BBMP's mandatory vaccine diktat draws both praise, flak

BBMP's mandatory vaccination diktat draws both praise and flak

Activists and industry insiders say the BBMP directive sets a bad precedent

Representative Image. Credit: DH Pool

Municipal authorities' decision to make vaccination mandatory for all employees of commercial establishments has drawn both praise and flak for "forcing" vaccination upon people. 

In a circular dated August 26, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) said that because of the established scientific fact that the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus was higher in closed spaces, it was "essential to ensure that staff of commercial establishments, hotels, industries and offices do not get infected and thereafter spread the infection to customers and public visit such places." 

The circular obligates commercial establishments to ensure that their employees receive at least one dose of the vaccine by August 31. The municipal chief commissioner, Gaurav Gupta, said that the intention stemmed from an urgent need to bridge the gap in vaccinations, especially in the formal sector. 

"Ultimately, any move to increase the vaccination coverage is inherently better for the city. It is not only better for the offices and industries in that the transmission of the virus will be curtailed but it is also better for customers," he said. 

Also read: 5.6% dip in Karnataka's weekly Covid cases despite increased testing

However, the BBMP’s use of the words "mandatory vaccination of all staff" has raised eyebrows. Activists and industry insiders say the BBMP directive sets a bad precedent.

"The intention of the circular is laudable but the vaccination rate demanded in the circular cannot be achieved in just a few days. It will create shortages of vaccine in other districts,” said Leo Saldanha, a city-based activist. 

He added that the language of the circular is also alarming, especially as the Supreme Court has said that the government cannot force people to get vaccinated. "So how can the BBMP issue such an order? It is tantamount to tyranny of the executive," he said. 

Gupta and Special Commissioner of Health (BBMP) R Randeep downplayed the use of the word "mandatory" in the circular. "What we are doing is casting the responsibility of vaccination on employers. We are saying employers should know how many of their staff are vaccinated. If they require support to get the rest vaccinated, we have said that we can organise a camp if there are 50 people or more at that particular establishment," Gupta said. 

Chef Manu Chandra, Bengaluru Chapter Head, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), said he supported the BBMP circular. "It's a necessary step that protects the interests of both the employees and customers. It's a reality we must all live with, and best indemnify against any infections and its spread," he said. 

One benefit of the directive is that it could help plug the vaccination gap among factory workers prompted by hesitancy, said Srinivas Asranna, the immediate past president of the Peenya Industrial Area. 

At the same time, he added that there is a concern about how the circular will be enforced by the BBMP. "We fear that this will result in some BBMP functionaries harassing industries by saying that so-and-so number of people are not vaccinated in this factory, hence it will be closed. These things happen in India and so we are apprehensive," he said. 

For the Karnataka Jewellers' Association, meanwhile, the circular is superfluous. "We have already vaccinated many of our one lakh workers in the state with one dose.  Now, the BBMP issues this directive which we need to accomplish by August 31. But frankly, we cannot depend on the BBMP to provide us with enough doses,” said Saravana A T, the president of the association. 

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox