The proactive role played by the chief ministers of opposition-ruled Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Odisha, etc., in this time of national crisis proves that the federal structure is alive and kicking in India.
The states have become equal partners with the Centre in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, going all out to ensure the implementation of the nationwide lockdown and providing relief to the poorest of the poor who have been the worst hit by the prolonged curfew.
With the Centre announcing a financial package to help out the urban and rural poor, the states have to be entrusted with its implementation. This calls for greater coordination and constant cooperation. The country has to be in a state of preparedness as coronavirus cases are projected to rise exponentially and the death toll is also expected to increase substantially.
The healthcare system nationwide leaves much to be desired and in some states is in an absolute shambles. Isolation wards, ICU facilities, ventilators are all in short supply and the country needs to overcome these shortfalls to deal with the pandemic.
Best practices in healthcare from states like Kerala which has led the way in dealing with infectious diseases, as in handling the Nipah outbreak earlier, need to be adopted nationwide. Testing facilities have to be ramped up and the Centre and states must jointly identify who needs to be tested.
A nationwide database can ensure contact tracing and track those who have a history of foreign travel. Since the Indian Council of Medical Research is the nodal body for Covid-19 testing, it must ensure that states are being provided with adequate testing kits. This is not a time for political grandstanding or one-upmanship and thankfully the Opposition has shown maturity in largely welcoming the Centre’s financial package to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak, though the Left has termed it inadequate.
Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fiercest critics, have offered their fullest support to the government in this time of crisis. Adversarial politics has no role during this unprecedented disaster, everyone has to do their bit to ensure the success of the lockdown to slow down or mitigate the impact of a disease that has already ravaged the developed world.
The Centre and the states have to work overtime to ensure that essential supplies reach all the people so that they are not unduly inconvenienced. In a much needed reprieve, the last few days have seen a stop to the constant war of words between the government and Opposition.
However, it is equally important that any shortcomings in the government’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak are constructively spotlighted by the Opposition and the media. It has never been more important than now to have a vigilant media that offers the unvarnished truth to the people in lockdown even as it refrains from fearmongering.