Covid-19 has revealed India’s inability to meet even the most basic obligations to its people


Less than 60 days later, India reached one million cases of Covid-19. It is now third on the Johns Hopkins University country case tally, after the United States and Brazil. Far from flattening the curve, India’s transmission graph swings to the sky like a free kick from Mo Salah.

Since June 1, cases per day have increased – from 8,100 to over 32,000 – while the total number of deaths has risen from 5,600 to around 25,000. It has been argued that the number of cases per million of people in India is relatively low, as is the death rate, or death per million people.

True, but the number of cases depends on the level of testing. India’s ratio currently hovers around 9,231 tests per million – or 9 per 1,000, compared to 128 per 1,000 in the United States.

The decline in the death rate can be explained in part by India’s more recent demographics, as well as gaps in death registration. According to the most recent government figures, around a fifth of all deaths in India go unregistered and less than a quarter are medically certified.

The foreclosure of 1.35 billion people has been the subject of competing hypotheses. What is known is that he flattened the economy – in June, the IMF predicted India’s GDP would contract 4.5% in 2020, while the rating agency ICRA estimated a 9.5% contraction – and reported the deepest recession in 60 years. The human cost, magnified by the images of millions of migrants forced to return home after losing their jobs, is still falling.

Lockout challenges

Lockouts certainly allow governments to maintain order in society and, more importantly, allow authorities to build capacity for testing and treatment. But there is no doubt that India has experienced difficulties.

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi, three of the most prosperous states, account for more than half of the number of cases. The repeated locks in industrial centers like Thane and Pune – not to mention the scarcity of hospital beds – give an indication of what could happen elsewhere. The many tragedies caused by gaps in healthcare are symbolized by the death of Neelam Kumari Gautam, a 30-year-old pregnant woman, after being denied treatment at eight Delhi hospitals.

Managing the consequences of a pandemic was always going to be a challenge. Yet what needs to be done is haunted by the magnitude of what has not been done. Vulnerability is compounded by the comorbidity of poor governance and the neglect of seven decades. The Indian state is struggling to provide what economist and philosopher Adam Smith has defined as the most basic of obligations – water, health, education, power and security.

Lack of investment

India’s healthcare deficiency was first identified in 1857, in a survey commissioned by iconic sponsor Florence Nightingale. A century and a half later, India is in the company of low-income sub-Saharan countries according to the index of access to health care and quality – fleeing neighbors, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Bangladesh .

Health care depends on investing in state capacity. For decades, committees and commissions have urged health spending to increase between 4% and 6% of GDP – but have remained below 1%.

The quality of health care also depends on policies affecting life and life – air and water. “Wash your hands,” say doctors and health officials. Yet in 2019, only one in five Indian households had running water in their home. Every second home depends on water from wells, unprotected bodies of water or water from tankers – 70% of water is contaminated, with India ranking 120 out of 122 countries in the index water quality. Pneumonia and diarrhea also kill more than 1.3 million children each year.

Life expectancy at birth is higher in Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Successive studies, in which government institutions have participated, show that poor air quality kills more than a million every year.

Education matters too. Such is the state of public schools that millions of students have graduated over the past decade without rudimentary reading and math skills. In 2016, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, then Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, invited by the Indian government, told the audience of policymakers: “Schools are the biggest crisis in India today, and have been for a long time. Schools are the biggest gap. between India and East Asia. ”

Seventy years after its independence, India finally succeeded in electrifying all its villages in 2019. However, the quality of supply is another matter. Except Mumbai, no city in India can boast of 24/7 supply and households and businesses across the country have to depend on inverters.

Closed republics

More and more Indians are divesting from hope, choosing to secede into closed republics and invest in paid private solutions.

Indians pay more than 60% of health care costs from their savings – some even borrow and end up in poverty. More parents are also opting for private schools, with almost 40% of pupils enrolled in non-public education. Water tanks, air purifiers and inverters are other essentials of life.

The data paints a damning picture of governance where it matters most. India is caught between population density and poverty and an investment deficit.

Successive regimes took refuge in the diffusion of authority between the federal and state governments and evaded responsibility. This was made possible by the nature of public discourse, which is passionate about emotion and rhetoric rather than thinking about realities.

Informed choices help – to fight pandemics and improve quality of life. Indian voters must reward attention to service provision and punish neglect.


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