Author: Anand Pradhan
In a large part of the country, the second wave of Corona epidemic has turned into a tsunami. The uncontrollable waves of this tsunami are making the public health system breathless. In many states and cities, common people are suffering from acute shortage of beds, oxygen, ventilators and medicines in hospitals and suffering from black marketing. There is an atmosphere of helplessness, frustration and panic everywhere. Common citizens are once again forced to pay the price for the dysfunctional character of the Indian state and the failures of the Central
Needless to say that this tsunami will also affect the Indian economy. The second wave of Corona has added to the woes of the Indian economy trying to recover from the first setback and return to track. Economic activity has been affected in many parts of the country due to lockdowns, curfews and restrictions. With this, the hopes of recovery in the economy’s V-shape have started to wane and once again it seems to be stuck in great difficulty.
Reversal of economic survey
This is a true face or reality check for the managers of the Indian economy sitting in the Finance Ministry. Not long passed, in January this year, he was singing a different reversal in the Economic Survey, the most important document of the economic policy thinking of the Finance Ministry. It said that health-related policies should not be made keeping in mind the latest epidemic as it would be driven by an immediate bias. The survey argues that epidemics are Six Sigma events, which means there is little or little chance of a near future.
However, the Economic Survey acknowledges that the Corona epidemic has shown how a health crisis can turn into an economic and social crisis. But taking lessons from this, instead of making radical changes in the health system, making it accessible, cheap and efficient, insisting on dealing with epidemics and making health policies accordingly, the Economic Survey was giving reverse advice.
Ironically, the recent tsunami of the Corona epidemic has destroyed this logic and understanding in just a few weeks. It has said that epidemics are no longer Six Sigma incidents. Even if we do not go back much, the history of the last 20 years is a proof that the frequency of epidemics is increasing. SARS, Marsa, Nipah, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Ebola, Dengue, Chikungunya etc. diseases and epidemics have killed millions of people in many countries of the world including India. Not only this, epidemiologists and scientists around the world are constantly warning that due to many reasons, especially global warming, climate change, deforestation and globalization, the frequency and lethality of epidemics will increase in the coming years.
Therefore, the managers of the Indian economy will have to prioritize public health, especially health infrastructure, and the health infrastructure required for it, not only in health policy but also at the center and focus of economic policy. It would not be surprising if in a few days / weeks, once again, the demand from the industry for financial and financial package to save the industries and businesses on the government started to arise. But such a package is of little benefit without overcoming the epidemic. Instead one should immediately declare a bold and ambitious health and social package. This health and social package should come from a fiscal head and should be at least 10 lakh crores, which will be about 6 to 7 percent of GDP.
At the moment, the country is going through an unprecedented crisis, it should not worry about the fiscal deficit. If the economy derails, the fiscal deficit will be uncontrollable anyway. Secondly, to tackle the epidemic and save the lives of the common people, this amount is nothing to streamline the public health system and make it cheap, accessible and quality. The truth is that if the same amount is spent every year for the next five years, then the public health system in the country will be able to fight such big and small epidemics to a great extent.
Thirdly, this health package can not only save the lives of ordinary citizens but can also bring the economy back on track. The second wave of the Corona epidemic has exposed the limitations of the previous economic-financial package. The lesson is that it is not possible to manage the economy without guaranteeing better public health. Spending through health packages will also boost the economy as thousands of primary health centers, district hospitals to super-specialty hospitals and medical colleges in the country, high-end research centers, oxygen plants, ventilators, construction, upgradation of vaccine manufacturing units in the public sector And with the expansion, recruitment of thousands of doctors and millions of nurses / para-medical staff will accelerate the demand in the economy.
50% of this package should be given to the states with the condition that they will spend it to repair their health infrastructure. It should be in mission mode by considering emergency and bypassing red tape. The aim should be to make the country self-reliant in terms of health structure and bring it to the level of at least middle developed countries. Cuba’s public health system may be a model.
Free vaccine first priority
But the first priority of this health package should be to provide free vaccine to 90 crore people of the country as soon as possible. One should not care about the expenses for this. This is the moral responsibility of the central government and any hela-hawali will derail or slow down the vaccination program, which will cost everyone. Remember that either all will be safe or all will be in danger.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own
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