& Government’s obsession with questionable apps
As signs of hope and normalcy return to India, the government is preparing for the roll-out of the vaccination programme. It is yet unclear, which vaccine will be authorised first. Infrastructure and coordinating mechanisms are being put in place for a massive roll out. Recently, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan announced that CoWin-20 – a digital platform will be rolled out for tracking vaccine distribution for Covid-19.
The app will be functioning primarily on 5 stage modules. Those modules are: Administrator Module, Registration Module, Vaccination Module, Beneficiary acknowledgement module & report module. Each of those modules will be doing specific functions from registering the participants to issuing them an QR certification of vaccination. This app will also be coordinating with cold storage facilities under e-VIN facility launched by government in September 2020.
The app according to Bhushan is still under-construction and is yet to see the light of the day. The details of how exactly it is going to roll out vaccine distribution and ‘track’ it is unknown. However, looking at the bigger picture it would be a fair assumption that Aadhar Card or Personal Identification Data is going to be involved massively in this roll out programme. It also can be assumed that Central government will be controlling a larger aspect of this vaccination delivery programme because procurement of the vaccine will be done by the Central Government. Thirdly and lastly, larger question of vaccine selling in black markets will have to be dealt with.
If the Co-Win 20 is made based on the person who is to be vaccinated then, the government will have to gather a lot of personal and even sensitive personal information from the people. Given the record of the ‘Aarogya Setu’ app with respect to privacy, the government should be extremely cautious this time. Privacy is an extremely sensitive issue in today’s political discourse and rightly so. It would be better if the Union Government also does take a note of it. In addition to that, precautions with respect to provisions of IT Act, IT (Reasonable Security Rule) and principles of personal data protection bill have to be taken care of too.
Medical Data is one of the most sensitive data of a human being. Medical data will have to be most likely submitted on this digital platform to decide your priority to be vaccinated. Any lethargy while maintaining that data can lead to a massive exposure to private players and notorious neighbours. This data could be exploited for profits as well as attacking India with any bio-weapons in the future.
Tussle for Claiming Credit
Vaccine delivery to almost 600 million people is not a joke. However, taking the sole responsibility of the job is one. The centre should effectively coordinate with the states the way it did during the pandemic. No one can stop or ignore the tussle between leaders to claim credit during vaccine roll-out for political advantages. However, Political advantage will only come when every citizen who is in need of vaccine receives it. It is my belief that for the next 10 years, Covid-19 vaccination is going to be a hot cake for politicians to ask for votes.
During the Pandemic Centre has shown commendable coordination with the states when it comes to reporting the numbers, testing and setting up emergency centers and ICU beds. However, the blame game post pandemic will actually expose any and all corruption cases and dirt which is hidden under the garb of ‘honest efforts.’ The Centre must take serious action on any and every such case in every state.
Black Market & Illegal Trade of Vaccine
Lastly, enforcement of strict laws and punishment for selling vaccines in black market, hoarding, adulteration and fake vaccines must be done. 600 million primary vaccination is a lucrative opportunity for making profits out of people’s desperation. There will be some real evil tendencies which will hop on this opportunity. It has to be seen that every does IS of the vaccine and is served in proper conditions and for proper price. Shortage in any case will lead to hoarding and stock-piling. All these factors call in Essential Commodities Act to deal with such situations. Implementation of the law has been extremely weak in the past and without any substantial changes the risk of past to be turning into present remains the same.
All of these are mere speculations based on previous efforts and actions of the government. However, Indian governance is predictable with exception of Prime-Minister’s address. What we know about the CoWin-20 app is very little but should not be the same case after it is released.