Hailing India's victory over polio, President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday commended the nearly 2.3 million vaccinators and health workers who were the backbone of the polio eradication campaign. India is on its way to get the World Health Organisation (WHO) certification of a polio-free country after having reported no fresh cases in the last three years. 'The real warriors in the fight against polio are the ones who have made it possible, including the coordinators, supervisors, parents, children, vaccinators and more,' Mukherjee said at an event celebrating a polio-free India. He said eradication of polio was possible through strong determination, involvement of all sections of the society and the political leadership. This achievement of India could not have been possible without team effort, he said, adding that this was a milestone towards universal health care in the country. The prime minister said eradication of polio was no ordinary achievement. Read how India beat polio
'The impressive achievement can be attributed to strong political will, assured financial commitment and robust oversight of the strategy adopted by the government,' Manmohan Singh said. 'Today, I would like to remember and thank, above all others, the nearly 2.3 million vaccinators and 150,000 supervisors, together with officials and non-officials without whose efforts we would not be here today,' he said. The prime minister said this demonstrates that polio can be eradicated despite many obstacles and adverse circumstances. 'It is now our duty to follow the path laid by this programme in other areas. In particular, we should try and deliver life-saving vaccines to every child across the length and breadth of our country. Even the remotest of corners of our country should achieve full immunization of all children against preventable diseases,' he said. Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said it was a matter of great pride that the virus has been completely wiped out from the country. United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi said the victory over polio was an extraordinary success.
'This has been possible through team work, highly creative communication strategy which worked to dispel myths and fears and stimulated communities,' she said while congratulating the lakhs of workers who made this possible by motivating people.
WHO director general Margaret Chan said: 'India has shown the world that there is no such thing as impossible. This is likely the greatest lesson and the greatest inspiration for the rest of the world.' She attributed the success to world class health surveillance systems in India which not only meet international standards but surpass them.
Did we forget the BJP's role in polio eradication?
The BJP hit out at the Congress government for failing to mention its leader Harsh Vardhan's contributions while celebrating the country's polio-free status. In a press statement, Dr Harsh Vardhan said: 'Government of India organised a mega event at Talkatora Stadium on Tuesday to celebrate India attaining 'polio free' status. But it failed to recall the man who began it all Dr Harsh Vardhan.'
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Vardhan claims that on Gandhi Jayanti in 1994, he had organised an immunisation drive for nearly 1.2 million children in the capital and started the pulse polio campaign. 'The next year, thanks to the then President Shankar Dayal Sharma and A R Antulay, the then Union Health Minister, we successfully roped in all state governments to organise Pulse Polio drives,' Harsh Vardhan said.
Vardhan added, 'I don't want to take personal credit for Pulse Polio, because I believe that visualising it was the easiest part. A programme of such a gigantic dimension in an age before mobile telephony and internet would hardly have been possible without the tireless effort of lakhs of doctors, paramedics, government officials, volunteers and other workers. Today, I am saddened by the partisan attitude of the Manmohan Singh government. It did not even invite me to the event. The government insulted not just me, but also the bipartisan spirit which made polio eradication possible. People of all political backgrounds joined hands to make India polio-free and this government has reduced it to a party event,' he said.
Vardhan also pointed out that he didn't need the Congress government's lauding: 'I have been given awards by the World Health Organization, the Rotary Foundation, Lions International, Indian Medical Association and dozens of other national and international oganisations. I was twice given Rotary International's Paul Harris Fellowship and the 'Polio Eradication Champion Award' which had earlier been given to former US President Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister John Major and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Apart from these, I was bestowed scores of other international and national awards. Even former Prime Minister I K Gujral had rated me as one of the best health ministers of India and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called me 'Swasthya Vardhan',' he said.