History tells us India is not a country that is known for proactive planning. Look back in history and tell me, when we had proactive planning? Foreign occupation to poverty to the current crisis all is the outcome of our casual attitude and reactive mindset.
Unless we get a strong hit from outsiders, including terrorist attacks, biological threats, war, or natural calamities, we take time to wake up and by the time damage is done. Irrespective of political ideology, this happens because we are happy and satisfied underperformers, as a society. We do not strive for excellence.Our political leaders believed in populism in place of excellence in governance. This breeds corruption, nepotism, and all ills which ultimately leads to painful crises. COVID-19 second wave is just the reminder of that.
At the same time, we are a very good crisis manager because once we are pushed to the wall we learn to respect the in-house talent and support them. After all, now there is a question of survival. I am sure we will emerge stronger after this crisis as well. We will come out with the best of skills, talent, planning, and resource allocations.
Let me share a few recent examples:
- After the 1962 India-China war, we started looking at defense forces, today we can defend against China with equal might.
- After the Bhuj earthquake, we started looking at Disaster management planning. Now we have a very well-developed NDRF.
- After the Mumbai terrorist attack, we have much better national security systems.
- When the USA denied cryogenic technology, we started focusing on space research seriously.
- When we were denied supercomputers by the USA, we started focusing on computer hardware systems.
- When we were denied crucial remote sensing data for defense purposes, we started looking at spy satellites seriously.
- After the stock market crisis of 1992, we created a security market regulator and with time developed some of the best stock exchanges in the world.
- After the crisis of NPAs and serious tax violations, we have one of the best financial transactions and digital payment systems in the world.
- Lately, the role of DRDO in new technologies is also giving confidence
- I do not want to repeat the surgical strike and airstrikes, etc.
There are many more such examples that forced India to improve its governance but ONLY after the event.
India only improves after a crisis, I firmly believe whichever sector you want to improve in India, first bring the crisis in that sector, and then you will see the best of the outcomes after the crisis. In simple terms, without pain, there is no gain. We also have short memories, so we need such things frequently. Hopefully, with the use of digital technology, real-time monitoring, tracing, and tracking will reduce the need for such painful reminders.
How COVID-19 second wave improve India?
After this crisis, many sectors will get due attention. The area where policymakers have to focus are as follows:
- All hospital standards, layouts and designs need to relook. Essential services like Oxygen generation plants, quick testing methods, telemedicine to monitor home quarantine patients, online reports, transparency in hospital billing, and only digital payments from patients should be made mandatory for every hospital including private hospitals as well. No exception and no discretion be allowed in good governance models. Experience says, any discretion will be misused and corruption creeps in. Any violation must be fined at 10 times the gain from the corrupt practice or behavior by the regulator after investigating the facts. No need to run after overloaded courts. Once you disincentivize and kill the motive of profiteering so that the focus of management should be on good services and respectable and fair profits.
- “Covid Vaccination Dashboard” model must be replicated in every sector: All hospitals and public utilities including all food testing and drug testing laboratories, schools, airports, bus travel, ports, power plants, etc. must be linked to a common portal like we have created a “Covid Vaccination Dashboard”. This is a great experience. This model must be replicated in every sector
- Disturbance in Oxygen supply has exposed flaws in urban planning and laid off social infrastructure: new areas of thinking: I am asking a fundamental issue: what should be the population density in the city? Do we need large overcrowded cities with millions of people in them? Can any infrastructure sustain this excessive load including hospitals? Migration to big cities must be discouraged by using modern communication technologies and highways to build towns every 50 kilometers. Incentivize people to move to small towns by higher taxes on people living in highly populated cities and lower taxes on less populated cities. This means a high cost of maintaining infrastructure in a high-density population. There can be slabs linked to population density and city surcharge to ensure this. Population control measures should be considered to ensure sustainable development.
- Distribution Issues of oxygen is a great reminder for logical planning: After the Mumbai terrorist attack, NSG created more bases and centers to ensure quick response. The Oxygen supply crisis will also highlight the gaps in essential item planning like oxygen, life-saving drugs, ammunition, fuel, high rise fire rescue options, fully equipped ambulances and cranes on highways, railway relief trains, high sea disaster rescue systems, explosions in toxic chemical and nuclear plants, bioterrorism threats, etc. all these things must be reviewed in a vast country like India. The most important thing is their preparedness and alertness to respond is key to minimize the damage. Hopefully, home ministry with defense and other departments will create a separate division for this purpose.
- Large public gatherings always create safety & security risk: With the growing population of India, our election rallies and festival gatherings will become bigger and bigger. These are also vulnerable to various threats and risks. We all have to think seriously, how to ensure more manageable situations on the ground in case of crisis. The organizers and religious bodies of these events must start planning seriously about the potential risk which can happen. Bioterrorism and other threats are not ruled out in large gatherings.
- “Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission” should be prepared to deliver high technology medical and security services as well. These can be very small and insignificant, but crucial in ensuring a reliable supply chain. Example: oxygen generators, tankers, testing kits and tools, reliable home use medical testing kits and equipment. We must have an aggressive plan to build research capabilities in the area of agriculture and health sectors because locally developed vaccines are the biggest hope in this crisis.
- Food, Feed and Fuel Security need special attention: For 140 crore people and with an equal population of livestock and animals need food and feed every day. In the first wave we were saved because of surplus stocks of food, but in the second wave of covid and its intensity oxygen supply crisis has exposed the weak links. This crisis is a good development because now all supply lines will be evaluated carefully. Proper mapping and planning is needed. Next time if anything goes wrong, the people of this country are not going to spare anyone. Policy makers must start planning from now onwards about food and feed supply situations in India. Growing population will make life difficult for all stakeholders. There is a need to evaluate supply lines for all crops, livestock, fisheries, etc from production to warehousing to post harvest management including distribution. This must be affordable as well.
- The challenge to the Swadeshi Movement: Please note bad designs and bad calibration can aggravate crises. It means there cannot be compromised on the performance and quality of the products under the Aatmirbhar Bharat mission. Please note India does not want unreliable, poor quality, and junk production in the name of the “Aatmanirbhar and Swadeshi agenda”.
Every product under “Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Swadeshi” must be one of the best in the world. This is a challenge to all those who are promoting Swadeshi. If suppliers cannot produce or offer the specified quality products, do not allow a label called” Swadeshi” on that product. Quality Compromise will bring a bad name to the swadeshi movement. Once there is trust in local products, why will consumers buy imported products?
Priority should be to review all the laws, procedures, and systems which are coming in the way of achieving excellence as a nation and promoting and supporting mediocracy. This needs political will and all political leaders may not have the same due to shortsighted political interest. Society should weed them out.
The way forward:
Covid-19 is here to stay. I feel now we got a clear warning call, now systems will start rolling. I am sure, by the time the third wave starts things will be much better and manageable. Now the issue is execution, speed, and precision. I am sure Indian political leadership understands this and today we have better technologies to handle the plans and their real-time monitoring.
We all have to play our role as “Team India”. I am also aware many may not like current political leadership. No one is asking them to follow the political ideology of others. This will always remain in a vibrant democracy. When it comes to nation-building, if they are not playing a positive role for any political and ideological reason and not contributing as citizens in national building, their behavior is nothing but anti-social and anti-national. No justification for this is acceptable.
How long will we remain a reactive society?
The day India will start thinking proactively, India, with 1.4 billion people, will become a hub for innovations for the world. India will be the biggest and the most attractive market and investment destination in the world. Our problem is not resources, but our only problem, as a society is a laid back and compromising attitude. The day we as a society will change our mindset and the day we will demand excellence in everything, no one can stop India's growth to glory.
COVID-19 gave us the reason to think again. Let us utilize this opportunity. Let us all play our positive role to make India great again.
Please stay safe and stay healthy.