India's critics silenced: Modi says after 1 billion Covid vaccination milestone

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the nation Friday after India crossed a record milestone of 100 crore (1 billion) Covid vaccinations, said it was "not just a number" but a symbol of ability a "new India"

Oct 22, 2021
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the nation Friday after India crossed a record milestone of 100 crore (1 billion) Covid vaccinations, said it was "not just a number" but a symbol of ability a "new India". India's critics had been silenced, he said, and ushered in good cheer with the upcoming Diwali festival. 

"100 crore vaccine jabs is just not a number. It is a reflection of the capacity of this country. This is a new chapter for the country, a country that knows how to achieve huge targets," Modi said in his tenth address to the nation since the Covid pandemic broke out last year,  NDTV said.

"Everyone questioned whether India will be able to do it. 100 crore (1 billion) vaccine shots is an answer to all the questions," he said.

The country, he said, had only one mantra -- that if the disease does not discriminate, then vaccination cannot either. "That is why we ensured that the vaccine drive was not overtaken by VIP culture," said Modi, alluding to earlier criticism that the vaccines were cornered only political bigwigs. 

India administered its one billionth vaccine dose on Thursday, months after cases and deaths peaked in the second surge of Covid that ambushed the country's health infrastructure. About three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and 30 percent are fully vaccinated, according to government figures quoted by NDTV.

With no mention of the deadly second wave that killed thousands in India, Modi focused on what he called the positives of the vaccination record and also weaved in his government's taglines of "Aatmanirbhar Bharat", "Swachch Bharat Abhiyan" and "Vocal for Local".

 "Last Diwali, everyone was tense. But this Diwali, 100 crore jabs have given the country faith and belief. During Diwali, the economy is on a high. 100 crore vaccine doses will therefore help our small workers and small businesses. It is a ray of light for everyone," he said.

Along with vaccine coverage, he said, there was "festivity and optimism everywhere" and the economy was also recovering.

"Experts are very positive about the Indian economy. There is employment for the young but there are also unicorns will record capital. From Gati Shakti to new drone rules, the economy will get a boost," he said.

Modi also referred to criticism of some of his past addresses during the pandemic, including his call for clapping and clanging utensils to honour frontline health workers in the early days of the outbreak.

 "People said how taali-thalli  (clapping and clanging) will help eradicate the virus. But it was a reflection of people's participation and capacity. This success reflects the important place of technology that not even big nations have today. Our vaccine programme is a result of technology. It is science-born, science-driven and science-based. Science and scientific approach are at the heart of it," he said.

 He said the war, however, was not over yet and it was still too soon to lay down arms - a reference to the pandemic. He urged Indians to adopt the mask as a way of life. "Like we wear shoes, we should make it a habit of wearing masks," he emphasised. 

(SAM)