Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

31 March 2020

If India has to control coronavirus pandemic, it must contain 4 other contagions as well


There are not one but five concurrent, interconnected contagions spreading around the world, all triggered by the SARS-CoV-2 or the novel coronavirus outbreak that emanated in China in December 2019.

The first is obviously the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the increasing global spread of the coronavirus itself. This, in turn, has triggered four other contagions — in information, economy, psychology and behaviour. While policymakers’ and media attention is primarily focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to recognise and address all five contagions in order to bring them under control.
The viral pandemic

The viral pandemic, of course, is the most immediate and about which much has been discussed and much is being done. India’s response — like that of many other countries — is to contain the spread through social distancing and severe restrictions on movement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi did well to his personal standing with the masses by emphasising the need for people to protect themselves and the community by staying home and distancing themselves for others. The Janata curfew that he proposed was a trial both to assess how practical voluntary shutdowns are in a country of 1.3 billion people, as well as to sensitise the people to the seriousness of the challenge. The government will have to quickly learn from the intended and unintended consequences of the exercise as it implements such measures nationwide for weeks together.

Takshashila Discussion Document: A Framework for Enabling Predictive Genomics to Improve Public Health in India


Heritable genetic diseases, particularly rare diseases, contribute to a significant disease burden in India. In India’s urban areas, congenital malformations and genetic disorders are the third most common cause of mortality in newborns. Rare diseases by themselves are expected to afflict 70-96 million Indians currently.

Guided by a few core principles, this document provides a governance framework for collecting, analysing, and prioritising genomic data for engineering diagnostics and therapeutic solutions. At an estimated cost of INR 1600 crore per year over the next 5 years the “Indian National Genome Project” is made up of the following steps:

1. Seeding the National Genome Platform with the full genome sequencing of 1 million Indians – this seeding will represent the approximately 5000 genetic sub-populations present in India. There are provisions for co- opting private players to leverage existing infrastructure for completion of the sequencing exercise.

2. Developing and Maintaining a National Genomic Database as Public Infrastructure – anonymized and annotated data to be made publicly available. This would ensure access and effective use of the data by multiple players for designing diagnostic/therapeutic products.

30 March 2020

South Asia’s Looming Disaster

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Welcome to Foreign Policy’s South Asia Brief, a weekly look at the most important news from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—a region that comprises a quarter of the world’s population. Given the severity of the coronavirus crisis, this week we’re focusing almost entirely on how the region is coping with COVID-19 and what happens next.

If you would like to receive South Asia Brief in your inbox every Tuesday, please sign up here.

Community Spread Has Begun

Most South Asian countries locked their borders down last week or even earlier, but the number of confirmed coronavirus cases keep rising, particularly in Pakistan and India. This trend suggests that the region has likely moved from phase two of the virus outbreak, when transmission is traced to people who have arrived from foreign countries, to phase three, when the disease is spreading more widely among communities.

Bangladesh’s Leader Urges All Citizens to Stay at Home to Slow Virus Spread

By Julhas Alam

In this March 23, 3030 photo, a policeman urges residents not to come out of their homes as residents stand behind a gate, hours after the second death from COVID-19 was confirmed from the area, in Dhaka, Bangladesh.Credit: AP Photo/Al-emrun Garjon

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appealed on Wednesday to all citizens to stay at home and avoid any gatherings to slow the transmission of the coronavirus.

In particular, she urged hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis who worked abroad and recently returned to the country from virus-hit countries to isolate themselves at home for 14 days.

“It is essential to follow the directives to save the lives of your family members, neighbors, and ultimately all of your countrymen,” she said in a televised address. “Do not leave home unless it’s an emergency.”

Experts say there is a high risk that people who returned in recent weeks and attended social gatherings will spread the virus.

What’s Behind the Rising India-France Maritime Activity in the Indo-Pacific?

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Despite growing fears of the global coronavirus pandemic, India and France held a joint exercise in the Indian Ocean. While dealing with this and other challenges, both countries understand that they share broader strategic interests including the implications China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

In a first, the two navies conducted joint patrols from Reunion Island, the French naval base in the Indian Ocean. The Commander of the Indian Navy P-8I, which was part of the joint patrols, is reported to have said that that such joint security operations “make it possible to maintain the security of international maritime routes for trade and communications.”

These engagements are not without significance. India has so far generally conducted Coordinated Patrols (CORPAT) only with its maritime neighbors. Currently, the Indian Navy has Joint Exclusive Economic Zone surveillance exercises with the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius and CORPAT series are undertaken with the navies of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. The United States had earlier made an offer to India to carry out CORPAT but India rejected it.

29 March 2020

Opportunities in the Covid Crisis

March 27 , 2020 
Every crisis comes with opportunities. The Covid-19 crisis presents the country with an unprecedented opportunity to have a hard look at the present state of the economy and think of strategies to strengthen indigenous R&D and manufacturing capabilities in different sectors. Covid19 will reshape the power equations in the world. China is already taking the high moral ground for having dealt with the crisis efficiently. It is trying to emerge as the hub of manufacturing of medical devices.

If India handles the crisis well and uses it for emerging stronger, it will have a greater role to play in the world post-Covid 19.

Several initiatives of far-reaching import have been announced by the government. More is probably in the pipeline. The Rs 1.7 lakh crore (Rs 1 trillion) relief package for the poorest sections of the society is timely and highly welcome, although it’s a moot point whether this is enough considering the scale of disruption and the impact it is having on daily wage earners. The government should do a quick impact analysis and consider whether more help is needed.

The government has also given some relief to the companies by deferring tax submission deadlines and lowering the penalty rates. This is the initial step which needs to be followed up with more.

Sector-wise relief packages need to be worked out so that the economy is not entirely disrupted. Several sectors, which provide jobs, have been hit. Undoubtedly, jobs will be lost at large-scale until the economic recovery takes place. Civil aviation, railways, transport, tourism, automobile, construction hospitality, et cetera are some examples. As a result, migrant labour has started moving to their homes. This is a potentially dangerous trend which must be reversed . The government, the corporate sector and civil society should make it easier for the workers to wear the impact of the lockdown.
Simple things, get them right

Is India’s health infrastructure equipped to handle an epidemic?

Prachi Singh, Shamika Ravi, and Sikim Chakraborty

With growing number of coronavirus cases in India (and worldwide), policymakers have sprung into action – more information is being disseminated about preventive measures such as hand washing and not touching the face. Social distancing has been suggested as a tool to “flatten the curve”, or in other words, prevent the health system from being overburdened. Although the number of COVID-19 cases are still low in India, experts have warned against community spread of the disease which will lead to rapid and huge increase in demand for health facilities. Private healthcare is expensive and unavailable for many poor households in India which leaves public healthcare facilities as the only available option for them. For patients who are found to be COVID-19 positive, isolation wards are needed; additionally, for critical cases, intensive care is needed. Currently, almost all suspected cases of coronavirus are referred to government hospitals and it’s important to assess where we stand in terms of medical capacity to provide necessary healthcare to the affected individuals. 

In this piece we focus on availability of government hospital beds[1] for major states in India. Using data from National Health Profile–2019, we observed that there are 7,13,986 total government hospital beds available in India. This amounts to 0.55 beds per 1000 population[2,3]. The elderly population (aged 60 and above) is especially vulnerable, given more complications which are reported for patients in this age group. The availability of beds for elderly population in India is 5.18 beds per 1000 population. In the heatmaps below, we show the state-level variation in availability of government beds in India.

27 March 2020

'How can there be social distancing in slums?'


When spoke to several general practitioners, who have clinics near Mumbai's slum localities, or whose patients come from the lower economic classes, they didn't have answers on how social distancing could be effected in the slums.

Says Dr Vivek Korde, a GP from Sewri, south central Mumbai, with a laugh: "How it can work? We cannot just think of it!"

General practitioner Dr Prakash Tathed has a clinic in the Grant road area of south Mumbai and sees patients from all backgrounds.

"Social distancing in Mumbai is very difficult, because you may stop the vehicles, you may stop the local trains, But what about those places where people live in a jhoppadpattis (shanties)?" asks Dr Tathed.

"They are so close together, you can't have a ten-inch distance also," adds Dr Tathed. "That's very difficult. Thankfully, still, it has not gone in that area. But when it will go, we cannot know. It will be seen after 15 days or so."

26 March 2020

Illuminating Homes with LEDs in India: Rapid Market Creation Towards Low-carbon Technology Transition in a Developing Country

Ajinkya Shrish Kamat, Radhika Khosla 

Near-term climate change mitigation calls for technological innovation and widespread implementation of appropriate technologies. This is salient in emerging economies, where impending socio-economic and infrastructural transitions hold immense potential for locking-in low-carbon development pathways. Yet, little is understood about how developing countries can scale appropriate technology transitions, given their often underdeveloped technological innovation capabilities and supporting infrastructures and finances. This paper examines a recent, rapid, and ongoing transition of India's lighting market to light emitting diode (LED) technology, from a negligible market share to LEDs becoming the dominant lighting products within five years, despite the country's otherwise limited visibility in the global solid-state lighting industry. 

Annual sales of LED bulbs grew more than 130 times to over 650 million bulbs between 2014–2018, with over 30 billion kWh of estimated annual energy savings. Focusing on this striking story of technology transition, this paper analyzes India's LED uptake using semi-structured interviews and drawing on the technology innovation systems literature. The results show that the success of transition coexists with its share of shortfalls, and that there is an important tension between the lowering of upfront costs of low-carbon technologies and the efforts to enhance domestic technological capabilities. The paper discusses the results for the Indian LED case and emphasizes the importance of consistent strategic action taking into account all (and not limited) parts of the technology innovation system, while also providing insights on how mitigation technologies can be developed and deployed in developing countries.

India: Murderous Deception In Chhattisgarh – Analysis

By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
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There is a necessary and great difference between lives sacrificed to secure quantifiable and enduring gain, and lives simply wasted, thrown away, without plan or purpose, to sheer strategic or tactical stupidity. — Where the Buck Stops, 2010

No ‘solution’ has any relevance whatsoever without a clear detailing of the resource configuration and the objective context within which it is to be applied. Yet, virtually the entire counter-insurgency (CI) discourse in India has remained doctrinaire, with almost no reference to the nuts and bolts of what is available, a coherent strategy into which these capacities are woven, and how this is to be implemented. — The Dreamscape of Solutions, 2010

On March 21, 2020, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres ambushed a Police partyin the dense forests of Elmaguda close to Kasalpad and Minpa villages in the Chintagufa area in the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh, killing 17 security personnel [12 District Reserve Guards, DRG, and five Special Task Force, STF], and injuring another 15. The Maoists also looted at least 15 weapons from the possession of the slain personnel – 12 AK 47 assault rifles, one Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), one INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifle and one Excalibur, the upgraded variant of the INSAS rifle.

Can India Avert a Health Apocalypse?

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As India braces for the rapid spread of the coronavirus, its health care system offers limited comfort. The country spends only 3.66 percent of its GDP on public health, while some of its smaller neighbors such as Nepal (6.29 percent) spend a much higher proportion. Advanced economies are even further ahead: The United States, for example, spends about 17 percent of its GDP on health care; Germany and the United Kingdom spend 11.14 percent and 9.76 percent, respectively.

Other indicators are not heartening either. India has just 0.5 hospital beds for every 1,000 people living there; the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least five. India averages 0.8 doctors for every 1,000 citizens; even Italy, which has been badly hit by the coronavirus outbreak, has five times as many doctors per capita.

There is ample reason to fear that if the coronavirus disperses rapidly through a country as densely populated as India—it may already have done so—it could overwhelm the country’s medical infrastructure. Such misgivings are hardly new: Given the hapless quality of public health infrastructure in India, they are in fact understandable. Yet the Indian state somehow seems to be remarkably resilient when confronted with crises. Three compelling examples from the past few decades suggest that the country has an ability to mitigate dire health challenges even though it has displayed a lax attitude toward addressing routine public health needs.

25 March 2020

Coronavirus : The need for a comprehensive Indian stimulus package to tackle health emergency, protect jobs and build a durable social security system for the future

Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF

Prime Minister in his addressed the nation on 19th March announced the setting up of an economic task force under the Finance Minister to formulate India’s response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Covid 19 crisis is being projected as a crisis bigger than the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Global can economic growth is likely to plunge sharply from its present rate of 3% per annum to 1.5 per cent or even less depending upon how long the crisis lasts. In the worst-case scenario, the world may tip into a recession or even an economic depression.

Millions of people are sitting at home fearing job losses. The virus has caused havoc with civil aviation, trade, tourism, entertainment, hospitality, travel, manufacturing, shipping and allied sectors. Job losses at large-scale are happening. Many companies are likely to go bankrupt across the world. Stock markets have plunged across the world. Oil prices have crashed more than a hundred per cent in the last few weeks. Liquidity in the economy is drying up.

Is India still the neighbourhood’s education hub?

Constantino Xavier, Aakshi Chaba, and Geetika Dang

India has long been an education hub for students from its neighbourhood.[2] Besides economic benefits, India’s capacity to attract students from neighbouring countries has helped it to form closer political ties and spread its cultural influence and values to the surrounding region. India’s ability to provide quality higher education is a form of soft power that, subtly but surely, enhances India’s connectivity with its neighbours. Some of the South Asian leaders who have benefited from an education in India include Nepal’s former Prime Minister B.P. Koirala, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi and Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai. In 2018, however, only three serving world leaders had studied in India, compared to 58 in the United States.[3]

This policy brief maps the current status of India as a higher-education hub for students from South Asia. For a comparative analysis, mapping of outgoing students from the region to China has also been included.


The Terrorist Who Got Away

By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

With its snow-capped mountains and its emerald valleys, teeming with apple orchards and fields of saffron, India’s northernmost province of Jammu and Kashmir can sometimes resemble an enchanted kingdom. But for decades, this patch of ground has instead felt cursed, as the center of a bloody and seemingly never-ending conflict between India and Pakistan. Although 70 years have passed since the area became a part of India, it remains a flash point between the two nations.

This August, India moved to cement Jammu and Kashmir’s place in the Indian union by revoking the autonomy it was granted at the time of its accession. While the change was largely welcomed in Jammu, which is predominantly Hindu, it sparked anger in the overwhelmingly Muslim Kashmir valley, where a separatist movement has simmered since the late 1980s. To pre-empt large-scale protests and anticipated violence, the Indian government enforced a security clampdown across the valley, shutting down mobile-phone and Internet services and placing dozens of political leaders and activists under house arrest. Seven months on, Kashmir remains tense. Only in the last month have restrictions on internet use been lifted and mobile internet speeds restored to full capacity.

Indian officials say these tough measures were necessary not only to prevent civic unrest but also to guard against the threat of terrorism from across the border. They point to a long history of attacks inflicted upon Kashmir and other targets in India by groups based in Pakistan. Just a year ago, the Jaish-e-Muhammad — a terrorist organization led by a 51-year-old Pakistani cleric named Masood Azhar — directed a deadly car bombing against a convoy of troops in Pulwama, near Srinagar, killing at least 40 members of the Central Reserve Police Force. The attack was carried out by a 22-year-old Indian man who left his village in Kashmir a year earlier to join the ranks of the Jaish. Within an hour of the bombing, the group claimed responsibility for it on social media and circulated a video of the young attacker, dressed in fatigues and holding an assault rifle, declaring that the Jaish had thousands of soldiers like him who were ready to undertake suicide missions to free Kashmir from India.

24 March 2020

India must bridge huge gaps to tackle Covid-19

In 2003, as the virus causing the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) dominated the headlines, Satish Chandra, a former Indian Foreign Service veteran who was then deputy national security adviser, was appalled by India’s unpreparedness to deal with a pandemic threat.

As Covid-19 rages through the world and has thousands infected, India seems to have escaped the brunt so far. It managed to quickly lock down its borders and started screening passengers at international airports fairly early. With positive detections of the virus at around 173 at last count, it seems to be in control. But Satish Chandra’s initial efforts uncovered a host of issues that are yet to be addressed. His study also didn’t focus on several key issues that have a major bearing on India’s national interests.

Soon after the SARS virus became known, Satish Chandra immediately called a meeting at the National Security Council Secretariat and marshalled the available resources to put together a paper on this. This was arguably the first Indian government study on how to deal with such kind of biological threats.

While fighting COVID-19, India must reduce bankruptcies, bring cash transfers & tax reliefs


Although the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is relatively small in India, 137 as of 17 March, most of the cases have been detected in the last two weeks. Experience suggests that this number will rise. Much of the struggle is ahead of us. In this, the epidemiological, medical, economic, social, political and administrative issues are closely intertwined.

While the vaccine and drugs are being developed, the focus is on early detection by tracing and testing, isolation for those suspected or infected, and prevention by social distancing and personal discipline. 
Mobilise capabilities to avert crisis

The administrative response to COVID-19 includes several activities such as: spreading awareness, monitoring and tracking people at risk, conducting tests, to arranging and enforcing quarantines, sanitising spaces and objects, enforcing restrictions on gatherings, giving healthcare to patients, and so on. Indian governments are capable of this mission mode effort, albeit capability varies across states. We are seeing these capabilities being mobilised. 

India’s Banks Are Imploding – As Is Its Fintech Bubble

By Sarika Kumar

Hardly an opportunity goes by when India doesn’t refer to itself as the next economic superpower — and, while at it, hold up its crowd of payment apps as proof of a bustling and innovative fintech ecosystem.

While one can’t take away from its story of post-liberalization growth, any critical view has steadfastly been bludgeoned to silence by quoting GDP and a market size, powered by the country’s mammoth population.

But as of this March, India’s gloating is getting harder by the day.

COVID-19 is knocking on India’s doors, and a raging Hindu-Muslim riot left capital New Delhi paralyzed and local merchant economies gutted. Then came the slump in global oil prices and, on March 9, 2020, India’s stock markets took the sharpest nosedive in modern times.

Yet possibly nothing throws the rot in the Indian economy in clearer perspective than the serial implosion of its banks under the weight of loan fraud. And nothing makes the “superpower” bombast fall apart like the government and the central bank’s inability and unwillingness to stem this rot.

23 March 2020

India Wins Defense Deal With Armenia in Bid to Chasten Turkey

By Shishir Upadhyaya

In a major success for India’s defense sector, India reportedly outbid Russia and Poland to win a $40 million defense deal to supply four indigenously-built military radars to Armenia. These radars, known as SWATHI, were developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

Indeed, this deal is a major achievement for the “Make in India” program in the defense sector as it could open new opportunities in Europe for the sale of India’s indigenous systems, at lower costs than equivalent European systems. It could also help the Indian defense industry to make inroads into markets in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. But this deal has other strategic implications. It is clearly aimed at countering increasing hostility from Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toward India.

In September 2019, speaking at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Erdogan – who has aspirations to position himself as a strong leader in the Muslim world – raised the issue of Kashmir at the behest of Pakistan. The residents of Jammu and Kashmir have been kept “virtually under blockade,” Erdogan, told the UN General Assembly, referring to the measures taken by New Delhi to maintain law and order in Kashmir following the revocation of Article 370. Erdogan also stated that the Kashmir issue has awaited a solution for 72 years and that a solution can only be found through dialogue between India and Pakistan — a position that India has strongly rejected, maintaining that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

22 March 2020

In post-US Afghanistan, what are India’s options?

In American troops in Afghanistan. The US is keen to end its longest-ever conflict, and under the terms of a deal signed in Doha last month has said all foreign forces will quit Afghanistan within 14 months -- provided the Taliban stick to their security commitments. (AFP)

The peace deal reached between the United States and the Taliban on February 29 in Qatar notwithstanding, Afghanistan can descend into turmoil and instability yet again.

The contested election results and the parallel swearing-in ceremonies in Kabul combined with the signing of the peace pact and the beginning of another phase of insurgent violence have thrown up stark policy choices for New Delhi, testing its 'soft power' and 'middle-of-the-road' policy.

Despite its investments in Afghanistan for the past 18 years, it now appears that New Delhi remains a bystander to a rapidly changing political situation in that country.

Under the security umbrella provided by Washington, New Delhi adopted a 'soft power' approach, pledging aid and development assistance of more than US $3 billion.

21 March 2020

Takshashila Discussion Document: An Indian Approach Towards Strategic Petroleum Reserves


Energy security is a strategic imperative for India, given its strong growth aspirations. As the country does not have self-sustaining oil production, it is almost entirely dependent on imports for its energy requirements. In such a scenario, having an insurance policy, such as a strategic petroleum reserve (SPR), is in India’s national interest. SPR refers to holding oil inventories or stockpiles to help maintain national security during an energy crisis.

To ensure that India’s SPR provides oil security and mitigates risk, we propose the following policy recommendations:

For mitigating costs and improving benefits, the Union Government should have formal rules and processes to ensure oil remains available in times of emergency. This requires formalising the mobilising processes of the SPR and defining the authority which can command a withdrawal of the SPR. This also involves a mobilisation plan for oil held by petroleum refineries in India.