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Friday, July 23, 2021

Less than 0.5% sign up for vaccines via rural centres, govt cited to Supreme Court

Though the total number of registrations done by the CSCs has increased marginally month-on-month, it still highlights the gap between rural and urban India, and raises questions on vaccine equity

Written by Aashish Aryan | New Delhi |
Updated: June 15, 2021 2:50:40 pm
A Covid-19 vaccination drive near Ahmedabad. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

Over a month after the Supreme Court was told that the Common Service Centres (CSCs) would be roped in to register the rural population for vaccination on the Co-Win platform, the 3 lakh CSCs account for less than 0.5 per cent of the total number of people who have registered so far.

According to records obtained by The Indian Express, of the 28.5 crore people who had registered for vaccination till June 12, only 14.25 lakh had registered through the CSCs.

Though the total number of registrations done by the CSCs has increased marginally month-on-month, it still highlights the gap between rural and urban India, and raises questions on vaccine equity.

Till May 11, only 54,460 CSCs were active, and they had registered just 1.7 lakh people for vaccination — about 0.1 per cent of the over 17 crore who had registered for vaccination across the country till then.

Explaining the reason for the slow pace of vaccine registrations, a village-level entrepreneur (VLE) operating a CSC in Haryana said: “If we ask people to register for vaccination, they ask us if vaccines are available, and then tell us that they will return when there are vaccines. We have to live with them so we don’t push them much to register”.

Officials from the Ministry of Information and Technology confirmed that the news of vaccine shortage had indeed percolated down to the lowest levels in villages. They were, however, confident of registrations picking up once vaccine supplies are restored.

“Vaccine hesitancy is still a major factor. There are all kinds of myths floating around. The confusion around pricing has more or less gone now with sustained campaigning. But how does one convince people that taking the vaccine will not make them impotent,” said an official. According to the latest data (till June 12), CSCs in Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of registrations so far. The state, which has one of the highest number of villages, had registered 5,18,422 people on the Co-Win platform, followed by Punjab, which had registered 77,303.

Villages in Union Territories showed further marginalisisation. The CSCs in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and Ladakh registered only 57, 10, 39, 58 and 68 people respectively.

Smaller states like Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland also fared badly, with their CSCs registering just 165; 1,165; 1,350; 1,258; and 1,582 people respectively. The total number of vaccinations (at least one dose each) in these states was 6.57 lakh, 5.43 lakh, 5.16 lakh, 3.57 lakh and 3.48 lakh respectively.

The CSCs, run and managed by the IT Ministry, are seen as critical nodes in the government’s efforts to bridge the rural-urban digital divide. These gram-panchayat and village-level outposts often help residents with digital services like applying for Aadhaar card, passport, permanent account number (PAN) card, or opening of bank accounts. Apart from these services, roughly 1.4 lakh of the active CSCs have also received permissions to start operations as grameen e-stores, thereby allowing them to place orders to big fast moving consumer goods companies directly.

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