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Indian states offer TVs, fridges and smartphones as vaccine drive lags

Some state governments in India are offering gifts including television sets, smartphones, and washing machines to encourage people to get inoculated against Covid-19.

Even though the country’s vaccination drive had picked up pace following the emergence of the delta coronavirus variant, which caused a devastating second wave across the country, some regions are still lagging behind.

India has so far administered over 1.24 billion doses of anti-Covid vaccine, the federal health ministry said on Thursday when then the country detected its first two cases of the omicron variant in southern Karnataka state.

But to put this number in perspective, the country with a 1.4-billion population has fully vaccinated only 38 per cent of its adults. At least 80 per cent of the eligible population has received just one dose of a vaccine.

While initially India suffered from a shortage of production, misinformation and vaccine hesitancy in rural areas has slowed down the country’s vaccination rate.

The federal government had launched a door-to-door campaign to increase the pace of the vaccinate drive last month after the prime minister Narendra Modi conducted a review meeting with officials of 45 districts across 12 states.

The health ministry claimed the campaign had led to a significant 11.7 per cent increase in the number of those getting the second dose of a vaccine and was extended till the end of December.

At the state level, however, several governments are trying out unique ways to convince people to get jabbed.

State governments and civic bodies across India are offering unvaccinated citizens free cooking oil, mobile phones, televisions and even washing machines to get them inoculated.

Two civic bodies in the southwestern state of Maharashtra, which has one of the country’s lowest vaccination rates, are offering LED television sets, refrigerators and washing machines.

In the state’s Hingoli district, Ajay Kurwade, the municipal council’s chief officer, decided to organise a lucky draw on 27 December for the city’s residents who get vaccinated between 2-24 December.

“It has been decided to give an LED television set as the first prize in the lucky draw, followed by a washing machine, refrigerator, mixer grinder and five other prizes,” he told the Press Trust of India news agency.

Another civic body in Maharashtra, in the state’s Chandrapur district, had announced a “vaccination lottery” with similar lucrative prizes last month. Citizens who took their jabs from civic-run vaccination centres between 12-24 November would be eligible for the offer.

The civic body of Ahmedabad city in the western state of Gujarat announced on Wednesday that those getting vaccinated could enter a lucky draw that will give 25 people several prizes, including a smartphone worth Rs 60,000 (£600), a litre of edible cooking oil and additional gifts worth Rs 10,000 (£100).

In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, ruling party legislator and the chief minister’s son Udhayanidhi Stalin had in June offered rice, edible oil, wheat and other condiments to the citizens of his constituency, Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni.

Another lawmaker from Madhya Pradesh had announced a reward of Rs 1,000,000 (£10,000) in June for the first village in his constituency that gets a 100 per cent inoculation rate.