Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the Narendra Modi government has fielded three scientists to brief the media and the public at large. They are principal scientific adviser K. VijayRaghavan; NITI Aayog member and chief of national expert group on vaccines V.K. Paul; and Indian Council of Medical Research director-general Balram Bhargava.
Individually and collectively, they, along with various bureaucrats and ministers who purportedly have sought to inform and guide the public, have been far less forthcoming in handling questions than their counterparts in other democracies reeling from COVID-19, especially the UK and the US. Here are few among the other questions:
Q. Did they advise Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government to expect a second wave
Q. Why special facilities created for the first wave, were being dismantled
Q. Did they anticipated oxygen shortages
Q. Did they advise the government that mass election rallies, huge gatherings at the Kumbh Mela and cricket matches
Q. accelerated “clinical trial mode” approval when results were not available was not just a breach of scientific ethics and increase vaccine hesitancy?
Q. Why are state governments being asked to pay for vaccines when the people they will vaccinate are citizens of India and in no way different from the people the Central government is vaccinating for free?
Q. Covaxin is an indigenously developed vaccine created with support and collaboration from the ICMR, did they advise the government to buy out Bharat Biotech’s intellectual property rights and permit the widest possible production of this vaccine within the country and in other countries as well
Q. How can they convince the country the COVID-19 deaths figure is right
Q. Why did the government stop releasing reports on adverse events following immunisation from February 26, 2021? Covishield and rare blood clots of the sort that the US and countries in the EU had reported.
Q. The Drug Controller General has approved various questionable drugs for COVID-19 patients without the requisite evidence that they work. They are tocilizumab, itolizumab, favipiravir and most recently Virafin. As scientists themselves, did VijayRaghavan, Paul and Bhargava consult with the DCGI on these decisions?
Q. The Ministry of AYUSH has pushed the use of ‘alternative medicines’
Q. Patanjali Ayurved first marketed ‘Coronil’ as a “cure” for COVID-19, with the health minister as the chief guest at the product launch.
Q. Have they advised the government that weddings should not be permitted
Q. Why did they not advise the government to distribute rapid, self-administered testing kits developed by scientists in India last year – instead of forcing people to crowd at testing laboratories