India coronavirus dispatch: Should healthcare be a fundamental right?

Corporation workers in protective suits wait outside a hospital. Photo: PTI
Here is a round-up of articles from across Indian publications on Covid-19. From the role of civil society in times of crises, to people returning to their offices, and why Bengaluru's migrant construction workers are marching home – read these and more in today’s India dispatch.

Expert Speak

Should healthcare be a fundamental right? India has never spent more than 2 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare. And healthcare facilities across the country straddle different levels of efficiency and sufficiency. The impact of Covid-19 has shaken even states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which have traditionally done well in the area of healthcare. Read here on what public health experts Abhay Shukla and T Sundararaman have to say on whether healthcare can be a fundamental right.

Citizens Under Lockdown

Why Bengaluru's migrant construction workers are marching home: After nearly 40 days without work and pay, and with rations depleting, thousands of migrant workers in the city had seen some hope in the May 3 relaxation of rules that allowed stranded migrants to travel to their native places. The desperation to return to their families was evident in the number of requests that the government received. Read more here.

Kashmiris speak out against communication block in the time of Covid-19: As of now, only a handful of Valley residents, those with landlines, post-paid BSNL connections and broadband, still have connectivity. Many of them, especially those facing medical emergencies, took to social media to express their anger and frustration. Read here about how they are managing.


The role of civil society in times of crises: Civil society will have to build a network that cuts across the country. It will need to map the different organisations and groups providing relief in every district, block, and village. This can be done because there are volunteers and workers all over the country, and they can be contacted for any information or assistance at any place. Read here about what can be done by civil society to help communities, hold governments accountable, and ensure that the vulnerable have a voice.

Covid constraints on defence expenditure could help transform military culture: Training in the Indian military is top-notch and needs a little tweaking to help officers and men understand the rules of engagement in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. It is diversified education at all levels of leadership that is a weak area. Read more here.

Covid rumours and factory labour supply: After malicious rumours about Muslims spreading the disease started circulating on social media, there were instances of discrimination against Muslim vendors and hawkers, with some of them being attacked in many parts of the country. Such rumour-spreading has negative labour supply effects among Hindus who have Muslim co-workers. Read here about how this could have economic consequences as India exits the lockdown.

Managing Covid-19

How India ignored its own code for use of experimental drugs in an outbreak: Around the world, no drug regulator has approved HCQ as a prophylactic or as treatment for Covid-19 because there is little evidence that it works in this case. The only thing that governments, including India’s, have done is provide temporary permission for off-label use. But such temporary permissions are not a green light for indiscriminate use. Read here on why they ought to be accompanied by stringent checks and balances, such as informed consent, the approval of bioethicists and careful monitoring of the drug’s effects.

Is Delhi prepared to reopen as new Covid-19 cases rise sharply? The number of positive coronavirus cases in the national capital crossed the 5,000 mark on Tuesday (May 5). At the end of May 6, the case tally stood at 5,532. With a population of around 19 million, Delhi is the third most hit state in the country, next only to Maharashtra and Gujarat. It is also the second most affected city after Mumbai. Even though the fatality rate in Delhi (1.17 per cent) is lower than that of the country’s average (3.3 per cent), the danger looms over the city, as all 11 districts here fall in the red zone. Read more here on whether the city can reopen in this situation or not.

Testing is critical in fight against Covid, and in answering question of when it’s safe to go back to work: The science of testing is evolving. Scientists are cooperating with each other faster than the speed of sound. Researchers are racing to give the answer. It may soon be possible to self-test, just by wiping your nose and providing a swab of saliva via mail to a lab. Read more here.

Understanding Covid-19

What we know about whom Covid-19 kills: Covid-19 is not an equal-opportunity killer. While no one is immune, the disease has killed a disproportionate number of different demographic groups in the US – men, older adults, and black people, according to preliminary data. Read here about what scientists currently understand to be the reason for some of these differences in mortality rate.

The fluid dynamics of how the novel coronavirus moves around: Covid-19, and indeed every infectious disease, transmits and infects at the microscopic level. For example, the viral particles, or virions, of the novel coronavirus piggyback on tiny droplets to travel from one (human) host to another. Read here on how this impacts social distancing and other precautionary measures.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel