Skip to main content

Health for all? UP development 'model' is deepening inequalities amidst Covid-19

Antonio Guterres
By Shobha Shukla, Bobby Ramakant, Sandeep Pandey*
“Covid-19 has exposed the lie that free markets can deliver healthcare for all, the fiction that unpaid care work isn't work, the delusion that we live in a post-racist world.We are all floating on the same sea, but some are in super-yachts and others clinging to drifting debris”, tweeted Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General a few days back.
The Uttar Pradesh government in India, like some other states such as Delhi, Chandigarh and Punjab, has allowed paid hotel isolation facility for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic Covid-19 patients. Prior to this, paid hotel quarantine facilities were offered for those with travel history to high burden areas.
For those who can pay, government health teams will be deputed in these hotels to monitor health of those isolating themselves there. But for those who cannot pay, appalling stories are piling in from public health facilities raising serious questions on food quality, toilet sanitation and hygiene, healthcare standards, among others.
However, there are some states like Kerala where everyone is getting quarantined in government facilities only (no paid hotel service) and Kerala is lauded globally for its response to the pandemic. Kerala health minister was the only Indian panelist on United Nations Public Service Day.
Covid-19 has made the world understand why health for all is so intrinsically linked to social security and economy. But our government response to the pandemic is not reflecting if we have taken these hard-learned lessons into account. Are we failing to learn one of these most important lessons?
These inequalities not only fail us in containing the pandemic but are also the root cause of perpetuating such calamities and putting most people at a heightened risk of avoidable human suffering and untimely deaths.
Only public health services can ensure health for all – rich and poor alike. Profiteering from illness must come to an end now. We must stop legitimizing profiteering from illness and misery. Also, efforts like paid-hotel-quarantine are validating profiteering from illness in so many ways and depleting public health resources because it is the government healthcare staff that is monitoring those who can pay in these hotels for care.
We have to bridge the gap, and not widen the chasm between those-who-can-pay and those who cannot. The UN chief also echoed this earlier: “Covid-19 has been likened to an X-ray, revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built. It has reinforced the need for solidarity more strongly than ever.We belong to each other. We stand together, or we fall apart.”
If the intention was to increase healthcare capacity in terms of hospital beds and infrastructure, then converting hotels into isolation or quarantine facilities on a payment basis is not the right step. Government guest houses, hostels in educational institutions (with good mess services) which are mostly vacant as institutions have taken recourse to online classes could have been easily used just as railway coaches have been converted into Covid-19 hospitals. 
But the bureaucracy is enamoured with the idea of private so much so that hotels are used for meetings and stay increasingly, abandoning the government infrastructure.
If the intention was to provide a convenient way for those-who-can-pay to get healthcare in hotel facilities with proper toilet and sanitation and hygiene and other amenities they are comfortable with, and let the majority of our population deal with public health services and its limitations, then it is not only unfortunate but also is going to exacerbate the very inequalities that led us to this difficult situation.
Rainwater in a Covid ward in Bareilly, UP
It is also important to recognize that bad sanitation and hygiene, dirty or non-functional toilets, unsatisfactory healthcare standards and other concerns we associate public services with, are not new: they have ailed the public services for long but those-who-can-pay have conveniently made an alternate parallel system where they have services they are comfortable with.
For those who cannot pay, appalling stories are piling in from public health facilities raising serious questions on food quality, toilet sanitation and hygiene, healthcare standards
That is why we have a system that promotes airports, private hospitals, hotels, private transport, private schools, or privatization of railways for the convenience of those-who-can-pay.
Allahabad High Court Justice Sudhir Agarwal had passed orders in 2015 and 2018 making it mandatory for all those who receive government salary to ensure their children study in government schools and they receive healthcare from government hospitals, respectively.
Unless rich and poor alike will use same public services how will we ever begin to work towards a fair and equitable world, which is often referred to by the sustainable development agenda ‘where no one is left behind’?
For those who may question if the use of public services by those-who-can-pay will have any impact, may instead question why the world is paying attention to the Covid-19: Is it not because those-who-can-pay are also at risk? Is it not because it is essentially the public health services worldwide that are at the forefront of the pandemic response?
Now since those-who-can-pay have to use the same public services to save their lives then is it the time to find a convenient option like paid-hotel style healthcare or is it the time to fix the broken public system?
It is government’s responsibility to walk the talk on a very oft-quoted slogan of Health For All. Health for all, does not only mean clinics and hospitals but also includes preventive healthcare and healthy living “for all”. It is government’s primary responsibility to ensure that the populations do not suffer from preventable diseases or die untimely deaths.
This is also true for Covid-19 pandemic where it is the fundamental duty of the government to ensure that the infection is not spreading, and those who are infected get the best standards of healthcare and social support in a rights-based manner – regardless of their ability to pay.
If majority of our population is unable to do ‘safe distancing’ or have access to functional toilet or proper homes or nutrition or education, then is it not a failure of the development model our governments have been blindly chasing which serves the interest and coffers of only a handful few?
This is the same development model that deepens inequalities and injustices and makes us dangerously vulnerable to such pandemics and other humanitarian crises.
If we are to find a way out of the pandemic and avert such future crisis situations, the only path forward is in the direction of a fairer and equitable world. Some are not more equal than others.
---
*Shobha Shukla is the founding head of Citizen News Service (CNS); Sandeep Pandey is Magsaysay award winning social activist and vice president, Socialist Party (India) (SPI); Bobby Ramakant is with CNS and SPI

Comments

TRENDING

RSS wanted Constitution 'replaced' by Manusmriti which abused Dalits, women

By Shamsul Islam* The Constituent Assembly of India finalized the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949 which is celebrated as the Constitution Day This Constitution promised new born Indian Republic a polity based on democracy, justice, egalitarianism and rule of law. However, RSS was greatly annoyed. Four days after the historic event of approval of it, the RSS English “Organiser” in an editorial on November 30, 1949, complained:

Pending GoI wage payments to rural labour reach Rs 5,100 crore: NREGA Morcha

By Our Representative  MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), which is said to have provided a cushion to millions of rural households amidst great economic distress during the Covid-19 pandemic, continues to be bogged with poor implementation, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has alleged.

Once centres of civilisation, Indian cities turning into 'major cause of concern'

By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay*  Each year, October 31 is celebrated as the World Cities Day. The theme this year was Adapting Cities for Climate Resilience. The Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, organized a special lecture on city as environment as part of the discussion under the #WebPolicyTalk series on the State of Cities -- #CityConversations.

Nuclear energy 'can't solve' global warming, will 'strain' financial, natural resource

Counterview Desk  Taking strong exception to Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who has favoured nuclear energy as a solution to global warning, well-known power and policy analyst Shankar Sharma has said that the IAEA chief's “unsubstantiated advocacy” of nuclear power is associated with “diversion of considerable amounts of scarce resources, both financial as well as natural, of many developing countries, such as India.”

Forget 'bheek', by this logic, Gujarat was free of British rule in 1995, 19 yrs before India

The real freedom fighting brigade By Rajiv Shah  Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut may have her own reasons to say that India acquired real freedom in May 2014, when Narendra Modi came to occupy India’s seat of power.  There was little to be amused by what she said, for, as many commentators have variously pointed out, her viewpoint was surely based on her little or no knowledge of the history of the Indian freedom movement.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Learning to bridge 'huge chasm' between highly educated, illiterate, badly literate

By Shrey Ostwal, Sandeep Pandey*  The pivotal point of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s journey to become Mahatma Gandhi began when his “political guru” – Gopal Krishna Gokhale – advised young Mohandas to travel around India. This rigorous journey was essential for Mohandas to understand his country and countrypersons better if he were to fight the inhumane and unempathetic British regime which had been looting India of its glory for about two centuries then.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Farm laws: Modi has been taking decisions without consulting experts, stakeholders

By Ajit Singh* In a surprise move, the Prime Minister of India in a video message that went live on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti announced to scrap three contentious farm laws in the upcoming winter session of Parliament. These laws were notified in September last year but put on hold due to widespread opposition, especially by farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.

Modi withdrew farm laws, but has no word on 'pro-corporate, oppressive' policies

Farmers celebrate withdrawal of three laws By Harsh Thakor  Punjab farmers have no doubt won a historic battle in overpowering the farm laws with the support of the working class, students, youth and intellectuals. Noticeably, the non-sectarian approach of the participating organisations, which confronted Hindutva neo-fascism, Sikh separatist politics and Indian and foreign corporate monopoly, helped in enhancing their striking capacity.