Unlocking India 2.0
The initial lockdown helped India scramble through pressures that its healthcare industry would have faced like a storm. But post lockdown India is witnessing the predicted rise in cases. Undoubtedly, only new legislation will help contain COVID-19 cases.
Amid the capricious decisions of unilateralism, micro-management, and federalism, the country went through a whirlwind of regulations, orders, and guidelines. Our inadequacy in terms of laws, to deal with such an outbreak, were brutally made bare. When public health is a matter of the state and not a central or concurrent subject, the challenges across a diverse geography and various echelons of the economic workforce become even more complicated.
The Epidemic Disease Act of 1897 is aptly termed the ‘Colonial-era’ Act. It doesn’t even define dangerous epidemic disease or the duties of the government in prevention and control. Invoking Section 2 of the Act seemed the only option to empower the Centre to take charge. The only other hand grenade in our arsenal was the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in the name of something legal to face an epidemic.
Nevertheless, if we have employed these antediluvian laws, then there is no harm in implementing a mobilising strategy that is as old as the Census. A stellar example is the Odisha Government’s recent announcement about its door-to-door survey to detect Covid-19 cases.
If we are scouting global markets for effective strategies and appropriate technology then we are aware that legislation must also take into account the inflating demands of medical infrastructure across the geography of the country. While we are lauding Germany’s efforts of producing ventilators and medical equipment through car manufacturing companies, right here in Andhra Pradesh the state road transport buses are mobile markets and medical labs. A little goes a long way. A law could put at disposal available infrastructure from the hospitality or entertainment sector, and even mobilise workers from different industries through basic fast-tracked training in safety measures and handling medical equipment. Effective legislation could enable us to implement South Korea’s model of ‘trace, test and treat strategy’, instead of just appreciating it. If they did not use lockdowns that hampered their economy, a strict law could do wonders for us. The legislation could also contemplate a dedicated body to deal with pandemic related measures. If Covid-19 has brought about adherence to new normals in many aspects of our lives; better legislation will only make certain a collaborative effort in extinguishing the pandemic.
Effective protocol to tackle public health crisis needs to be thoroughly revamped through appropriate revision of laws by the Parliament. Since the focus is on minimising mortality, comprehensive health epidemic legislation will be required to set forth specifics of various provisions. The Swiss Federal Council Ordinance is one such example. If the government has to contain this pandemic and ensure basic civil rights, it will need firm legislation which upholds both sides.