“It’s great to see India’s leadership in scientific innovation and vaccine manufacturing capability as the world works to end the COVID-19 pandemic”, is a statement by Bill Gates which lies in stark contrast to the sentiments espoused by the pseudo-intellectual elite in India, who find it in themselves to only shine light on the ugly rather than building on the strengths that have been in clear display. As the country battles unprecedented rise in the number of COVID cases in the country, the efforts of the government in handling the crisis have been nothing short of herculean.
As an active Member of Parliament and a practicing Doctor, this past year in the midst of the raging pandemic has been a challenging time in terms of balancing these two roles. Even during these trying times, I have been able to balance my responsibility as a medical professional and a public representative thanks to the proactive role of the Central and the State Governments in managing the crisis.
Right from the start, the decisiveness of the government in ensuring the reduction in the spread of the corona virus has been pretty evident. Be it it’s, investments in repurposing the government buildings like schools and others like hotels into isolation centres for the inflicted, the government has shown tremendous foresight in its handling of the pandemic. That the Narendra Modi government has also been able to systematically improve its capacities in the development of PPE kits, testing equipment, ventilators and other related accoutrement shows fruits that were borne of the strategic direction that had been laid early on by the government.
Being part of the decision making body in Assam, it has been a source of great pride for me to witness the degree of success that the state has had in managing the crisis. From a proactive approach to management of the crisis, 8 new Oxygen Plants in the state have been created following the first wave of the pandemic. I am also proud to state that we have been able to facilitate the development of oxygen plants in Bhutan as well, at the completion of which, Assam is set to receive 50 MT of oxygen from Bhutan. Medical colleges across the state have been gearing up to supply oxygen. The management model displayed in Assam is such that patients are being flown in from Delhi to Guwahati as the dearth of oxygen and ICU beds in hospitals at the national capital increases.
The social messaging, the structural initiatives and the impeccable leadership helped an underprepared nation to ride the first wave of the virus with relatively lower casualty than even the more developed countries. The financial woes that the country went through following the COVID related pandemic in 2020 were also addressed by the current government through the announcement of the ₹ 20 trillion which goes mostly unremarked. Earlier in 2020, the Finance Minister made an announcement of several packages of ₹1.70 lakh crore for the people living in poverty. All these packages fall under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana where 19.86 crore women across the nation with Jan Dhan account would receive ₹500 each. 8 crore poor families were provided with free LPG cylinders for three months and senior citizens would be provided with ₹1000as a way to mitigate the burden for the COVID pandemic induced lockdowns imposed in March 2020. For the returnee migrant workers ₹50,000 crore were disbursed through Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan.
In recognition and dutiful performance of my role as a public representative and a standing member of the Ministry of External Affairs, I have been able to contribute towards the homecoming of the stranded NRIs back to India. Our focus has not been just to bring our constituents home safely, but also to allow them healthy lives in the country. The Government, in its proactive approach has ensured that the indigenously developed Covaxin and the foreign vaccines like Sputnik V and Covishield, have also been rolled out and tested in recognition of the need for developing manufacturing capability in house. To boost the need arising out of the recent uptick in cases in the whole country, the government has also fast-tracked the approval for other variants as well which have been approved regulators in the US, the UK, European Union and Japan has also begun. More recently, orders have been sanctioned to start the production of the Remdesivir vaccine, to be produced by Sun Pharmaceuticals at their Palashbari Plant in Assam, which will have the capacity to produce 80K vials per week. This is a major achievement, that being a representative from Assam I can be proud of. In addition to that, according to the Government reports, Assam has already received a stock of 2 lakh vaccines with more set to arrive from the 1st of May.
India and Indian leadership at the government have also been cognisant of their role in the community of nations. Right from the start, it has played its part as a responsible nation being the leading manufacturers of the Hydroxychloroquine, which was then believed to be a viable treatment for the corona virus infection. Even following that, in terms of export of PPEs and other relevant medical equipment, the country’s leadership has never shied away from its responsibilities in the global arena. In terms of collaboration with regards to the vaccine development as well, the country always kept its arms and options open.
In conclusion, I would be remiss if I were to ignore the contribution of the civil society during this crisis. From my personal experience in my constituency of Silchar, I can proudly cite the example of the Silchar Boys group who took it upon themselves to safely cremate the remains of patients who perished under the effect of COVID. There are certainly many more, that slips my recollection that equally deserve of similar adulation. The fact that I have been able to participate in, contribute towards and inspire such acts of selflessness is the epitome of success as a public personality. ,I Dr. Rajdeep Roy, hope that the hardships that we as a people are having to go through would bear sweeter fruit at the other end and help to bring us together as a community of people.