With the Indian government’s announcement of opening up, the anti-COVID-19 vaccination process for the age group between 18-44, a new arena of inequality and struggle has opened up. It was specified that an online registration online through the CoWin website is necessary for people falling in this age group to get vaccinated.
Since the process began on April, 28, complaints of the CoWin website crashing and difficulty in receiving the OTP for the registration flooded the internet. Later on, even those who got registered encountered several issues of mismanagement where, after traveling long distances to reach inoculation centers they couldn’t get vaccinated because of a vaccine shortage.
There is also a large chunk of the population in both rural and urban areas which lack not only access to the internet, digital literacy but also time to check the registration portal regularly for vacant slots. Issues have also raised because many people do not have AADHAR and PAN cards which are required for registration. The government has been questioned for its decision to make the registration process online and centrally managed on a website without taking into consideration the issue of access.
Following the same line, a public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Bombay High Court by Yogeeta R Vanzara, a school teacher in Mumbai, requesting the intervention of the court in issues pertaining to the registration and booking slots for vaccination on the CoWin portal. She has sought a dedicated portal and booking mechanism for Mumbai, Bar and Bench reported.
The plea stated that “Various centers show availability of seats at midnight or thereafter and yet booked within seconds of the same being offered to the public,” while drawing attention towards the huge amount of time required to keep on checking the slots and registering because no information is provided prior to the opening of the slots.
It has also been brought to light yet again that economically marginalized people are finding it difficult to access the internet for registration and there is no other alternative mode available to them.
Vanzara has requested the court to direct BMC to open slots for inoculation on a pre-determined date and provide information related to vaccine and slit availability for a full week instead of on a daily basis. She also said that slots should be given only when the vaccine is available at the centers.
In several cases, it has been observed that people with appointments have to return from the centers because places run out of vaccines with a large number of people availing the services through the walk-in system. The plea has requested that the authorities must ensure that those with appointments are vaccinated when they visit the center and are not forced to make multiple visits.
The portal has not mentioned any special provisions or directions for those who have physical challenges and might find it difficult to visit a center which not friendly to physically challenged people. The petition has requested that information regarding the same should be provided on the portal along with pointing towards the technical glitches that have been arising due to the incapability of serves to host a large dataset.
Earlier the Allahabad High Court had demanded the Uttar Pradesh government as well as the Central government to provide it with their plan of action as to how they will vaccinate illiterate people and those with physical challenges.