Juncture of hope and optimism

"This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper"; T S Eliot said this long back and the present situation that is making the earth writhe with pain is a burning testimony to the statement. Humans have always been the superior creature of God and with great knowledge comes great power: the power to undermine the inferior inhabitants and destroy the balance. But then, who would know that a tiny microbe can demolish the walls of superiority and would rewrite the history. Yes, corona virus it is. Ever since it saw light on earth, it has spread faster than wildfire and leaving tragic traces on every place and every country it has visited. It has effaced out nearly 2 lakhs people from the earth, and from India, more than 800 as of current figures. As rightly pointed out by poet, “Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon, but to our ignorance and complacency coming to an end.” And the present situation is apt to justify this. While corona is taking lives and people from all over India are coming together to fight against this demon and claim the lost position of superiority, this is brutally exposing the loopholes that have plagued India since enormous times and people are witnessing how rusted the systems were till now. So this pandemic in not essentially a health one, caused by a microorganism, but is also about the medical, financial, economic, judicial and financial ones. India never paid heed to these and suddenly both the pre and post corona affected India has been ruthlessly juxtaposed.  The morose economic performance of India, the lowest economic growth of India in this decade has been coupled with this pandemic. With 70% of India’s firms expecting the sales to contract drastically, GDP growth rate could come down to 1.5%, according to Nomura’s estimates. This is indeed a turbulent time for India. More than 45% of households across India are experiencing low income and job loss. Companies are going for lay-offs and the situation is drastically affecting India’s financial performance. India’s $ 2.8 trillion economy is now reduced by a quarter which is operational. Indeed, this is a financial pandemic that has collapsed on India.  But this is only one half of the picture drawn. The other half is more brutal, more awful, unwelcome and obnoxious. That other half is of the health and medical system of India, which has been neglected and since a long time has been given secondary support instead of overhauling. So when this corona tsunami lashed out on India, it was evident that prevention of the disease was the only legitimate option. Since government hospitals and healthcare system do not have the capacity to cater to surging number of cases each day. However, exceptions do exist. Kerala. With 38,000 hospital beds, is the best healthcare system of India. Probably this is the reason that Kerala has been able to successfully defeat corona and has become a role model. There are less health practitioners and poor medical infrastructures, only 0.7 bed per 1000 residents.  There needs to a lot of things to be done at this crossline of the health and financial pandemic. And the steps should be successfully taken by both the government and public. From the financial and economic perspective, the virtual extraordinary G-20 leaders’ summit has pledged to give $5 trillion to global economy of which India is a part. There have been various economic relief measures for the poorer section of India. EPF contributions for 80 lakh employees will be paid by government. There has been a new PM Cares fund for donating money for the needy peoples. EMI has been waived off for 3 months and repo rates have been reduced by RBI. Also WMA and short term liquidity has been relaxed to relax the 
respective state governments. $1 billion emergency financing by World Bank and $2.2 billion by Asian Development Bank to India should be used very meticulously. Agricultural, horticultural, small and medium enterprises and non-clustered shops which are open should be maintained with proper caution. The FDI policy has been reinstated to remove any dubious cases. The Economic Response Task Force will look into NPA norms, tax reforms and income support to unorganised sectors.  Coming to the healthcare sector, India was quick to set up quarantine centres with basic amenities to tackle the situation. India ranks 145 among 195 countries in the healthcare access and quality index as of 2018. This rank readily needs to improve.  The amount of health expenditure paid from the pocket of individuals as a percentage of total public healthcare expenditure of a country should improve with the help of various funding. Public sector healthcare should invest in state of the art infrastructure and equipment to deliver the same service to poor as the private sector. State governments should be assisted in (i) earmark and provide land within specific times (ii) facilitate administrative clearances and (iii) provide 40% viability gap funding (VGA) - advance payment from the exchequer (taxpayers' money) to help build the private facilities and provide gap funding up to 50% of tax on various costs, including capital cost, granting the status of industry to hospitals for ensuring that VGF is provided. Health insurance should be a mandate for a disease prone country like India. Immunity should be boosted and healthy foods along with lifestyle modifications should be induced for people at all levels and health camps or awareness program can be done for the same. There should be more healthcare staffs working at all levels of the systems and people should be encouraged to join the league. There should be more mergers of private and public infrastructure and amenities.  Nature puts human in tribulations to test the integrity. And as the proverb says, “this too shall pass”. But this will leave an imprint in the entire human kind to introspect their deeds and bring everything to normalcy post this pandemic. 

Sudipta Mukherjee
B.Sc(H)-CHEMISTRY, MURALIDHAR GIRLS' COLLEGE, CALCUTTA UNIVERSITY
Secured 2nd Position (GROUP - II) in ' E-Competition on Creativity' organized by Techno India Group.

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