The first-world attitude with which the United Kingdom has included Covishield in the list of accepted vaccines against the China-origin virus with the rider that Indian travellers to the country would still need to be in a 10-day quarantine is ludicrous. It does not impress the British that Covishield is developed by none other than their own Oxford University in collaboration with AstraZeneca. To them, if the vaccine is made in India, certain essential processes must have been compromised! The country still suffering from a hangover of the colonial era — hopefully not from racism too — appears to have no clue about India’s advances in information technology either. It is ironic that they should accept hand-written slips from the American CDC but not certificates from the Government of India’s CoWin application that must pass the scrutiny of the Unique Identification Authority of India that issues Aadhaar cards to citizens. Coming with a QR code, the authentication is far more reliable than the archaic manual interventions and obsolete digital texts with which a large part of the West still works. As for social behaviour, India has hardly faced vaccine hesitancy of the kind witnessed in the UK, the rest of Europe, the US and Canada where conspiracy theories rather than the knowledge of medical science reigned supreme. Surely India did not lag behind Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, from where the British are allowing travellers to the UK. Arguably the largest section of travel applicants, students were vaccinated on a priority basis in India where the rate of vaccination is now second only to China’s. The middle class and the rich, who are the only constituents of the income demographics of India who would brush shoulders with the British in the UK, have received both doses of the quasi-British vaccine.
But the paranoia is not exclusively British or even Western. Australia has for more than a year kept its doors closed to all Indian students — regardless of vaccination status — who have applied for higher studies in universities located in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. The exaggerated accounts of the second wave of infections by Delhi-NCR-based media houses are to blame to a large extent. As in other walks of life, journalism is gradually turning into a nuisance, with foreign counterparts only perpetuating the problem, turning governments phobic about India. The propaganda is affecting not only industries such as tourism and business travellers but also creating a hostile environment for Hindus on varsity campuses. The British example, it is hoped, will not set a precedent where quarantining Indians adds to the existing woes of Indians abroad. The threat of reciprocal action issued by the Indian government was in order and it worked, leading to a partial climbdown by London, moving India from the red to the amber list. New Delhi must assert itself in the interest of its people across the world similarly on other issues confronting Indians. To begin with, such pressure will work on Xi Jinping-influenced WHO that has been dithering on the certifications of other vaccines made in India.