Sudden Covid-19 Surge, India needs a robust policy to keep Internal security Intact.

 By Vaibhav Kullashri
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The sudden surge in the Covid-19 cases across the nation has created massive turmoil among the ordinary people. In a sudden turnaround in April 2021, India has achieved an unfortunate milestone of the highest single-day spike in the Covid-19 cases worldwide since its beginning in 2019 [1]. The acute shortage of medical oxygen, life-saving drugs, burial grounds, and crematoria has put the whole system, especially the healthcare system, under severe stress. The sudden catastrophe forced India to shed its policy of not accepting foreign aid [2].

However, a month prior, everything seemed to be perfect. The cases were declining, 2021-22 economy projection was in double-digit, de-escalation with China was underway in the eastern Ladakh, vaccine diplomacy was gaining prominence, and India was emerging as “the world’s pharmacy,” having supplied 66.3 million doses of the vaccines to 95 countries around the world[3]. Even the Union Health Minister Shri Harsh Vardhan went on to the extent that “it’s an endgame of Covid-19 pandemic in India” [4].  The question generally arises, what made a sudden turnaround for India in such a quick time?

Who is Responsible?

The blame falls on all of us, who are unwilling to follow pandemic guidelines besides all the strict actions and norms. Excessive hoarding of oxygen cylinders, essential medicine, and making a profit by black-marketing and distributing at a cost above the reach of millions shows people’s ethical and moral degradation even in the time of crisis.

Besides strict government guidelines, people manage to do away with their daily chores without wearing proper masks and flaunting as if the situation is normal in the country. Further, the country’s elite, who talk about rights and privileges, failed to fulfill the primary fundamental duties. Instead of distributing the resources and utilizing their privileges for the masses, they consider fleeing the country as a better option when they need them the most [6]. Thus, we all are responsible for the situation we are trapped in and can have substantial national security implications if not addressed properly.

The challenge to the Internal Security of the Country

In the war with the Covid -19, the country is dealing on many fronts. While, the focus area shall be on public health management, boosting infrastructure, supplying logistics, and addressing food security. The internal security management shall not go unnoticed. The country is going through a callous time, and an adversary could take advantage of the prevailing situation by carrying out nefarious activities.

The sudden surge in the Covid-19 cases also enhanced the pandemic-related fake news in the online platforms. When the majority depends on online platforms for information related to the vaccine, medicine, or emergencies to effectively mitigate the crisis, the false information can intensify the crisis in the country[7]. India is very proud of its diversity. However, fake information or fake incident propagation can create religious tension, unnecessary hoarding of essential commodities, and a trigger point for unnecessary violence, killing innocent and vulnerable. The propagation of fake news about vaccines has recently made people suspicious of taking the vaccine, diminishing the efforts of the government and authorities.

The police personnel, including the Central Armed Police Forces, have risen to the challenges despite minuscule resources and little training to handle pandemic-like situation. However, the continuous working environment, job stress, emotional disturbance, social stigma, violence against the police personnel and fear of Covid-19 infection is leading to mental stress and trauma among the police personnel[8]. This deadly second Covid-19 wave has penetrated the small towns and rural areas [9]. The local police presence is minimal in rural areas and small towns and the same can be an easy target of radicalized and desperate youth. The police are the first line of enforcing law and order and, in a challenging time like this, the police need full support from the political fraternity and ordinary people.

Further, a continuous scuffle between the central and various state governments[10] has exposed the weak link in the country’s federal structure. This unnecessary scuffle can inherit the feeling of alienation among the masses about the people belonging to other states. While health remains a state subject, infectious disease control is in the concurrent list requiring the collective approach of both central and state government. The center shall focus on resource support and providing leadership while the states can distribute the available resources in the best possible manner. The future of the Covid-19 pandemic in India largely depends on how well it manages its center state relations.

Another challenge is the economic slowdown, various protest and job loss. The pandemic situation and its possible outcomes like rising unemployment and economic disparity will further fuel the dissent and polarize the masses. Recent protests have also added to the internal security challenges, these protests and mobilization of people is happening when the country’s social and political system is facing the wrath of the pandemic and external aggression from China.

Policy recommendation

The nation is going through a tough time. However, history is filled with examples where we have defeated the evilest of enemies as a collective power. Though travel restriction, multiple tests, quarantine, availability of continuous oxygen, essential medicine, and vaccine supply remain the primary option to stop spreading of the virus. The government shall also focus on limiting the expansion of polarisation and fissure in society. Less focus may cost India adversely in the after pandemic situation.

First, Center-State shall shed their political narratives and stop focusing on gaining political power. The efforts shall be made to utilize the available resource collectively. The clarity of goal and objective is the key to stopping the coronavirus and preventing loss of valuable lives. The state shall estimate the possible requirement of the bed, oxygen cylinder, ventilators, and center shall infuse the resource to meet the requirement. Institutions like schools, colleges, and stadiums can be converted into makeshift hospitals. Further, to decrease the workload on doctors, the final year student of medical and nursing college be used to monitor the patient with mild symptoms. Also, it shall be advised and thoroughly advertised to the general public that they should not panic and hoard the medicine and oxygen cylinder unnecessarily.

Second, to ensure the smooth supply chain of the essential medical supply, the government shall not hesitate to use armed forces. The Armed forces are well equipped with crisis management skills and can help in fixing the supply chain. Vaccination drive is the best way to solve the pandemic of this nature, and armed forces can play a significant role in doing so. The center shall ensure the easy availability of the vaccine while delivery shall be in the line of war footing under the control of armed forces, including paramilitary forces and state police. It will support the underequipped state police, provide leadership and boost their morale for pushing themself further.

Third, the propagation of fake news can be restricted by developing a verified online platform to coordinate the private media partners. The official regional channel can play a significant role in displaying the correct status of essential commodities and can restrict the propagation of fake news. Strict laws shall be enacted in consultation with the state to stop propagating fake news in the media. Further, a common online platform needs to show the updated statistics, and transparency is the key.

Fourth, restricting the radicalization of the youth population.  Large numbers of daily wage workers migrating to their village, can be employed under a government scheme to build health infrastructure. Doing this will boost health infrastructure in remote areas and keep the radicalization of youth in check.

Conclusion

The current pandemic is one of the biggest challenges that India faced in recent history. In this hour of crisis,  managing the resource is essential. The policymaker has a dual role to play—first, time-bound management and supply of essential medical equipment and life-saving drugs. Furthermore, Second, preventing the spillover of the pandemic crisis into internal security challenges. Leadership and unity will play a key role.

Endnotes:

  1. The Wire Staff (2021), With Over 3.15 New COVID-19 Cases in 24 Hours, India Creates a Global Records, The Wire, 22 April 2021. Available at https://thewire.in/health/covid-19-india-record-new-cases-deaths-april-22, accessed on 24 April 2021.
  2. Money Control News (2021)“Covid-19: India begins accepting foreign aid for the first time in 16 years”, Money Control, 29 April 2021. Available at https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/covid-19-india-begins-accepting-foreign-aid-for-the-first-time-in-16-years-6830351.html/amp, accessed on 29 April 2021.
  3. Ministry of External Affairs (2021), Covid-19 Update. Available at https://www.mea.gov.in/vaccine-supply.htm, accessed on 03 May 2021.
  4. Press Trust of India (2021), “We are in the endgame of Covid-19 pandemic in India: Health Minister Harsh Vardhan”, 07 March 2021. Available at https://www.indiatoday.in/coronavirus-outbreak/story/we-are-in-the-endgame-of-covid-19-pandemic-in-india-vardhan-1776697-2021-03-07, accessed on 25 April 2021.
  5. Anuradha Nagaraj, Roli Srivastava (2021), “FEATURE: For India’s poor, lockdown policing adds to pandemic hardship”, 20 April 2021. Available at https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-india-police-idUSL4N2M12O8, accessed on 24 April 2021.
  6. Sophia Ankel, “India’s rich are fleeing on private jets as the country sets new global coronavirus records’ ‘, 25 April 2021. Available at https://www.businessinsider.co.za/super-rich-fleeing-india-country-records-new-daily-global-record-2021-4, accessed on 29 April 2021.
  7. Al-Zaman (2021), “Covid-19-Related Social Media Fake News In India”, Journalism  and Media, 16 March 2021. Available at https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.mdpi.com/2673-5172/2/1/7/pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiXkqPh7qzwAhWm4XMBHdrWBZgQFjADegQIDRAC&usg=AOvVaw1yj9VJT8Vi7BKhONUKiFc7, accessed on 01 May 2021.
  8. Pawan Arun Khadse, Guru S. Gowda, Sundarnag Ganjekar, Geetha Desai, Pratima Murthy (2020), “Mental Health Impact of Covid-19 on Police Personnel in India”, 06 November 2020. Available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0253717620963345, accessed on 29 April 2021.
  9. Vikash Pandey & Shadab Nazmi (2021), “India Covid-19: Deadly second wave spreads from cities to small towns”, BBC News, 29 April 2021. Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-56913047, accessed on 04 May 2021.
  10. Seshadri Chari (2021), “Vaccine maitri isn’t India’s problem. Centre-State scuffle during a Covid surge is”, The Print, 16 April 2021. Available at https://theprint.in/opinion/vaccine-maitri-isnt-india-problem-centre-state-scuffle-during-a-covid-surge-is/640520/, accessed on 25 April 2021.