The coronavirus public service announcement voiced by superstar Amitabh Bachchan ringing out before phone calls connect is being replaced with a new one starting Thursday, two days before the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are given out.
The caller tune, listing the safety measures for the pandemic, had faced growing resentment as the pandemic dragged on with many complaining about being forced to listen to it every time a phone call is made.
The new caller tune has a female voice and will be used for awareness about the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
“The new year has brought a new ray of hope in the form of vaccines. Vaccines developed in India are safe, effective and will provide immunity,” it says.
The message appeals to the public to have faith in Indian vaccines and not believe in rumours. It also urges people to continue with COVID-19 precautions even though vaccinations have begun using Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new slogan “Dawaai bhi, kadaai bhi (Medicine and caution both”.
It comes amid concerns about the government-backed vaccine Covaxin which has not yet completed Phase 3 trials and yet is being rolled out along with the Oxford University-AstraZeneca’s Covishield, produced by Serum Institute of India.
In an example of the impatience with the campaign featuring Mr Bachchan, a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court earlier this month asked for it to be dropped, according to news agency PTI.
The petition, filed by a Delhi resident, said the government engaged and retained Mr Bachchan to spread awareness about the preventive measures to fight the COVID-19 even though the superstar himself as well as other members of his family had been infected.
The petition requested the court to direct the government to have the announcement replaced by famous coronavirus warriors who were willing to give their services for free.
Before Mr Bachchan, the coronavirus caller tune introduced last year had featured a voiceover artist Jasleen Bhalla.
Before that, in March, the government had made telecom operators carry an even more contentious caller tune that began with the sound of a cough, alarming many callers. It was replaced soon after.