 4,92,90,093 administered their second jabs), which allows certain privileges to the beneficiaries.