You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Digital divide will exclude marginalised from jabs: Supreme Court

The Times of India logo The Times of India 03-06-2021 Dhananjay Mahapatra
a group of people posing for the camera © Provided by The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday relied on central government data amplifying the deep urban-rural digital divide and said the Centre’s policy mandating compulsory registration on CoWin app for a vaccination slot could leave out a large population belonging to marginalised communities from the universal vaccination drive.

Citing statistics published by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on tele-density and the number of common service centres run by the ministry of electronics and IT, a bench of justices D Y Chandrachud, L N Rao and S R Bhat said, "There exists a digital divide in India, particularly between rural and urban areas. The extent of advances made in improving digital literacy and digital access falls short of penetrating the majority of the population in the country. Serious issues of availability of bandwidth and connectivity pose further challenges."

READ ALSO: For India’s foreign policy future, vaccine game must be won

“A vaccination policy exclusively relying on a digital portal for vaccinating a significant population of this country between the ages of 18-44 years would be unable to meet its target of universal immunisation owing to such a digital divide. It is the marginalised sections of society which will bear the brunt.... This could have serious implications on fundamental right to equality and the right to health.”

Coronavirus: Live updates

The SC sought clarifications from the Centre on the following issues in two weeks:

* Is it feasible for majority of the population to rely on friends/NGOs for digital registration on CoWin for slots?

* If digital registration was meant to prevent crowding at vaccination centres, how will it be avoided at community service centres in rural areas where people will have to visit constantly in the hope of a vaccine slot opening up?

READ ALSO: Aarogya Setu App to now show vaccination status; be used for travel & access to various premises

* Can certain vaccination centres be earmarked for on-site registrations for those aged between 18-44 years to prioritise those with co-morbidities/disabilities/other socio-economic vulnerabilities? Alternatively, if specific daily quotas could be introduced for on-site registration at each centre or specific centres?

* Whether on-site registration with self-attestation of age to ensure widespread vaccination can be provided?

The bench said CoWin platform and other IT applications like Aarogya Setu should be made available in regional languages and asked the Centre to specify the timeline for ensuring the same. The SC also suggested conducting a disability audit for the CoWin website and Aarogya Setu. On supply chain of vaccines, the SC asked the Centre and states to specify how they were managing the logistical burden, including cold storage facilities, for vaccinating all eligible people. It wanted to know “whether cold storage facilities in India have increased for the Covid-19 vaccination drive, their present numbers, and comparison with the numbers prior to March 2020”.

More from The Times of India

The Times of India
The Times of India
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon