Last 3 years: Kerala has suffered the Nipah virus outbreak, two floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State has won worldwide acclaim for its deft handling of these catastrophes by mostly deploying domestic resources.
The State has an impressive tracking and surveillance system.
It has set up testing kiosks
It has institutes that are ready for plasma trials
It has also enacted a law on epidemic control
Singapore did very well in putting a firm lid on new infections, but it has subsequently seen an explosive uptick in cases and even deaths.
The challenge is the plight of returning students and workers as foreign countries become inhospitable for non-nationals.
IMF projects: West Asia output will decline 3% in 2020
Nearly 1 million Keralites work in the United Arab Emirates alone.
To respond to COVID-19, Kerala will need to go full scale in testing, and implement isolation and better hygiene practices.
When the pandemic ends, it would be a mistake for activities to return to business as usual.
This is a great opportunity for Kerala to redouble its focus on health, education and the environment.
Given its topography, fragile ecology, and highpopulation density, Kerala is highly exposed to health and climate disasters.
If the State can revive economic growth in more environmentally and socially sustainable ways, it would not only be more resilient to extreme events but also have a greater chance of using the rich human and natural endowments for the betterment of its people.
Implement Aarogya Setu, but only through law
Post lockdown, the threat of Covid-19 will continue.
This will lead to a fundamental transformation in the role of the state in regulating society.
Heightened epidemic surveillance by the government could lead to an increased risk of institutionalised surveillance of individuals.
In China, it’s alarming to note that a phone app was started as a voluntary service for informing users of their potential exposure to infected persons, but soon began to be used as an e-pass for allowing access to public transport.
Aarogya Setu app: has been criticised for not complying with data protection principles of data minimisation, purpose limitation, transparency and accountability, all of which are crucial to protecting the privacy of its users.
Individuals may be forced to download the app to be able to access basic amenities and services.
India lacks a comprehensive data protection or surveillance law.
The government’s decision to ban foreign direct investments (FDI) through the automatic route from neighbouring countries that share a land border with India has raised eyebrows.
AIM: fear of Chinese investment to exploit the situation aka “opportunistic takeovers”
Italy, Spain, France and Australia have already taken similar action.
Brookings India study: total current and planned investment by Chinese entities is over $26 billion
Chinese capital is invested not just in brick-andmortar industries but in technology and fintech start-ups.
Private company roots to Chinese government.
Greenfield investments should have been kept out of the purview.
SEBI has already sent out missives to custodians asking for details of Chinese holdings in listed entities.
South Korea’s PresidentMoon Jae-in, whose government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic won acclaim, scored a political victory last week.
SK last year: protests were going on due to slowing growth and corruption. Things have changed.
The President can follow his reform agenda and North Korean rapprochement without legislative bottlenecks.
Since the thaw in ties between the neighbours began in 2018, Mr. Moon and Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jongun have also met on the Demilitarised Zone before a global media blitz.
Korean Peninsula’s denuclearisation
But progress on the North’s nuclear stand-off has been stalled ever since the Trump-Kim Hanoi summit, in February 2019, broke down.
Their meeting, in Singapore in June 2018, resulted in no more than vague promises to end the long deadlock.
Pyongyang insists on crippling economic sanctions ending as a precondition for any meaningful reduction of nuclear testing in the future.
Washington has, meanwhile, harped on access to the North’s nuclear sites in exchange for a relaxation of sanctions.
Coronavirus is a hope for nations to cooperate with each other.
Nurturing air power to meet rising demand
Air power is the total aviation capability of a nation, military and civilian put together.
Soon after the novel coronavirus began spreading, Air India evacuated Indian nationals from Wuhan, China.
India’s Consulate staff from Herat in Afghanistan were evacuated by a C-130 Super Hercules aircraft in secrecy.
Incidentally, 58 IAF aerial assets (transport aircraft and helicopters) are carrying out internal COVID-19-related tasks like transporting medicines, equipment and medical samples for evaluation from inaccessible areas.
Recent history is witness to their untiring work in building brand India.
In 1957, and then in 1978, the IAF was sent to Sri Lanka for flood relief efforts, as it was to Bangladesh in 1991 after the cyclone.
Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, 30 transport aircraft and 16 helicopters flew round the clock in India’s island territories; two IL78 aerial refuelling tankers were stripped of their fuselage fuel tanks overnight and the aircraft pressed into relief.
In addition, six Mi 8 helicopters were sent to help Sri Lanka.
In the international academic circuit, however, the Berlin airlift is quoted as the gold standard for an air logistics campaign.
True, it was staggering — 2.3 million tonnes of load were transported into West Berlin between June 1948 and September 1949.
Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Indian nationals were flown out via Amman.
Air India, along with IL-76s of the IAF, flew home 1,11,000 Indians (some documents say 1,76,000) in 488 flights from Amman to Mumbai in just two months.
The IAF transport fleet was in the forefront to retrieve casualties from Kabul following the 2008 bombing of the Indian embassy.
The only delay then was the clearance from Islamabad to overfly Pakistan.
The Uttarakhand flash floods in 2013 saw what was perhaps the biggest helicopter evacuation in history, with 23,892 pilgrims evacuated in only a week.
Far-sightedness is required to meet the challenges of the coming decades.
The biggest challenge is that all of India’s medium- and heavy-lift assets are foreign sourced, except the Dhruv and Chetak/Cheetah helicopters.
Finances will have to be found for their replacements.
If we look at India’s forward planning, the scene isn’t very rosy.
The Ministry of Defence will need all its persuasive powers to generate the required monies from the scarce resources with the Finance Ministry.
The occasion to revisit the sovereign’s role
COVID-19 is forcing a paradigm shift.
No section or sector is going to remain untouched and unaltered.
A second wave of outbreak is a realistic probability.
Unlike other threats to humanity such as global warming and a nuclear armageddon, this threat is now, not in the future.
COVID-19 threatens to push the world into a deep recession.
Both demand and supply contractions are likely to be severe.
Political systems, economic architectures and cultural mores are on trial.
Work patterns, production and distribution practices are up for redefinition.
We must now be quick in seizing lessons from the present crisis and get ready to embark on measures to build a new paradigm of life, workand governance.
The enlarged economic role of the state in the aftermath of the Second World War came under major assault since the 1980s.
India embarked on the path of trimming the role of the state.
The Indian state’s role in health care, education, creation and maintenance of infrastructure and delivery of welfare has shrunk or become nominal, half-hearted, inefficient, and dysfunctional.
Those with no social media handles, who cannot organise annual ‘thought’ conclaves, who are incapable of highlighting their problems with impressive presentations are rendered voiceless.
Underfunded public health systems are unable to serve them.
State’s first responsibility is the marginalised.
This is the appropriate context to revisit the political economy of the Indian state and its role.
The way we elect our representatives to legislatures must also come under the lens.
The invisible face of the fallout
While catastrophes affect people at large, the economical, sociological and psychological impact that each catastrophe has on women is profound.
Women stay around looking for their loved ones in order to see them safe. Besides this, women lack many life skills such as swimming and climbing.
Women also faced abuse by men, plus hygiene challenges in these camps due to inadequate sanitation facilities.
In the United States, which has a high incidence of tornadoes, families headed by women are affected the most.
WHO: around 70% of the world’s health workers are women, 79% of nurses are women.
Health workers in general are highly vulnerable and not ensuring their safety is a high risk that can severely impact the health system.
India has a million-plus accredited social health activist (ASHA) workers who are an integral part of its health system.
ASHAs, who work at the ground level, are reporting incidents of attacks while on COVID-19 duty.
Stringent action against their tormentors is needed to ensure their professional safety.
WFH: the equal division of household responsibilities among couples is still distant.
Women from all strata face substantial additional household work.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) among re-productive age groups, pregnancy-related depressive conditions, postpartum depression (PPDs) among new mothers as well as premenopausal and menopausal symptoms are common, interfering in every day life and relationships.
Assigning ASHA workers to specifically address women’s welfare during this pandemic, setting up exclusive cells to quickly address domestic violence and women’s health-related issues, including men in conversations, and even online counselling for alcoholism in men are not difficult to implement.
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