1 billion Covid doses: Across the country, a billion cheers
There were celebrations all across the country on Thursday -- with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Thursday illuminating 100 monuments, sweets were distributed at health centres in several districts
As part of his daily routine, 30-year-old Rajeev Singh was waiting for the passenger train that would take him back to his village in Janjgir Champa at the Bilaspur Railway station. Like every day, Singh was tired and short of sleep, having spent the night guarding a parking lot in the city. At 10 minutes past 10 o’clock though, Singh was shaken out of his reverie. A loud, cheerful voice boomed across the public announcement system, congratulating the nation on achieving the vaccination of one billion vaccine doses.
As the crowds around him began to chatter, struck by the enormity of the number, Singh smiled to himself. One month ago, he had received his first Covishield shot. “I am happy that I am part of that billion,” Singh said.
The first announcement had come in English.
“Today India has achieved landmark milestone of 100 crore Covid vaccine doses. This is the world’s largest and fastest vaccination drive,” said the announcement. It was only when it was repeated in Hindi, that Singh wrapped his head around the number. “Sau crore (100 crore). It gives me a sense of security. That was all we could talk about on the train back.”
There were celebrations all across the country on Thursday -- with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Thursday illuminating 100 monuments, sweets were distributed at health centres in several districts, announcements rang out in airports and railway stations, and political leaders across parties congratulated heath workers for administering a billion doses since the start of vaccination drive in January.
At the Rourkela government hospital at around the same time as the announcement was heard in Bilaspur, there was something else playing over the speakers. In a festive atmosphere, singer Kailash Kher’s voice serenaded the hospital, belting out “Bharat ka teekakaran, yehi jaan bachayega” (India’s vaccination, this only will save lives) as over a hundred nurses, doctors and other health workers milled around a rangoli celebrating the one billion mark. Former Union minister Jual Oram felicitated the 100th, 200th, and 300th people to get their vaccine shots at the hospital on Thursday, as well as every health care worker. “It feels good to celebrate a milestone. Even we have given over 1 lakh Covid shots at our centre,” said Dr Santosh Swain, director of RGH.
At the Katju Hospital in Bhopal, Shubhi Singh from Kolar, seven months pregnant, was one of the patients that received the vaccine closest to when celebrations broke out in earnest, 15 minutes past 10am. “I had not been able to get my vaccine shot because of some medical complications. I was cleared a little while ago, but was deferring it until I read that India would hit one billion today. I wanted to be part of that so I came to the hospital,” she said.
Some kilometres away, at the primary health care Centre in Kshipra, Indore, Dr Tripati Kandare marvelled at the change in attitudes she was seeing in front of her. Here, too, there was a Rangoli and sweets that were being distributed, but one patient after another came up to shake her hand. Kandare said that during the first wave, she had been attacked in the rural parts of Indore for holding vaccination camps. “This appreciation now feels wonderful,” she said.
Leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hailed the achievement, and said that this could be achieved because of the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP leaders held media interactions in various parts of the country -- Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said the feat was achieved under “guidance and leadership of the PM Modi, and Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai called it an “achievement sure to inspire the world”.
Several chief ministers from other parties -- Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi, Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala, and Uddhav Thackeray of Maharashtra -- said the occasion signified the dedication of health workers. “Congratulations to all the countrymen on administering 100 crore vaccines. Salute to the doctors, nurses and front-line workers who made this possible,”Kejriwal tweeted. Thackeray stressed that health workers worked tirelessly since the outbreak of Covid in March last year.
President Ram Nath Kovind in Patna termed the achievement as “historic” and said it was because of collective effort of all Indians.
Some Congress leaders, however, appeared to be at odds over how to tag the milestone.
MP Shashi Tharoor said credit should be given to the government for achieving the 100 crore landmark, but drew a response from party colleague Pawan Khera, who asserted that giving credit was an “insult” to millions of families that “suffered due to the mismanagement” of the pandemic.
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) President TV Narendran said that unyielding efforts and sacrifices made by India’s researchers, doctors, health care workforce, administrative teams, and police personnel were extraordinary and laudable. “This is a truly inspiring achievement under the committed leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said Narendran.
So far, all adults in nine states and Union territories -- Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, and Dadra & Nagar Haveli -- have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
(With agency inputs)