Let’s be on our feet to this man who has charted India out of Covid-19 cesspool

21st January 2021

21st January 2021

Dr Harsh Vardhan

Let’s not hold it back. The man who was at the burning deck when Covid-19 was spreading like wildfire around the country; and now that it’s vaccination problem has cruised into India’s hinterland, Dr Harsh Vardhan, India's health minister, deserves all of us to be on our feet. Modest that he is, you could expect the man would mildly reprove. 

A six-time MP from the Capital, presently from Chandni Chowk, Dr Vardhan is much more than the little, narrow bylanes of his constituency he represents in India’s parliament. Delhi’s loss has turned out to be India’s gain- When Bhartiya Janata Party leadership thought it would be fit to keep Dr. Harsh Vardhan, a physician who has been a Bhartiya Janata party legislator from Krishna Nagar area since 1953, in the central government, majority of people thought that the door to Delhi was effectively shut on him but who knew that he was gearing up for, well maybe, the biggest and the probably the best test of his political life. 

When the world found itself gripped in the pandemic and the coronavirus continued to take a toll on millions of lives across the globe, the Indian government initiated crucial steps in containing covid-19. With Harsh Vardhan playing the pivotal role, leading the team from the front he got a strong team of technocrats under his wings—ophthalmologist Dr. Rajiv Garg as Director-General Health Services and cardiologist professor Balram Bhargava as Director-General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Prime minister fielded Dr. Harshvardhan as its face in the covid-related matter in the critical times when the situation was worsening and the death caused by Covid-19 was spiralling. 

Dr. Harsh Vardhan is not just another medical degree holder in politics but has had a long career as a medical professional, for long he was a consultant with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and won worldwide appreciation by initiating and successfully executing the Pulse Polio eradication campaign.

Adding proof to his exceptional contribution to public health, it takes us back to 1997 when he piloted the Delhi Prohibition of Smoking and Non- smokers Health Protection Act in the Delhi Assembly, one of the first anti-tobacco laws implemented by any state government. 

After this, the Supreme Court had directed all states to replicate this law, and 12 states enacted similar laws.

He, for the first time, implemented the Rational Drug Policy which was recognized by the WHO as the Delhi Model and was adopted by many countries.

He is also the recipient of WHO’s highest honor (Director-General’s Commendation Award) for successfully working towards a tobacco-free world—an award received earlier by US President Bill Clinton and Brazilian football superstar Pele.

The 65-year-old borrowed his experience and put that into the work to fight against the pandemic, making the robust healthcare ecosystem. He not only worked hard to find the solution to contain the virus but also tried every possible way to give a required push to the development of the vaccine. 

However, when it was understood that the virus is no more at the stage where it could be contained, Harshvardhan very tactfully shifted his focus on the development of the vaccine- which, today, has resulted in India having two indigenous covid-19 vaccines— Covaxin and Covishield. 

The man who chartered the course that India doesn't get submerged by Coronavirus is now preparing that vaccination is timely and orderly distributed amongst its 1.4 billion people. 

From frequent meetings to formulate strategies to plan on how to roll out the distribution of the vaccine in the country, keeping citizens aware of the development and progress from time to time, he took the entire system in his hand.

When asked how challenging it would be for India to run an immunization program as gigantic as this, Harshvardhan in one of his interviews said that their administration has already mapped the manpower and other necessary elements required in the process. “We have also been carrying out large-scale polio vaccination campaigns for more than two decades now. We have recently conducted the world’s largest Measles-Rubella Campaign covering more than 330 million children in the age group of 9 months to 15 years. We are further augmenting this system to ensure that the massive national mission of vaccinating the identified priority groups with the Covid-19 vaccine is achieved in a timely manner. India’s accomplishment in eradicating polio is the most impressive global health success story that the world has ever seen. With that experience behind us, I have no doubt that we will achieve any target that we set,” the health minister had mentioned. 

It was this obsession for the work that had won him an unusual accolade from former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who described him ‘Swasthvardhan’, that is somebody who could add to good health. For another former prime minister, I.K Gujral, he was the “best health minister of India” and I think after the commendable 27 years in active politics and medicine, the time has come when we acknowledge this man of the moment. 

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