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Asia Minute: Modi’s picture on vaccination certificate sparks debate across India

Virus Outbreak India Vaccination Bharatiya Janata Party Narendra Modi
Ajit Solanki/AP
Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrate India administering 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. India has administered 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, passing a milestone for the South Asian country where the delta variant fueled its first crushing surge this year. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

If you’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19 and go to restaurants or other public places, you’re probably used to showing your vaccine card. It has your information on it, but not your picture.

But for residents of India, there’s a picture on the card—and it’s not the person who got the shot.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has his picture on vaccine certificates in that country. And that has sparked a national debate.

In March, the Indian online publication The Print reported that opposition political parties were “not okay” with the picture.

One state minister in Punjab called the move "smacking of an obsessive self-projection," while supporters largely dismissed the criticism.

The Election Commission of India followed up on a complaint and asked the Health Ministry to remove the photo from states that were having elections.

By early August, the Hindustan Times reported the Health Minister told legislative members the Prime Minister’s photo helped create “awareness about the importance of following COVID-19 appropriate behavior” and was in “the public interest.”

Later that month, the Times of India reported the picture had created some confusion for Indians presenting their proof of vaccination to foreign immigration officials — who suspected them of having a fraudulent document.

A couple of weeks ago, the BBC reported that a citizen in the southern state of Kerala took the issue to court.

He says the Prime Minister’s picture on his vaccine certificate violates his “fundamental rights” and is “intruding into the private space of citizens.”

The court case continues — and the controversy over the Prime Minister’s picture still lingers.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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