20201027 Cartoon from Satish
Image Credit: Gulf News

“Give us your votes and we will give you free coronavirus vaccines,” promised BJP, the right-wing Indian ruling party, and Liberal US presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

The difference in the promise, Tweeps pointed out on Twitter, is that in India only those from Bihar state will get the free vaccines. Biden, on the other hand, promised all Americans free vaccines, not just for people from Delaware.

There is a local election coming ahead in Bihar and those in power in Delhi thought it would be a good idea to “bribe” the voters.

A Tweep, with a tongue-in-cheek comment asked on social media, “How does one become a citizen of Bihar state”, hitting out obliquely that the vaccines should be free for all Indians.

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Another Tweep said that everyone in India will die, except for Biharis, while a comedian said that Biden might win the Bihar assembly elections.

As Bihar is a poor, ‘dry state’ and chugging chilled beverages is not allowed, and shipping in bundles of cash in private planes to persuade voters, is not feasible with the Election Commissioner keeping an eagle eye on the proceedings, the only thing they could offer were vaccines which would be available in India sometime in the middle of next year.

But the innocent voters are maybe unaware that when the vaccine is finally ready after human trials, distributing it to the millions of Indians will be a mammoth task, and that already people have been chosen who will receive it first.

Getting vaccinated

The priority group that will first get vaccinated against the deadly virus will of course, be the health workers who are in the forefront of the battle. It is not sure whom the government wishes to save next, whether it is the vulnerable elderly or the young who are equally vulnerable.

Just a word from the wise for the strategists writing the election speeches, never offer anything free, unless you are offering a deal such as “buy a shirt (or a sari) and get another free”, as people are usually wary of anything that does not cost them anything.

When the local municipal authorities here in Bengaluru offered to give people in our gated community free tests for coronavirus, and sent a team that sat in the club gym waiting, hardly anyone turned up.

I thought I would get myself tested, because for crazy journos and bloggers, the story is the driver, but my wife warned me not to do such a silly thing. I informed our maid she can go over and get a free test (that usually cost a couple of hundred rupees), but she declined, saying, “I could be negative today, but who knows about tomorrow”.

The 'false positives'

The tests sometimes give “false positives” and that is what scared people from our community. Then, one has to undergo an antibody test to make sure that one does not have the bug and no one wants to be home- quarantined on an assumption.

“Why can’t there be elections here now?” I cried out with both hopelessness and panic in my voice, which is quite a difficult vocal trick to achieve.

I live in Karnataka state, deep down in the South of the country, and the pandemic is raging here like a zombie apocalypse, and next door in Kerala state, the situation is also pretty grim.

My wife and I decided that since there will be no free vaccines for us, the next best thing would be get vaccinated against the common flu. The only difference between the coronavirus and the seasonal cold is that the former infection hits you really fast.

Then we came to know that the Karnataka by polls will be held on November 3.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi