On Covid-19, Rahul Gandhi Seems Continuously Disconnected From Ground Realities

On Covid-19, Rahul Gandhi Seems Continuously Disconnected From Ground Realities Congress workers present a turban to Rahul Gandhi during a public meeting at Varachha Surat, on 3 November in Gujarat, India. (Vijayanand Gupta/Hindustan Times via GettyImages)
  • Rahul Gandhi has a habit of stating the obvious and then pretending to have imparted unmatched pearls of wisdom to the people.

Member of Parliament from Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi, remains disconnected as ever from the ongoings of this nation.

Yet another example of this has come in the ‘letter’ that Gandhi wrote to India’s Prime Minister, where he urges a number of steps to be taken up in this ‘globalized and interconnected world’ with India being ‘home to one out of every six human beings on the planet’.

The steps, however, reveal once again that Gandhi lives in a fanciful world, and either out of malice or lack of awareness, chooses to be ignorant of things going on around him.

When it comes to scientifically tracking the virus, it is ironic that Gandhi remains ignorant of the work already done to cover ground on this. The Government of India had set up an Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) on 25 December 2020.

INSACOG is a grouping of 10 national laboratories which carries out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating Covid-19 viruses, and correlates epidemiological trends with genomic variants, and has its repository in IGIB Delhi and NIBMG Kalyani, West Bengal.

As early as 24 March 2021, INSACOG had detected 771 variants of concerns (VOCs) from positive samples shared by States/UTs, including the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage, the South African (B.1.351) lineage, and the Brazilian (P.1) lineage.

It was this group that had discovered the now infamous ‘double mutant’ variant. In fact, INCASOG had also allayed fears by pointing out that the ‘double’ and ‘triple’ mutants are essentially the same strain.

If Gandhi and his team of advisors had the will to pay attention to India’s scientific community instead of belittling its achievements as seen with the vaccine, he would have, perhaps, not written this letter.

Assessing the efficacy of the vaccines against all new mutations is another step that is ongoing, contrary to the misleading statements that Gandhi wants readers to believe.

How else would one have come to know that Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN is effective against 617 different variants of Covid-19?

It is part of the process of vaccine development and improvement process against a rapidly evolving disease. Why would any vaccine developer and the scientific community at large not engage in this exercise?

The very idea that something so banal has been stated by Gandhi really makes us wonder whether this was yet another attempt at being facetious instead of being serious for a change.

Rapid vaccination of our population is certainly desirable. However, Gandhi seems to be living in a world of his own, and is oblivious to the pace of vaccination across India.

If only he had bothered to at least check the COWIN portal or app and see how the government has managed to vaccinate more than 18.6 crore Indians.

If that dashboard not be sufficient, it would perhaps be pertinent of Rahul Gandhi to check that we have been the fastest in vaccinating such a large number of people, and should also note how developed countries like Australia and New Zealand struggle to get people vaccinated in the first place or how the European Union is still struggling despite the much longer availability of the vaccine due to a variety of issues.

Transparency coming from the Congress’ mouth is a misnomer of sorts. However, rest assured Mr. Gandhi, India has been more than transparent with the world about the state of the Covid pandemic in India as well as our scientific community’s findings.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s daily briefings on the pandemic clearly do not have Gandhi as a viewer, prompting him to make such a claim.

Vaccine makers have published in international journals their findings about efficacies at every stage. INCASOG has conducted a public webinar about the ongoing pandemic and various emerging findings and streamed it live on YouTube.

In the past few months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has talked to several global leaders like Joe Biden of the United States, Yoshihide Suga of Japan, the President of the European Commission, and the Prime Ministers of Finland, Portugal and Sri Lanka, to name a few, to apprise them of the Covid scenario and exchanged notes.

While it may not satiate Gandhi’s wishes to create hysteria, the government has done more than enough on the issue of transparency. Gandhi would have done well to at least pay heed to these measures.

Rahul Gandhi has a habit of stating the obvious and then pretending to have imparted unmatched pearls of wisdom to the people.

This is not only reflective of a sense of privilege but also reeks of a feudal mindset that sees oneself much higher than the scientific community’s accomplishments and efforts as well.

One can only hope Gandhi will refrain from shooting from the hip next time onwards.

Rohit Pathania works in the space of renewable energy and environment. Other interests include politics and the economy.

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