August 18, 2021 4:17:01 am
THE INDIAN Air Force recently fired a corporal-ranked airman, Yogendra Kumar, who refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or to answer a show cause notice sent to him, as part of its policy making it mandatory for all its personnel to get themselves immunised against the virus.
IAF is the only one among the defence forces to implement this. While the Navy is encouraging its personnel to get the shot, the Army has issued similar advisories to its troops, sources said. They added that IAF is only allowing those personnel with legitimate medical reasons to be exempted from vaccination.
Kumar has got temporary protection over the IAF action against him from the Gujarat High Court.
The government had earlier informed Parliament that nearly all armed forces personnel as well as personnel of the Border Roads Organisation have received Covid-19 vaccination. On July 26, in a written response to a question, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt told the Rajya Sabha, “Till now 100% of these defence personnel have been vaccinated with the 1st dose and 98% have been vaccinated with the 2nd dose.”
A defence official said that after the government opened vaccination for defence personnel as frontline workers on January 16, there was some hesitancy initially among some IAF personnel. Considering their own vulnerability to the virus, as well as the risk they would pose
to others, the IAF had made vaccination mandatory, the official said.
Two letters were issued in this regard, on April 28 and June 17, the official said, adding that subsequently, nine IAF personnel,
including Kumar, had been issued show cause notices over their refusal to get vaccinated. The others replied, unlike Kumar, and their cases “are under consideration”.
In its order on Kumar’s petition, the Gujarat High Court had said that the IAF should “give an opportunity of hearing” to him to present his case and said the case should be decided as early as possible.