LUCKNOW, INDIA — Police in rural India have made some citizens who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus wear signs with a skull and crossbones, the universal symbol for danger, stoking anger in a country where shots are in short supply.
Officers in the Niwari district of central Madhya Pradesh state said they introduced the policy to encourage more vaccinations.
“Watching the low vaccination rate in our district we decided to honor the people who got vaccinated, but then we also found a large number of people who were not vaccinated,” Santosh Patel, a sub-divisional police officer posted in the Prithvipur block of Niwari district, told Reuters on Thursday.
“So to teach them a lesson and encourage them to get vaccinated, we administrated an oath to get them inoculated as soon as possible.”
Those who were vaccinated were given a sign with the colours of the Indian flag reading “I am a nationalist.”
Those who were not vaccinated were given a skull and crossbones sign saying “Do not come near me, I am not vaccinated. Please stay away from me,” according to Patel and video footage from the district. Some people were seen wearing the signs taped to their chest.
The policy has provoked anger online, with social media users calling it an “insult” and “stigmatizing.”
Around 14% of residents in Madhya Pradesh have had one inoculation against coronavirus, with vaccination rates in rural areas like Niwari among the lowest anywhere in the country.
India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, is suffering with supply issues after exporting tens of millions of shots, including donations to smaller nations.
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