Cyclothon to raise awareness on vaccination drives- inappropriate timing or gross negligence?

Cyclothon to raise awareness on vaccination drives- inappropriate timing or gross negligence?

Gangtok, April 30:

In an act of gross irony and blatant hypocrisy, on April 30, a flagged-off cyclothon organized by Hamro Varta Television was conducted from Ridge Park, Gangtok to Rongpo with the goal of the event being to ‘create awareness for the COVID-19 vaccination.’ The Chief Minister of Sikkim, P.S. Tamang was present and flagged off the cyclothon from Ridge Park here in Gangtok. Through his social media, Tamang announced this and stated, “I was delighted to flag off the Cyclothon from Ridge Park, Gangtok, organised by Hamro Varta Tv. This event has been organised to create awareness for Covid-19 vaccination and will conclude at Rangpo.”

Additionally, the event was attended and participated by many of the state’s prominent political figures- Lok Sabha MP, Indra Hang Subba, the Political Secretary to the Chief Minister Jacob Khaling and Additional Political Secretary East, Tshering Wangchuk Lepcha who were among the participants to cycle till Rangpo from Gangtok.

Let's keep in mind that the state on Thursday, a day before the event, had reported 175 new COVID-19 cases, the state’s biggest single-day spike, and on the day of the event i.e April 30, Sikkim recorded its biggest daily COVID-19 spike till then with 205 new cases and one death being reported on April 30. With 183 of the COVID-19 cases coming from the East District much to the dismay of the general public and netizens alike.

While this has created a buzz in social media with many netizens calling out the State government's actions and the organizers as a blatant disregard for the public while also being grossly negligent and hypocritical in the stand they are taking.

A concerned citizen of the state says, “With the second wave of COVID-19 hitting not just the country but also the state in full swing, there could not have been a more inappropriate time to organize such events. Whereas we every day are sent on a guilt trip by the State Health Bulletin and the Health Department for flouting even the most minute of protocols and are reminded day in and day out that the cause of such a surge in the cases is due to the public. Undoubtedly we are to blame but only for some parts of it because according to the State government we are to naively believe that the root cause is us because they don't need to follow protocols of social distancing or avoiding crowds. After all, they can't be spreaders and carriers.”
Another says, “Rather than finding the solution to the shortage of the vaccines they choose to organize and take part in such events is commendable. How long do they think they can fool the Sikkimese public. The irony is that this event was organized to spread awareness on the vaccination drive when there is a shortage of vaccines for the people in the age group of 18-45 years old in the first place. It is hard to see the logic behind a vaccination drive awareness when there is no said vaccine.”

While the Centre Government announced that the vaccination drive for the age group of 18-45 years old is to begin from May 1 around the country, on April 28, it came to light that this won't be happening in Sikkim tas the procurement of vaccine is still on, which was confirmed by the State Health Department’s Director-General cum Secretary, Dr Pempa Tshering Bhutia. 

Even though the online registration for the same has started through the CoWin App for the above-mentioned age group, the State government has proposed the procurement of 6.60 lakh doses of Covishield and have already placed an order with the Serum Institute, Pune, out of the 
6.60 lakh doses, 1.50 lakh doses have been requested to be delivered in May and the vaccination drive for the age group 18-45 years old will only take place after this consignment is received. Whereas, the vaccination of healthcare workers, field-level workers and those above 45 years will continue as before.

The Secretary of the Student Front of the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) party, Ram Gurung also released a press release on April 30, condemning the actions of the State government and blaming them for the rise in cases during the second wave of COVID-19 in Sikkim. Gurung in the press release has stated, “It is the responsibility of the State government to protect the people at this moment, but now, due to the negligence and irresponsibility of ministers, legislators, administration etc. from the Chief Minister of the state government, the coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably.”

Gurung has further stated that while the state cowers in terror after hearing the daily tally of fresh cases, the SKM Government ‘organized a bicycle rally and has been given a big way to spread the corona infection and whoever organized the event is also not serious about the present pandemic.’ He adds that while the general public of Sikkim is paying three hundred rupees fine along with abuses for not wearing masks properly to the Police administration, there was no police personnel to be seen at the cyclothon while asking, ‘Where was the police administration today? Is there a provision to pay the fine only by the general public?’

“We would like to tell the Police administration that the law should be equally implemented to all in the state. It would have been fair if the cost of organizing the cyclothon was instead used to protect the lives of the people of Sikkim. At present, the lives of the people of Sikkim are at risk due to the immaturity, and negligence of the SKM government.”- Ram Gurung.

The actions of the State government's representatives and political higher-ups on Friday has baffled the citizens and netizens of Sikkim alike as to how they could think that this was a good idea in the midst of the pandemic second wave with the timing of the event being grossly inappropriate not just with the vaccines still being procured but also since the state is going through the worst spike in cases at the moment with many mourning the loss of family members who succumbed to COVID-19, but even with the constant requests from the Health Department for people to follow social distancing protocols and to avoid interacting in crowds, it is the government's representatives and political higher-ups openly flouting the rules, which begs the question- who in their right mind still thinks that the law is the same for all?