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Mainstream, VOL LX No 15, New Delhi, April 2, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, April 2, 2022

Friday 1 April 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, April 2, 2022

According to the World Health Organization there is a new wave of cases of Covid-19 of the now dominant BA.2 subvariant of the virus, spiking in South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Canada, China, Ireland, New Zeeland. This is happening at a time when in many regions of the world including in India the mandatory public health & containment measures and social restrictions (such as wearing of masks, quarantine) are being lifted in public places and in transport systems and International travel is opening up. While these are a welcome relief from socially disruptive health measures, we should not forget that the pandemic is still very much around and we should not be letting our guard down. Also, we would do well to look back and do stock-taking on the governance during the pandemic. The Disaster Management Act, which was deployed as a key administrative vehicle by the Government of India for a period of two years to oversee the Covid response, will now stop being used from April 1, 2022. There has been insufficient discussion on the workings of the Disaster Management Act and whether the entities responsible under the provisions of the act were equipped to handle questions like movement of migrant workers, economic disruption faced by daily wagers, food availability, organising relief camps, complaints of discrimination by authorities, distribution of minimum relief etc. There hasn’t been much needed public review of our health care infrastructure. The coronavirus crisis had brought India’s public health system to its knees, with hospitals running out of beds, and people facing scarcities of life-saving oxygen or essential medical supplies during the second phase of the pandemic. Despite a major Pandemic in the past two years, public health has not become a public issue and majority of Indians do not have health insurance cover and the ability to pay for increasingly expensive health-care (prices of nearly 800 drugs on the National List of Essential Medicines, which are used to treat the majority of common ailments, will go up by 10.7 per cent starting April 1). We hope all major political parties, trade unions and other social movements will wake up to the need for including public health issues in their programmes.

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The highhanded deportation on March 24, 2022 of the British Scholar Filippo Osella from Kerala is a matter of great concern among scholars abroad. Deporting a man who has repeatedly visited India and who had a valid visa to attend a seminar is shocking and questions must be asked about the legality of such an action and need for compensation to the damages caused to the foreign visitor.

April 2, 2022 – HK

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