India needs to be real about the crisis

A crisis brings out the worst and best out of individuals and institutions. Covid-19 is one such crisis.

Published: 02nd May 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th April 2021 08:58 PM   |  A+A-

coronavirus, PPE, COVID 19

Representational photo (File photo| PTI)

A crisis brings out the worst and best out of individuals and institutions. COVID-19 is one such crisis. It has exposed recklessness in our personal behaviour and miserable state of our public health infrastructure. Despite repeated warnings from experts, we neither maintained physical distance, wore masks nor cut on our social, religious, economic and political activities.

And, when the vaccination drive was launched, we rumour-mongered against the vaccine’s efficacy, creating doubts in people’s mind whether to take the jab. Unbelievably, 50 per cent doctors and healthcare workers are yet to take a vaccine.

The hesitancy persists across all ages and professions. As a result, 46 lakh doses of precious vaccines were wasted. Now, when the second wave of virus has struck with vengeance, there is a national stampede for vaccines. 

Our health sector has remained a victim of neglect, corruption and mismanagement by successive governments since Independence. Its share of the GDP is abysmally low at 1.28 percent. The states' annual budgetary allocation varies from 0.2 to 2 percent.

We have just about 70,000 government and private hospitals catering to 1.3 billion people. The doctor-population ratio is pathetic 1:11,000, minimum need being five lakh doctors. For every 10,000 patients, we have only five to nine beds. A year ago, hospitals had only 37,000 ventilators against the minimum requirement of 1,65,000.

The daily production capacity of liquid medical oxygen is 3,842 metric tonnes which is sufficient to meet the requirement in normal times. However, it falls woefully short of 8,000 metric tonnes, which is the current demand.

This has been compounded further by non-availability of required number of cylinders and cryogenic tanks and their transportation from surplus to deficient states. Still, patients could be taken care of but that was before COVID-19 began attacking our lives indiscriminately and, in waves. Under the present circumstances, there is no way every patient can be treated properly.

The need of the hour is to avoid nit-picking, creating scare, spreading all kinds of fake information and settling political scores. Finding fault and writing stories of miseries, deaths and callousness of the system are easy.

What is difficult, is to join hands with all stakeholders in combating the pandemic. It is also no time for courts and professional whiners in black coats to distract governments' efforts by seeking a host of information which serve no useful purpose. It is only action on ground that matters.

The government is already working on war footing to ensure adequate and timely availability of vaccines, oxygen, medicines and medical equipment by tapping indigenous and foreign resources, and giving every possible financial incentive. Let there be no doubt. The light at the end of the tunnel is not very far.

(The writer is former special secretary, Research & Analysis Wing and  can be reached at


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