TIME FOR FESTIVAL CHEER 

The season of festival, although restrained brings with it good news on a few fronts. One report is that the Centre has set aside Rs 50,000 crore for highly subsidized vaccination of its 1.34 billon people against the Covid-19 pandemic. Another is the disbursal of bonus to over 30 lakh government employees even in these trying times. The flow of about Rs 3737 crore as bonus plus rolling out of money through a leave travel voucher scheme for government employees could bring cheer to several lakh families. With state governments too expected to follow suit, this could be seen as a major step to boost the sagging market sentiments, which could in turn give a boost to the national economy set on a revival path. Other families too crave for governmental support in equal measure.

Notably, there is criticism as to why such a patronage to the government staff and their families who were well-protected in the course of this pandemic spread for over seven months. The government staff was paid regular salaries even as the lockdown periods saw them sitting back in their homes and hardly doing any work. Exceptions were the police-security services and the health care sector. Those manning these two sectors more than compensated for the way the others idled away their time. Yet,  governments cannot afford to antagonize the powerful bureaucracy. Notably, unions of railway employees have threatened to halt train services if the bonus was not paid well in time, irrespective of whether or not the government could afford to. India as a democracy has its strengths and its weak spots. Governments have to bow before every pressure group. More so, when the leadership is weak! Nothing goes to show India has ever had a strong leadership. This was reflected even in the way the Modi government tackled the Covid spread.

On the vaccine front, however, the government is seen to be seriously pursuing various options. A few vaccine candidates from within the country are racing against time for obtaining the results and approvals, while those from other nations are also raising hopes of an early delivery. The ifs and buts about the vaccines remain though; more so, amid instances of the death of an Oxford-introduced vaccine’s volunteer  in Brazil. Safety is of paramount importance when a vaccine or a few vaccines are marketed. The price aspect is important too, and the Centre’s reported move in this direction, to reach it cheap and fast, will be well-appreciated.

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