India’s fragile medical system?

Vaccinating 1.39 billion people is no easy task. Some 10% of the population has already received the first shot.

by Victor Cherubim 

The recent COVID-19 tragedy in India seems to have exposed a fragile medical system. India we are informed  spends just 4% of GDP on its State Health Care Services. It seems that it is one of the lowest figures in the developing world. 

At the same time the country was the biggest vaccine producer in the world.

Vaccinating 1.39 billion people is no easy task. Some 10% of the population has already received the first shot.

But Prime Minister Modi had stated that the country had become the “world’s pharmacy” as it had exported 66 million dozes around the  world  since January 2021. 

In the last week or so India has been on the receiving end of ICU and oxygen equipment sent from the UK and the US to control the raging pandemic, as death toll has eclipsed 300,000. But who knows the exact figure may have passed this figure. COVID has ravaged India with over 300,000 cases a day for seven consecutive days, with people being dragged out of their homes, their vehicles, by the roadside.

Reasons for the tragedy?

The Modi Government came into power after years of listless governance during the Congress rule. There was initial euphoria of a decisive leadership. But as years went on there has been an urge to centralise power as well as simultaneously demand unquestioned obedience. Earth shaking policies like demonetisation did leave a trail of discomfort. 

Ruling a vast country like India is no easy matter. Recently, we note the pandemic has taken its toll. We are told that operating through favourites of the BJP has demoralised talented administrators.Lightning transfers became commonplace. We hear of hand picked “cheerleaders” which meant experienced bureaucrats stopped sharing their lifelong experience out of fear, as fudging became the order of the day.

Like in many other democracies, COVID-19 changed the way of government. Style mattered rather than substance. 

Firefighting COVID-19

Months ago India seemed to be doing remarkably well after the first initial lockdown early last year.But, citizens stopped taking precautions, acting as if the worst was over.

Precious Vaccines and Oxygen cylinders and perhaps, medicines were exported to countries where the pandemic was then raging. Kumbh Mela and dipping into the Sacred Ganges in the thousands did little to douse the virus. 

Religious festivals have no social order,no social distancing. But that was not all, busy election rallies hardly distinguished who was infected and who was not?

What’s good coming out of this pandemic?

In many places in India, the pandemic does not seem to have happened.

People waiting to take a second dose of the vaccination can now do without online registration, or crowding for spot registration. 

Vaccines are now available at Indian Rs.250/- per dose. 

However, the virus spread has thrown the country into an all time Emergency with millions of people refusing to even step outside their homes, thereby living indoors, for fear of catching the virus.

The sudden surge of the double mutant COVID-19 variant strain B1.67 which contains genetic mutants found in two variants, has at last been traced and it is hoped that within a matter of time that herd immunity may once again control the infection.