Hyderabad: Coercion appears to be on the cards to get everyone to take the vaccine against Covid-19. This became evident after Jogulamba-Gadwal district collector Valluru Kranthi issued a fiat to officials to identify vaccination laggards and stop paying pensions to such individuals from November 1.
He also announced cutting off food supply to such individuals declaring that identified unvaccinated people should not be allowed to buy food grains and other food items at ration shops in the district.
And for good measure, just in case there were some lingering doubts or confusion over his determination to follow through with his fiat, the official Twitter handle of the Jogulamba-Gadwal district collector, @Collector_JGL, on Monday also Tweeted these decisions.
Giving further credence to his announcement, Tuesday morning saw news making the rounds that Director of Public Health Dr G. Srinivas Rao too announced that cutting off pensions and ration would be implemented across Telangana from November 1 on anyone who had not received the Covid-19 vaccination.
This is not the first time that some restrictions on unvaccinated people were suggested. Over the past few months, the Director of Public Health said it was likely that the government could impose curbs on unvaccinated people. These measures included a ban on entry into public places, shopping malls, movie theatres and the like.
However, with several TV news channels reporting that state-wide pension and ration cut offs were on the cards, Dr Srinivas Rao issued a denial that the government had no such plans. He denied "making any statement linking COVID vaccination with ration and pensions given by the government," leaving open the possibility that the Jogulamba-Gadwal collector could have well taken a rogue decision without the consent of the state government. Dr Srinivas Rao also said the "government has not taken any such decision," and appealed to people to get vaccinated.
Incidentally, Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao holds the health portfolio as well.
Despite the denial by the Director of Public Health that there was any plan to coerce people to get vaccinated, the Jogulamba-Gadwal collector's Tweet ordering stoppage of pensions and ration supplies to the unvaccinated remained on display till late into Tuesday evening giving credence to the theory that the government was 'testing the waters' on this front.
But the retraction from the director of public health is believed to have been ordered by some top honchos in the government who feared a backlash from the people and a negative impact on the prospects of the TRS candidate Gellu Srinivas Yadav in Huzurabad Assembly bypoll in which he is squared off with former health minister and now BJP candidate Etala Rajendar.