Answers to “What after Corona?” are being discussed by nations all over the World even as the world remains still focused on how to contain COVID-19. Nobody can exclude the possibility of our active participation in these discussions whether it is liked or disliked.
It was on March 24 that the first Lockdown was announced by our PM. At that time the affected cases were only 544. Death toll was just 10. Today it has crossed 5 lakh cases with death toll touching 20000. It further increases with each passing day.
Experts opine that the only solution to this problem is the discovery of a vaccine. Until then, the world will be a witness to changes in economic, political, and social activities.
Under the circumstances, post COVID-19 will be a new situation altogether. We need to be compelled and forced to formulate our approach based on the experience of the past 4 months when countries took initiatives to contain COVID-19 ; the successes and failures of their actions ; and the people perception regarding the same.
In his address on May 12, PM Modi said : “COVID-19 has given us an excellent opportunity to understand the disintegration of our Institutions, practices, and action plans that it has brought to bear.” It means that our health facilities ; health priorities ; and arrangements or provisions could not meet Coronavirus challenge. Not just in India, even developed nations also feel the draught.
Vietnam with a population of just 9 crore had only 355 cases reported without a single death. But, many nations including those with advanced facilities are struggling with high numbers. America, Britain, France, and Italy are some examples in this respect. That medical facilities and health protection has been largely left to the private/corporate Organisations was cited as the main reason for this ( Chomsky, American expert ).
The situation is not any different in India. After 1991-1992 (Liberalisation, Privatization, and Globalisation ) , General Medicine, Public Health, and Public Education have been witness to the successes of private organisations.
In 1978 under the auspices of WHO an International Convention took place in Alma-Ata, Kazhakistan (then Old Soviet Union). India also participated in that Convention. One of the resolutions passed in that Convention pertains to ” Free Health Facilities for All Before 2000 “. In 1981, then PM, Late Indira Gandhi, promised Free Health Services for All within 20 Years ; i.e. before 2000. That it has not happened in 20 years is not just a reality but the Governments after that did not even recognise the problem.
Human Welfare is not just being in a state free of diseases, but constitutes the basic right of total health – physical, mental, social, and emotional.
Basic Health Facilities constitute the following : (1) Creating awareness about individual and social needs ; (2) To engage in activities preventing spread of diseases ; (3) To provide medical support and facilities to those suffering from diseases ; and (4) To rehabilitate those who suffered serious health inadequacies. It is only by satisfying these social needs of Citizens that solutions to problems can be achieved is the essence of that resolution in the Convention. It is not surprising to see that those countries which took immediate attention and effective steps could make good progress now in the control and containment of COVID-19.
India allocates just 1% of its GDP to Health and Public Safety. This works out to ₹ 1420/- per person. In China every individual gets an equivalent of ₹ 18820/-.
Despite repeated requests for increasing the allocation to 3% by various Political parties, the same has not been implemented yet.
Kerala State makes a difference in this aspect. Its per person allocation stands at ₹ 2092/- (2017-2018). In Bihar for comparison it is only ₹ 690/-. This is one reason why most states are falling behind in containment.
Public Health has two facets : (1) Prevention of Diseases ; and (2) Treatment of Diseases. That India lacks in Prevention of Diseases is clear. It is also equally clear that Treatment of Diseases have largely been taken over by the Corporates. Every individual in India spends 78% of the total cost of treatment. This needs to change. Experts like TCS Reddy, and Shashikant advocate the Government allocation for Public Health to be increased to 5%.
The link between the Economic Policy followed and the neglect of Public Health is also evident. PM Modi has recently allocated ₹ 20 lakh crores for Coronavirus Control. Finance Minister, Smt Nirmala Sitaraman, announced several schemes following that during her meet with the Press for 5 days. But the specific allocation for Public Health was not mentioned. “It will be examined” was the reply.
There is an urgent need to separate Public Health and Public Education from the principles of liberalised economic policy and treat them as the sole province and responsibility of the Central Government.
If this can save the future generations from COVID-19 like pandemic and accompanying economic and health challenges it will be much like keeping our wits about us.
” Dieu avec nous “
Tuesday, June 30, 2020 – 7.49 p.m. (IST)
Tidbit : ” For he who has health has hope ; and he who has hope has everything “. – Owen Arthur.