What should Indian Government learn from Coronavirus Pandemic?

This pandemic has taken almost 1.4 lacks lives across the world, left almost 13.5 lacks still fighting for their lives. In India too, more than 11 thousand COVID-19 positive cases have been discovered as of Apr 13. With doctors, nurses, police and other essential service providers working excessively, the central government, along with the state governments, is doing the best they can to bring the situation under control.
With the virus spreading faster than bushfires across the world, most countries have gone under lockdown to avoid the spread of infection from the transmission. Although India is doing well on many parameters, even the WHO praised India for its remarkable efforts into curbing the pandemic, coronavirus has again unearthed the prolonged-cry-for-transformation issues and brought them into the light.
Let us try to raise some of the important issues that need (immediate) revival:

Fix Up Fragile Health Infrastructure

Fix Up Fragile Health Infrstructure
Img Source : Photo by CDC on Unsplash

According to the Nation Health Profile 2019, there are 529 medical colleges across the country in which almost 58,756 students got admission for the academic year 2018-19. The total numbers of government Allopathic Doctors are 1,16,757; total government hospitals, 25,778; and total government beds in these hospitals, 7,13,986. Despite there being 21,403 hospitals, 83% of the total, in rural areas, there are only 2,65,275 beds, almost 37.2% of the total. The huge gap in health facilities between villages and cities is not acceptable taking into account that even in this document, it was penned down that almost 60% of the total population resides in the villages. We falter miserably to meet the global standards set by the WHO. According to the World Health Organization(WHO), there should be 50 beds and 25 doctors for every ten thousand people, while in India, 7 and 9 could be provided respectively(considering private hospitals too). There is only one government bed available for around 1890 people for the population of 1.3 billion people. Here, it is essential to bring up that innumerable lives are lost in the villages on the way while rushing to a hospital in the nearby city on account of poor health infrastructure in the villages. Hardly does a village have the luxury (or you may say a basic right) to have the facility of ambulance available, leading individuals not possessing a personal vehicle, which is usually not equipped with life-supporting tools, to lose critical time in scrambling to manage the one in case of emergency to reach by city; Gandhi Ji was right in asserting that development should commence from villages, and strong villages will surely lay the foundation of a strong nation.

The country has arranged for more ventilators to fight against COVID-19. The number, however, was not provided in the report; It was suggested by many reports we stood abysmally low. It would have been extraordinarily difficult to sustain had the situation been as horrible as in some of the European nations. We really need to revive our health system if ever we are to become a prosperous and resource-rich nation.  

Bridge Communication Gap

Ours is a federation system of the government demanding continuous cooperation and communication to cope up with a national crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. The central government was accused of not taking the states into confidence before announcing the first phase of lockdown, from March 25, leading to the sudden mass exodus of migrant workers in various parts of India. However, it seemed to remain in close touch with all the states since then to effectively take cognizance of the situation prevailing in each state, and asked for coordination in decision-making as well.
Once we come back to normalcy, there should be more-than-ever communication between both the elements of the federal system as the states also share equal blame for the economic mess – and it surely will turn into a disaster due to the preventive measures taken to tackle the virus- we have been in for a long time. Almost every state is under huge debt. They demanded a massive relief-fund from the center. Jharkhand even claimed, while asking for the center’s help, things would go out of their hands if the center did not offer medical and financial aid.

Effective Data Processing 

Firstly, Modi government must be praised for its approach towards data collection in its first term to extend benefits to the less-privileged by putting in place plans like “PM Jan Dhan accounts” and “Ujjawala Yojna”, which have greatly helped reach benefits directly to them.
Amidst nationwide lockdown, it came in light that still a huge section is unorganized and not associated with any of the schemes run by the government. While bringing in place a system or scheme to help the poor, the government must ensure its confinement to actual beneficiaries. It has been noticed many people in society, who otherwise may be well-off, get the required document prepared for themselves; BPL Ration Cards, for example, are carried by many people above the poverty line.

Need Strong Epidemic-Related Laws

Amidst the second phase of the nationwide lockdown, our country had to see many unwanted events unfolded, which damaged largely to the spirit of social-distancing and weakened our fight. It’s essential to understand how these law-offenders are punished under the current law, and for that, let us briefly discover the provisions of the law the lockdown was imposed under and punishment rewarded associated with them.     
For the lockdown to be imposed, primarily three provisions of the law were invoked:

·        Section 144 of CrPC

Called to prevent gatherings of beyond a specific number of people, it can also be invoked to enforce a curfew.
If violated, the accused is rewarded a maximum of six months of imprisonment, or with a fine of up to 1000 rupees, or with both under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code(IPC).

·        Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

Section 2 of this act gives a state power to take precautionary measures and lay down restrictions on people to contain the spread of a disease.
Section 3 of the same act-punishments are given as per mentioned in section 188 of the IPC -is enforced if the regulations prescribed by the state are violated.

·        National Disaster Management Act, 2005

Under this act, the three-week countrywide lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Section 3 of this act calls for the formation of an authority of not more than nine members, known as National Disaster Management Authority(), to be chaired by the Prime Minister of India.

If anybody is proven to be troubling any official, of central or state, or not following regulations put by any authorized committee under this act can be punished up to two years of imprisonment, or with fine, or with both.

Three more sections of the IPC can be invoked in connection with an epidemic, as per an SC lawyer, Ashok Dhamija: section 269, 270 and 271.

A maximum of 6 months of imprisonment, or/and with fine; 2 years of imprisonment, or/and with fine; 6 months of imprisonment, or/and with fine can be given under the three sections respectively.
So, as a whole, those who flee quarantine, pelt stones on a medical team, roam around naked and pass obstinate remarks to nurses, spit to spread COVID-19, thrash a police personnel, congregated and wandered about, tried to burn a police station or offend the lockdown in anyway can be given two years of imprisonment, for the extraordinarily inhuman act, with fine under these provisions.
These offenders, especially those who committed the serious ones in the above mentioned, should not be allowed to get away with such a soft punishment. These laws are clearly outdated and need a revival to minimize such highly unfortunate events.

Population Control

Narendra Modi, in his speech on the Independence Day last year, expressed concerns over rapidly growing population. According to a report, launched by the United Nations in June 2019,  India’s population is claimed to have surpassed that of China by 2027For the country, with as limited resources as we have, with as large a population as we have, it would be exceedingly difficult to deal with the acute crisis like the pandemic of coronavirus had we been in a situation like the USA or Italy is. We, as a country, have no better option available, on account of our huge population and lack of sufficient financial resources, than to remain under preventive mode to tackle such situations.

India must draw some serious lessons from this pandemic. It is why we should leave no stone unturned to eliminate poverty, raise the level of education and also extend a sense of onus, through education, social awareness and creative programs, to the citizens. Let the government do whatever it can, we must promise ourselves that we will discharge our duties towards the nation faithfully.     


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