On 10 May 2021, the Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre (IRAC) filed a complaint petition before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against exclusion of millions of tribals across India from COVID19 vaccination due to lack of internet connectivity and smart phone in tribal areas and rural areas. The Government of India has opened vaccination against COVID19 for people above 18 years but at the same time it is mandatory for everyone to register themselves at Co-WIN platform to book slot for vaccination. Therefore, for the purpose of registration, access to internet connectivity and access to smart phone where OTP is sent are mandatory. Without internet and smart phone registration to Co-WIN app is not possible as of now. As per Census 2011, the population of Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the country is 10.45 crore, constituting 8.6 percent of the country’s total population and 11.3 percent of the total rural population. Almost 90% of the tribal population of the country lives in rural areas where internet connectivity and mobile connectivity have failed to penetrate. Due to lack of internet connectivity and smart phones by the tribals, the tribals particularly those living in remotest areas are disproportionately excluded from Vaccination. Recent media reports suggest that the virus has community spread and infected tribal areas across the country.
The Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre (IRAC) has demanded the iimmediate intervention of the National Human Rights Commission:
- to direct the Government of India and all the States/UTs to adopt specific programme to ensure inclusion of all tribals in the Vaccination programme against COVID-19 and submit a report to the NHRC within two weeks;
- and direct the Government of India and all States/UTs to submit reports on exclusion from ongoing vaccination programme against COVID19 due to non-availability of smartphones among tribals and access to internet in remote areas across the country and steps taken for remedial measures;
- Direct the Government of India and all States/UTs to make vaccination easy and accessible for tribals particularly in the hilly terrains, border areas and other inaccessible areas across the country;