India has faced up to pandemic challenge

 

Sir, – I write with reference to your editorial “The value of leadership” (September 21st), which negatively commented on the governance competencies of some world leaders, including Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, in handling the pandemic crisis.

The Indian government has taken administrative, managerial and technological measures to manage the crisis, as per our unique conditions, with a 1.3 billion population, varied economic levels, and densely populated setting. Like other nations, we have been forced to deal simultaneously with the catastrophic health emergency and the massive economic shock affecting the livelihoods of a huge population.

It is true that the everyday Covid cases have been rising starkly, with a variable trajectory in various parts of the country. Without undermining the consequences of the trajectory, it may be pointed out that our multi-pronged response has led to a significant improvement in our recovery rate, which stands at 80.12 per cent. The case fatality rate at 1.6 per cent remains one of the lowest in the world. Testing has also crossed the threshold of more than 1.2 million tests per day, and there are measures to further strengthen the testing and tracing mechanisms. Coupled with the health protocols, significant steps have been taken for economic revival and protection of livelihoods. The government’s Self-Reliant India initiative and major policy decisions involving multiple sectors have created a road-map for governance for the post-pandemic period. The €245 billion economic package includes supply of free food-grains and cash to vulnerable sections, support for rural economy, loan guarantees to small and medium firms, wage support for labourers, tax incentives to industries and support for construction and housing sector. As in the case of other countries, there have been reports of high contraction of India’s GDP in April-June period, but the Economic Intelligence Unit has also forecast India to be one of the countries to recover the fastest, with GDP reaching 2019 levels by 2021.

India’s role as the “pharmacy of the world” has come into sharp focus during the time of crisis. In a coordinated response, involving several branches of government and multiple private pharma companies, India was able to supply, after ensuring adequate domestic stock, large volumes of pharmaceutical products across the world, including to Ireland. India’s advances in the development and mass trials of a Covid vaccine have attracted global attention.

India has also been managing the massive incoming and outgoing evacuation exercises, involving the vast travel, medical and security infrastructure at the central and provincial levels. We have so far been able to evacuate around two million Indians stranded globally. Outgoing evacuation of more than 250,000 foreign nationals to 72 countries has been facilitated. This has included citizens to and from Ireland.

Our developmental and humanitarian projects for select countries have been fast-tracked. Mr Modi took the initiative earlier this year to have a tele-conference with the then-taoiseach Leo Varadkar to discuss collaboration during the Covid and post-Covid period as part of efforts to reach out to global leaders.

We appreciate your concerns about India being among the highly exposed countries to the disease. However, we seek your understanding on the mammoth governance challenges, at the political, logistics and technological level, facing a huge country like India, with its healthcare and economic diversity. Even some major European countries, with far smaller populations, like France, Netherlands and Spain, are grappling with similar challenges. There are significant lessons to be learned by all from the pandemic, and we are making our best effort to manage the adversity, in keeping with our specific conditionalities, and guided by medical science.

Political posturing and populism have no role to play in the governance of the unprecedented Covid crisis. – Yours, etc,

TERENCE J DICK,

Second Secretary ,

Embassy of India,

Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.