Dr. Manmohan Singh’s 1991-92 Budget speech marked the beginning of the end of the ‘Licence Raj’ in India.
Most of the manufacturing sector was opened up to foreign direct investment.
In the late 1980s, transnational corporations started shifting the production base to smaller companies in developing countries.
The world witnessed the development of global supply chains.
Manufacturing shifted from a decentralised production system spread across different counties to just a few locations.
In the case of health products, China became the global supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical devices diagnostics.
The U.K. Prime Minister asked the country’s manufacturers to produce ventilators in order to provide care for critical COVID-19 patients.
Similarly, the U.S. President invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to ramp up N95 mask production.
Similarly, the French Health Minister stated that the country may nationalise vaccine companies if necessary.
Spain nationalised all its private hospitals.
In an indirect show of power, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma sent a flight containing 5.4 million face masks, kits for 1.08 million detection tests, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 protective face shields to the U.S.
This exposes the poor state of preparedness and dependence on imports for essential goods required to meet the challenge of any major disease outbreak.
In India, economic liberalisation has damaged the government’s capacity in two ways.
First, it incapacitated the government to respond to emergencies based on credible information.
The dismantling of the ‘Licence Raj’ resulted in the elimination of channels of information for the government, which is crucial to make informed policy choices.
For instance, as part of the removal of ‘Licence Raj’, the government stopped asking for information from the manufacturer to file the quantity of production of various medicines.
Second, the logic and policies of economic liberalisation seriously undermined the manufacturing capabilities of health products in India.
The short-sighted policy measures, with the objective of enhancing profitability of the private sector, allowed the import of raw materials from the cheapest sources and resulted in the debasing of the API industry, especially in essential medicine.
According to a report of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), nearly 70% of India’s API import is from China.
As a cost-effective producer of medicines, the world is looking to India for supply, but it cannot deliver due to its dependence on China, which has also forced India to impose export restrictions on select medicines.
Similar dependence exists with regard to PPE, medical devices and diagnostic kits.
The 100% dependence on Reagents, an important chemical component for testing, is limiting the capacity of the government from expanding testing because the cost of each test is ₹4,500.
India allowed unconditional imports of these products and never took note of the dangers of dependency.
Global supply/production chains not only destroyed the manufacturing base in developed and developing countries; they also resulted in loss of jobs and poor working conditions in these sectors.
Developing countries were asked to ease their labour protection laws to facilitate global production and supply chains popularly known as global value chains.
As a result, people were forced to work in precarious working conditions without any social security net.
This created an unorganised army of labourers and is preventing many developing country governments from effectively offering relief.
A virus has made us rethink our obsession with the economic efficiency theory.
A narrowing window
Centre has accepted the view of several States
National lockdown 2.0 till
The country has a small window within which an orderly exit must be planned.
PM spoke of incentivising areas that avert a spike in cases through rigorous enforcement of the restrictions.
The Centre’s lockdown is the most rigorous globally, but it has witnessed severe gaps in implementation.
Active follow-up with State governments and clear instructions to enforcement agencies are necessary to help the public adhere to a curfew.
Further extensions of a lockdown appear less and less feasible.
Millions of workers are already dependent on meagre income substitution measures and food donations, and many face escalating private debt.
Finance Ministry’s welfare schemes need to be reviewed.
Those who have lost jobs, and senior citizens, should be able to enrol in the PDS online immediately.
The reality of COVID-19 is that there cannot be a return to normal overnight, and governments must plan for a sequential restoration of activity.
The pandemic and the contours of a health response
While the initial response of the government wasquick in restricting the entry and the quarantine of travellers from China and other South East Asian countries, the subsequent wave of international travellers has completely caught everyone off guard.
Lockdown has confined the pool of infected persons to their homes.
The aftermath of the lockdown when they will start moving out will pose enormous challenges.
REMEMBER: despite the best response, the epidemic will not be going away for all time to come. J.V.R. Prasada Rao is a former Health Secretary, Government of India
It is a novel virus and people have no immunity to protect themselves.
Prevention, care and support are the only strategies that will succeed in mitigating the crisis.
Identify people and serious cases among them should be referred to hospitals for treatment.
Trained counsellors in care centres and hospitals can relieve the huge pressure on doctors and nursing staff and will make a huge difference to the quality of care to infected persons.
Families of infected persons face a challenging task.
It is high time that rapid testing is introduced on a large scale in the country using the window of opportunity the lock down provides.
Rapid test kits should be made available in care centres and people who test negative should be asked to remain in isolation at home.
Community-based organisations should also help in mobilising Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, funds for mitigating the misery migrant families now face and for no fault of theirs.
The fight against COVID-19 can only be won when we get a preventive vaccine or a therapeutic drug on hand.
Invasive, alien, most fearsome
Little knowledge about its origin, rapid spread and massive impact
Invasive alien species are species of plants, animals and microbes which move out of their native location into alien locations and cause economic, ecological and health damage.
All invasive alien species remain unproblematic in their land of origin where natural enemies limit their population increase.
In the case of SARS-CoV-2, the individual body of each and every host is a landscape in itself.
Unlike in the case of SARS, where the virus jumped from bats to civet cats to humans, the intermediate host for SARS-CoV-2 remains unknown.
In its new location, the invasive species can grow and reach the reproductive stage.
Spread is a function of the reproductive rate of the virus (R0), which is defined as the number of cases, on average, an infected person will cause during the infectious period.
For SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen emission rate from an infected person is yet to be computed.
R0 is a critical value in the case of all invasive alien species. If it is less than 1, the disease will vanish without causing an epidemic.
The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has brought the global economy to its knees.
The virus has infected 1.9 million, killed more than a lakh and put a huge strain on health systems.
Carbon emissions have decreased, and nitrogen dioxide emissions in northern Italy, Spain and the U.K. have faded. The sustainability of improved air quality will be seen soon.
It will probably continue until the pathogen reaches the point of naturalisation, i.e., when it stops being invasive.
Raise the lending capacity of the European Investment Bank
Back the European Commission’s €100- billion unemployment insurance scheme
Burden-sharing between the richer members in the north and the poorer states in the south.
France, Italy and Spain, the bloc’s three largest economies, with six other members in the euro area wrote in late March to the European Council President, renewing calls for joint issuance of Eurobonds, now dubbed corona bonds.
President, Christine Lagarde, has backed such a move.
PM extends lockdown till May 3; tougher restrictions at hotspots
He added that detailed guidelines on the contours of this extended lockdown would be issued by the government on Wednesday.
He said Indians had displayed exceptional discipline and resolve during the lockdown and managed to keep the number of cases at a level that was favourable compared to several rich countries.
“I want you all to take care of the elderly in your home, especially those with co-morbidities, as they are especially vulnerable. To be vigilant in maintaining the lockdown and social distance, use face masks, especially home-made face masks. The advisory issued by the Ayush Ministry of measures to boost immunity should also be followed, and please download the AarogyaSetu App, and encourage others to do so, as well. Try and help out the poor and indigent, be sympathetic to colleagues and avoid retrenchments in this challenging time. Accord respect and dignity to corona warriors like doctors, health workers, sanitation workers, police and others. Your efforts exemplify what is meant by the phrase ‘We the People of India’ in our Constitution. It is true homage to Babasaheb Ambedkar on his birth anniversary,” he said.
Future tense Migrant workers gathered outside the Bandra West railway station in Mumbai on Tuesday, demanding that the government make transport arrangements so that they can return to their native places.
Girl raises ₹6.2 lakh for the needy
U.S. approves 2 missile deals with India
The U.S. State Department has approved two potential missile deals with India, for an estimated $92 million and $63 million.
10 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II air-launched missiles and related equipment.
These missiles can be fitted onto Boeing’s P-8I (Poseidon-Eight India) maritime patrol aircraft, and are intended to enhance India’s capability in anti-surface warfare while defending its sea lanes.
The second deal, for $63 million and principally contracted with Raytheon Integrated Defense System, is for 16 MK 54 All Up Round Lightweight Torpedoes (LWT); three MK 54 Exercise Torpedoes (MK 54 LWT Kit procurement required); and related equipment.
Also included are MK 54 spare parts, torpedo containers, two Recoverable Exercise Torpedoes (REXTORP) with containers and related equipment and support from the U.S. government and contractors.
India to get 15 million PPE kits from China
Migrant workers in Surat take to the streets again
For the second time in less than a week, hundreds of restless migrant workers in Surat came out on the road, complaining about the lack of food and demanding that they be allowed to return to their home towns, even as the authorities extended the lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic till May 3.
You could end up in jail for spitting tobacco in Bihar
Virus infections have ‘certainly’ not peaked yet, warns WHO
Spain and Austria allowed partial returns to work on Tuesday but Britain and France extended lockdowns to try to rein in a pandemic which the World Health Organization warned had not yet peaked.
Nearly 2 million people globally have been infected and more than 1,20,000 have died in the most serious pandemic in a century. The epicentre has moved from China, where the virus first emerged in December, to the U.S., which now has the highest death toll at 23,568.
The world economy is expected to shrink by 3% this year, the International Monetary Fund said, marking the steepest downturn since the Great Depression.