The fresh outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 has created a havoc-like situation in India- be it contamination or the mortality rate.
The severity of the pandemic is much stronger than what it was in 2020 and the country has recorded the highest number of positive cases and deaths so far in the first few months of the second wave of the pandemic.
Up to December 31, 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases in India was 10.3 crore but now the total cases have gone above 22 crores- a spike of 12 crores in the first four and half months of 2021.
The figure has been increasing alarmingly with the reportage of almost 4 lakh cases on an average daily.
Today, India’s COVID-19 positive cases are higher than the rest of the world put together. The mortality rate is also high this time.
The government often gives the excuse that cases in India are high as India has a high rate of population density.
The current population density of India is 424 people while it is 1265 in Bangladesh, Maldives 1,820, Lebanon 667 and in South Korea it is 527. The situation in these countries is well under control
Similarly, the situation is under control in the USA, UK, France, Italy, Brazil and several other countries that literary became graveyard last year.
The Lancet medical journal has severely criticised the Indian government for the second wave of the pandemic and held religious gatherings, political rallies and a slow vaccination process responsible for the crisis.
“India will see a staggering 1 million deaths from COVID-19 by Aug. If that outcome were to happen, Modi's Government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe," wrote the journal.
One may accept or reject this assessment, but the situation is alarming in India. The existing health infrastructure of the country- both public and private- is on the verge of a virtual collapse.
Criticism has been going on against the present leadership of New Delhi and different states for valid reasons. But this should not be for frying political bread.
The fact today is that debating more of a luxury and the ways to face these challenges are the only priorities.
Efforts must ensure medical treatment of corona-affected people at the local level through doctors and health workers having training and competent rural health centres equipped with basic requirements for corona positive cases.
The availability of vaccine and proper storage facilities should be ensured everywhere- from medical colleges to rural health centres.
The vaccination process should gain momentum and there should be a well chalked-out strategy in place for the implementation of the vaccination drive.
Apart from improving the healthcare facility of the country, the government must also look into other sectors like poverty, job cuts, education, agriculture and industrial production- all of which have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
The Prime Minister and the respective state governments should come together and ensure that the daily wage earners and the migrant workers would not be adversely affected by the lockdowns that have been imposed in several parts of the country to control the pandemic.
These people have been asked by the governments to maintain COVID-19 protocols, however, there should be coordination between the Centre and the state governments that ensures safety to these people- both economically and socially.
Should cash be directly transferred to the accounts of the beneficiaries or should there be an alternative approach- the government must decide on it and decide on it soon.
If the government opts for the direct cash transfer method, then the amount should be decided as per the present market price of essential commodities and the number of members in a family.
However, if the government decides on an alternative and considers public distribution as a better option, then there should be structural changes in the system. It would be better to form a task force comprising all the stakeholders including the Centre, the state governments, various municipal corporations and municipalities, the various wings of the panchayat, different welfare organisations, volunteer service providers, NGOs and locally recruited temporary COVID workers to keep public distribution system operational.
The task force must address rent issue of migrant workers as a priority. There should be strict vigilance to restrict artificial scarcity and black-marketing. The government may consider reducing GST as well.
Similarly, causes and concerns of lower middle class society should also be in the purview. Waiving bank loans and the inclusion of personal loans in the income tax exemption slab can encourage taking bank loans, which will ultimately help the bank and financing business.
Similarly, people must display greater commitment and maintain the COVID-protocols and people should not break these laws- whatsoever may the situation be. To holistically follow the COVID protocols is our duty and we should help the administration in the proper implementation of these protocols. We should not wait for the administration to compel us and if we get the opportunity, we should get vaccinated.
India must win the battle against corona and this can never happen without collective, comprehensive and coordinated approaches.
The government undoubtedly has a big responsibility on its shoulders but the general public also have some duties to perform.
If the infection rate rises by 2 to 3 per cent, then India’s entire health sector will collapse. The situation demands a logical approach from every section of society. These are tough situations, but together we can sail through.