LETTERS | To vax or not to vax is not the question

Our rights given to us by the Constitution of India mandates we decide for ourselves.

The controversy over vaccines is nothing new. When Edward Jenner created the first vaccination against smallpox in 1796, it was initially seen as a miraculous solution to a disease that was killing millions worldwide. But it wasn’t long before his vaccination attracted opponents and when smallpox vaccination was made compulsory in the United Kingdom (UK) by the Vaccination Act of 1853, the legislation only increased resistance.

By the late 19th century there was a strong anti-vaccination sentiment in parts of Britain. Anti-vaccination leagues were formed and thousands took to the streets to show against what they saw as an invasive practice. Objections included religious or health concerns, along with the recurring theme of the trampling of individual rights, which resonate in the cries of present-day vaccine objectors. The scale of anger led to the legislation being amended in 1898 to allow for ‘conscientious objection’ to receiving a vaccine.

On December 21, 2020, the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in an interview with ANI said that “Vaccine hesitancy issues will be addressed through education. The government will spread awareness and educate people about the vaccine that this is for their own good and benefit.”

He further stated, “The government will reach out to people to get their vaccines but if someone does not want to take the vaccine, they cannot be forced.” The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website, regarding Vaccine FAQs, a question was posted: “Is it mandatory to take the vaccine? Vaccination for Covid-19 is voluntary,” was the answer.

While every one of us, as responsible citizen respectfully adhere to the Covid behaviour in all walks of lives, as mandated by the authority, another administrative order arrived as a shocker to all right-thinking citizens as compulsory vaccination.

On June 14, 2021, the local dailies carried the news item titled “No vaccination, no reopening of the shop” in consonance with the same order. It is wished to impress upon the District Administration that the order is nothing but a perversion evil to the blood and sweat of the democratic rights endowed by the Constitution of India.

Democracy has endowed mankind with great riches restoring the dignity and self-respect of the individual. Human dignity is an integral part of the Constitution. The said order infringes the right to privacy of a person. It may be worth mentioning that some of the inherent rights available to the individual in the Constitution, such as the reflections of dignity are found in the guarantee against arbitrariness (Article 14), the lamps of freedom (Article 19) and in the right to life and personal liberty (Article 21).

The Constitution subscribed to the view of human rights philosophy that places the right to life and liberty of a person out of reach of any authoritarian impulse or caprice.

Therefore, the District Administration cannot force vaccination upon anyone under any context. Plain reading and understanding of the District Administration’s order is that it holds the shopkeeper at gunpoint. If he vaccinates, he can open his shop and sell and therefore provide for his family. If he does not vaccinate, he may not open his shop and therefore he and his family will die of hunger.

This illegal order intrudes on our right and we are forced to do as they say otherwise, we cannot survive and invalidate our right over our body and to decide over it. This right is intrinsic to our very existence - the right to choose; given to us at birth to decide and choose.

Under the pretext of protection and safety of one’s health, this illegal order is set to see the light. If this is allowed, then it will lead to withering our rights. One by one the Government will erase our rights on the pretext of our protection. Or if the administration was all for protecting health, smash the bottle with a statutory warning “Drinking Alcohol is Injurious to Health” or package of cigarette “Smoking is Injurious to Health. Think about it!

Today if this illegal order is allowed to stand, it will ensure that whoever wants to avail services must get themselves vaccinated under the pretext of ‘protection’ otherwise they will be denied to avail any services thereafter.

Where is the right of the shopkeeper not willing to sell and the right of the customer not willing to buy? The customers have an option not to buy from the shopkeeper who has not vaccinated himself and his staff, likewise; the shopkeeper has the right not to sell to the customer who has not vaccinated himself.

Let us decide for ourselves. Our rights given to us by the Constitution of India mandates we decide for ourselves. We cannot allow the state machinery to dictate our lives; we live in a democracy and not a totalitarian state.

The product of democracy is fair and not arbitrary. Our rights over our body cannot be dictated by the state as it is inviolable as well as indelible. The state cannot hold us at ransom, hitting us where it hurts to enforce their illegal order. As long as our country is a Democracy, such orders cannot hold and survive.

This is the basic idea behind the opposition to vaccination. The question before us is not whether we are pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine. The question before us is the illegality of the order passed by the District Administration.

Yours etc.,

Gangmei Zeppuh

Shillong- 793004

TNT-The Northeast Today is now on WhatsApp. CLICK HERE to receive more updates on your phone.