Home / Opinion / Views /  India can scrap Air Suvidha form at its own peril

India has done away with the requirement for travellers to India to fill up and upload a form attesting their virus-free, fully vaccinated status, in order to further ease travel restrictions in relation to Covid. Unvaccinated travelers will no longer be barred from entering India under the relaxed rules. This is not quite the same as removing the requirement to fasten seatbelts during takeoff and landing, to make flying to India a little less taxing, but gives it a run for the money.

There are solid reasons to still demand that people who come into the country are free of Covid, and have taken the full course of vaccination before arriving in India. There were 4,13,719 fresh infections reported worldwide everyday on average, for the seven days ending Nov 21. As a proportion of the global population total of 8 billion, no big deal. But that number is large enough to contain a fresh virus mutation that could once again wreak havoc. Why invite that potential mutant virus into India by removing the requirement to test negative and be vaccinated? Granted, getting tested just before leaving and getting the results in time can be a bit of a bother. But why drop the insistence on being fully vaccinated, complete with at least one booster shot?

The danger is not just of importing a potentially virulent strain of the virus into India. Suppose an unvaccinated foreigner arrives in India, contracts the disease in India and, unfortunately, joins the ranks of the dear departed. How would that impact India’s reputation as an attractive destination for enjoying the sun while Europe shivers in gas-starved homes?

How tough is it to fill out a form and upload it? That depends on, leaving aside the form-filler’s level of literacy, the technological sophistication of the site where the form has to be uploaded and the capacity of the server backing it up. If India could not provide a site where the form could be uploaded easily, it does damage India’s reputation as an information technology powerhouse. But the solution is not to scrap the requirement to fill up and upload covid forms, but to create a site where the form uploads with silken ease. That would be a good advertisement for India’s IT prowess as well.

As it is, India’s centralized Covid certificates via the Cowin App is one of the best of its kind in the world. Few countries in the world have such a counterfeit-proof, centrally validated framework for storing and retrieving vaccination data. India should be leveraging this edge, not giving it up just because one attempt to rid the Air Suvidha site of glitches did not quite succeed.

Who are the kind of people whose travel itch would be scratched by one less form to fill as part of the preparations? People who believe that Covid is the creation of 5G telephony or that vaccinations are a covert conspiracy to rob people of their manhood and make women sterile?

Okay, among the vaccine sceptics, there might be one Novak Djokovic. But does one celebrity nullify the considerations that militate against scrapping the Air Suvidha requirement? We think not.

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