indianarrative

Digital-divide hampers Covid vaccinations in rural India

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Covid 19 vaccine--Will the government chalk out a different strategy for rural India?

Thirty-four years old Rinku Das, who lives with her family in a village in West Bengal’s Nadia district, has no idea when the Covid 19 vaccination drive will finally kick off in her village. She told India Narrative that none in her village has been vaccinated so far. “We do know when the vaccination exercise will start though many people this time have been infected by Covid,” Das said.

Availability of vaccines, lack of awareness and limited digital access have made things difficult for policymakers to press the pedal on the vaccination drive in the villages.

As India aims to vaccinate all its adults by the end of the year, it needs to look at an alternative inoculation strategy for people in the smaller towns and villages.

Also read: Centre buying 44 crore doses of Covishield & Covaxin to kick off free vaccine drive

Since many people have no access to mobile phones, computers or laptops, a fully “a walk-in” exercise at inoculation centres may be allowed unlike in the cities, where prior registration on the government’s CoWin app is mandatory. Local authorities at many places are also looking to rope in village and religious heads along with Asha (Accredited Social Health Activists) and Anganwadi workers to raise the level of awareness.

“There are some challenges (related to the vaccination drive) in the rural areas. We are aware of them and necessary steps will be taken to address these. Vaccine hesitancy is also a big problem which has to be overcome so that once the supply situation eases, the inoculation drive in the villages can pick up momentum,” Gopal Krishna Agarwal, BJP’s national spokesperson told India Narrative.

Over 65 per cent of India’s population lives in the rural areas with fractured medical facilities.

“The focus must be to vaccinate people in the villages and even the smaller towns at the earliest for real economic recovery, especially as now with second wave, we know that the Covid 19 pandemic is no more just an urban phenomenon,” a person working with a non governmental organisation (NGO) in Uttar Pradesh’s hinterland said.

Rural demand is critical for India’s economic growth. For several sectors such as fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and automobiles – as tractor sale is a big indicator -- among others, a large chunk of demand is driven by the rural sector.

A healthy agriculture growth in 2020-21 pushed rural consumption amid an otherwise battered economy owing to the first Covid 19 wave hit. Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian recently said that a resilient rural demand helped the Indian economy.

Though 23 crore vaccines have been administered until now, only 4.5 crore have been fully inoculated in the country.

Also read: Will India resume supply of vaccines to other countries soon?

However, India is hoping to vaccinate 1 crore people per day by mid-July-August.

Covid-19 In India