Inoculating paramilitary forces against Covid-19 in Naxal-hit regions a challenge

NEW DELHI: As India starts phase two of the drive to inoculate frontline workers against Covid-19, Naxalism-hit states are facing a problem in vaccinating paramilitary forces posted in Red corridor districts.

These states, especially Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which have the highest number of Left-wing extremism-affected districts, have told the Centre that security protocols prevent vaccinators from entering the camps of paramilitary forces. They have also told the Centre that if there is any movement of paramilitary troops in groups, they could be the target of Naxal attacks.

District-wise data shared with ET shows that the percentage of frontline workers, largely comprising paramilitary forces covered in the second phase of immunisation drive, has remained less than 10%. The percentage of targeted frontline worker covered so far is the lowest in Sukma at 1.29%. Incidentally, the last Naxal attack on paramilitary forces was in Sukma in November 2020.

Chhattisgarh health minister TS Singh Deo said, “We have about 50,000 paramilitary forces in the state. We are facing a problem in covering them in our vaccination drive. The vaccination centres have been opened at already designated polling centres. But if the paramilitary forces move in groups out of their camp to these vaccination centres, they can be a target of Naxal attacks. The chief secretary has flagged this to the health ministry and home ministry for further directions.”

Every vaccination centre has a target of inoculating 100 or more beneficiaries in a day. A Jharkhand government spokesperson said, “We need a protocol for vaccinating paramilitary forces. How many should be called out. Our vaccinators cannot visit these camps.”