Everyone knows the oft repeated phrase of – Sins of Omission and Commission. From the point of view of Mr. Modi:
Sins of Omission means – things which Mr. Modi did not do.
Sins of Commission means – things Mr. Modi should not have done (but did it anyway.)
Mr. Modi is more guilty of the second – Sins of Commission – certain things he should not have done. When Mr. Modi announced lockdown last year, he probably tried to position himself for any probable future success but, on the other hand, his opposition positioned themselves such that Mr. Modi fails. Mr. Modi’s opposition are not only the Opposing Parties, but they also exist within his own party.
Besides, opposition may not mean, not doing. Opposition also means, the system is so broken that nothing will get done however hard someone tried. This means, BJP ruled states like UP and Bihar will look like opposition.
What Mr. Modi did, on 24th March, 2020, he could have easily avoided. And he should have concentrated his efforts more on areas under his control. Mr. Modi’s action on 24th March 2020 made him lose control, made him politically vulnerable, because the resultants of his actions, the follow ups, were not in his control, or central government’s control, in the first place.
Mr. Modi had announced Lock-Down under Central Government’s “Disaster Management Act, 2005, under Section 6 (2)(i) – and under this act, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued innumerable directives – guidelines to all government institutions to – “restrict residents’ movement outside of their homes and orders a closure of all offices, factories and shops, except those considered as essential goods and services.”
But the administrative machinery through which the above could be achieved, the power lies with State Governments, as “Public Health” and “Public Order” are in the “State List” of the “Constitution of India.” See List – 2 on page 8, point 1 and 6 in this attached document.
Mr. Modi announced Lock-Down when the Covid cases were in low hundreds and resulting deaths were in only double digits. Contrast that with now, when both, covid cases and deaths are in several thousands, and all the respective State Governments are taking their own necessary actions. Well, this present ways of working would have been allowed initially. Here is the statistics of Covid casualties.
It’s a mystery, and probably remain a mystery, as to why Mr. Modi behaved the way he did. My own gut feel says – He Gambled! He gambled on the news, and he gambled on the history of such diseases. And he gambled on the words spoken by Mr. Trump when he came visiting India in February 2020.
Anyone who has lived through 2003 etc., will know that SARS was in the air then, people spoke about it, but life went on in India. SARS then disappeared from public memory. Then came MERS, and many people never knew of it. You see, most of viruses which affected other countries never chose to visit India. There was (and may be still) a “widespread Indian belief” that India’s heat, dirt, filth and pollution lets “no virus survive.”
Mr. Modi is an Indian, no doubt, and his context is as similar to ours. He must have believed the same things the people in India are programmed to believe. Besides, something more happened. Before arriving into India, Mr. Trump made a grand announcement in US that his health secretary has affirmed that “Corona will disappear by Summer. Corona cannot survive Summer Heat.”
Imagine Mr. Trump telling Mr. Modi, this. Logically, if Corona cannot survive US summer, what are the chances of its surviving the famous India Summer.
Mr. Modi spent his energies in the wrong place, wrong legislation. He should have remained in control of the situation by controlling the levers of power that are actually in his control.
I have written on Health previously (here, and here) and I believe that a powerful central control on health care in India in very necessary. I have a vested interest in such Health care improvements. I’m a Bachelor and hope to remain so. But I’m terrified of the health care given to people who are unattended in hospital environment. I’m sure Mr. Modi will understand this, since he is a bachelor too.
Our health care over the years has depended on one healthy family member remaining with the patient in the hospital. The moment that “family member” is removed from the ward, crisis wrecks on bedridden patients. Media talks a lot about people who are not getting bed or oxygen to counter covid, but I’m sure, there many more who perished, on the bed and with oxygen, just because of complete apathy by the hospital care staff as, in quarantine conditions, patient’s relatives are not allowed to remain and attend to the patient.
Our Health Care culture has to change. And this culture can be changed. Focus is required at the recruitment stage, and most critically, at the probationary stage, and thereafter, selection and weeding out the “bad bloods” at the initial stage itself. Once a behavioral standards are set, fresh people in the healthcare field will respond to it positively.
Medical Education is in the Concurrent List, (List 3, Page 12, item 25), which refers many items in the Union List which the Center Controls. Besides, any dispute or conflict in the concurrent list (between the Union and the States), it’s the Union’s power that’s binding – as per Article 254.
So, Mr. Modi, armed with Central Laws can affect many changes which the Health Care in India requires. His Ayushman Bharat Health Care Insurance is just a legislative act. Insurance is always an afterthought. When a person get hospitalised, an insurance is a good leverage, but it does not ensure care. Patient admitted may live or die, the hospital will get its money through insurance. So, an insurance does not guarantee care. Here I speak of “CARE” in capital letters, because that is the key thing missing in our Health-Care. Mr. Modi’s actions in these directions with positively and benevolently impact the people and he will leave a great legacy if he is able to do this.
My own prediction is – “this Covid thing is here to stay.” It will show up, every now and then, in some form or the other. It will change the way we go about our lives. And the key area this virus will keep on attacking will be Health Care. So, if Mr. Modi positions himself strongly in areas of healthcare, his actions will have impact in our lives and the lives of the coming generation.
Okay, my predictions are wrong. But is it not a good proposition on which to gamble. What do you say, Mr. Modi?