The supreme court on June 2 slammed the Centre’s argument that the poor and marginalised can lean on friends to register online for vaccination. Even the digitally literate are finding it hard to get vaccine slots on CoWIN, the Supreme Court said.
Citing statistics revealed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on teledensity and the number of frequent service centres run by the ministry of electronics and IT, a bench of justices D Y Chandrachud, L N Rao and S R Bhat mentioned, “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.”
“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.”
The court also mentioned – National Statistics Office survey of 2018 which said that around four per cent of the rural households and 23% of the urban households possessed a computer. A Telecom Regulatory Authority of India report shows the wireless teledensity in rural areas is 57.13% as compared to 155.49% in urban areas as on March 31, 2019. The report stated that: “this reflects the rural-urban divide in terms of telecom services’ penetration”.
Supreme court mentioned the centre’s coverage mandating obligatory registration on CoWin app for a vaccination slot might miss big inhabitants belonging to marginalised communities from the common vaccination drive.