A Smear Campaign Against Private Sector Is The Last Thing India Needs Right Now; But Guess What Rahul Gandhi And Friends Are Upto?
It’s about vaccines today, it will be about 5G and artificial intelligence tomorrow, and it will be about a $5 trillion economy in the future.
All these pursuits are incomplete without private sector participation. It’s time to stop hating ‘Made and Make in India’.
India is a country that witnessed an escalation in the manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE) from an absolute zero to a daily average of 150,000 in May last year, at the peak of a nationwide lockdown.
Yet, the recent smear campaign against India’s research and development into the vaccine programme along with other private enterprises, by many opposition politicians and journalists is unexplainable, and to put it bluntly, foolish.
The last few days, amidst the raging of the second coronavirus wave, have been about hating everything that was made in India, is being made in India and can be made in India — from vaccine pricing to manufacturing, from infrastructure expenditure to the Indian Premier League.
Add to this an order from the judiciary asking the government of Tamil Nadu to take over a plant in the state to produce medical oxygen while keeping the private entity owning it out of the equation.
A lot of it has to do with India’s political spectrum as well. The Narendra Modi government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, can be accused of being socialist like the Congress but the government has shown a strong appetite for privatisation, ease of doing business, and encouraging private enterprise.
Congress, as the main opposition party, on the other hand, led by Rahul Gandhi, has been on a prolonged smear campaign against everything private. During Modi 1.0, it was all about accusing the government of being ‘soot boot ki sarkar’. During the Rafale controversy, it was again about the government helping one industrialist.
The farmer protests happened, and the entire narrative from the opposition boiled down to Adani and Ambani stealing the lands of the farmers, the private corporations, small and big, displacing the annadatas and so forth. Now, as the vaccine programme is underway, the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech have been under attack from the usual suspects on pricing and profiteering.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, Finance and Health Minister of Assam, was quick to call out the hypocrisy of Rahul Gandhi on the issue, citing a 2008 order from the Centre.
In 2008, vaccine production at the Central Research Institute in Kasauli, Pasteur Institute of India in Coonoor, and BCG Vaccines Lab in Chennai was suspended after a study by the World Health Organization.
These units were in the business of manufacturing vaccines for DPT, measles, polio, and BCG.
In 2009, the apex court issued a notice to the Centre, UPA 2.0, over the closure of the same units.
The pricing of the vaccine has been an episode of embarrassment as well. When the apex court has to get involved in the pricing of a life-saving vaccine, in the middle of a pandemic, the prevailing contempt against anything ‘Make in India’ must be addressed. The Centre was seen offering explanations to the apex court on how the vaccine was priced.
Under pressure from the state governments and armchair activists on Twitter, the central government, earlier this week, negotiated the price of the vaccines again with the SII and Bharat Biotech.
Eventually, the price of the vaccine was lowered, and yet, it was not enough to impress the state governments who either wanted the Centre to dole them out for free completely or have the institutes themselves sell it at a minimum possible price. Only a couple of months ago, these parties had been demanding an inflated minimum support price for farmers. Politics triumphs policy, profits, and private enterprise, clearly.
Most people complaining on Twitter about the pricing, especially the blue-tick pay celebrities, pay more for a coffee each day than they were being asked to pay for the vaccine.
Some went a step ahead and demeaned the vaccines produced in India while questioning the stance of the Indian government on not allowing authorisation for the emergency use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, along with other foreign vaccines.
The judiciary has also not shied away from playing a critical role in the smear campaign against ‘made or make in India’.
In what can be only defined as absurd, the Supreme Court allowed the Tamil Nadu government to take over the Sterlite Copper plant in order to initiate the production of medical oxygen. It only took a strong objection from Vedanta in the apex court where they cited their expertise and the importance of having expert professionals on the plant.
Now, the next obvious target is the Indian Premier League.
One of the greatest sporting leagues of the world, and India’s biggest contribution to the world of cricket, is now under attack because it’s somehow unethical to have a sports league going.
All this while it generates thousands of jobs, ensures a bounce-back for an industry ravaged by lockdowns, and offers viewers some solace from heartless coverage from outside crematoriums. If it’s made in India, it must be immoral, is the bottom line.
As the states get ready to receive vaccines from the SII, it must be realised that it is the indigenous research and development that has not made us begging for vaccines from across the globe.
Similarly, it was the investments last year in PPE kits and other medical equipment and the ability of the private sector to ramp up production to cater to an escalating demand that saved the country from another import dependency problem.
The lessons from our Covid war are clear — to start respecting the private sector, the private enterprise, and the idea that the government can no longer be the ‘mai-baap’ to everything there is.
It’s about vaccines today, it will be about 5G and artificial intelligence tomorrow, and it will be about a $5 trillion economy in the future. All these pursuits are incomplete without private sector participation. It’s time to stop hating ‘Made and Make in India’.
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