COVID-19: Is our Public Health System Battle Ready?

COVID-19: Is our Public Health System Battle Ready?

COVID-19: Is our Public Health System Battle Ready?


COVID-19 has exposed and amplified the class and caste-based inequality and injustice that exists in our country. Efforts by the Union and State governments to curb the spread of COVID-19, by shutting down the economy, has adversely impacted the poorest sections of the population who are largely involved with the informal sector; paradoxically, with the resumption of economic activity, these people will again be severely affected. While the former is an outcome of the economic crisis, the latter has much to do with the poor public health system in India. Thus, the twin crises will have a major impact on the lives and livelihood options of the poor citizenry.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, at the moment, have been about 10,000 on an average, on a daily basis. It is the case after the nationwide lockdown was lifted. Since more than 80% of cases are asymptomatic, and only 5 per cent of infected cases are severe and require hospitalisation, one can assume that around 500 new beds are required, every day, to admit COVID patients – let alone for other health issues for which hospitalisation is required. For the last two months, other health issues have been neglected completely, as the government issued a circular asking for postponement of other treatments. This is not sustainable in the long run though, as public hospitals are going to experience an uncontrollable upsurge in demand for in-patient care in no time.

Dilapidated Condition of the Public Health System

The public health system is in a dilapidated condition and public expenditure on health has been very poor, across states. Table 1 shows the neglect of the Indian state in creating human resources and physical infrastructure in health care. The table clearly shows that the three southern states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, have outperformed the rest in creating infrastructure—human and physical—for health care. However, same cannot be claimed in terms of bed – population ratios for those states.

Table 1: Human resources and physical infrastructure in the health sector, across major states, 2017

Regions/states Population-Doctor ratio (population covered by a doctor) Population- Government hospital bed ratio (population to be covered by 1 bed)
     
Southern region    
Andhra Pradesh 906 3939
Karnataka 563 971
Kerala 581 908
Tamil Nadu 596 1030
Eastern region    
Assam 1461 2029
Bihar 2987 10408
Jharkhand 6586 3520
Odisha 2041 2482
West Bengal 1390 1274
Northern region    
Haryana 5035 2561
Punjab 627 1690
Uttarakhand 1377 1344
Uttar Pradesh 2925 2975
Western region    
Chhattisgarh 3358 3129
Gujarat 1020 3384
Madhya Pradesh 2164 2656
Maharashtra 719 2423
Rajasthan 1812 1671

Source: National Health Profile, 2019

The limited reach of the state in providing health care has manifested itself in the dominance of the private sector. Rates of both in-patient and out-patient care at private health facilities are higher than those of public health facilities, in most of the major states (Figures 1 and 2). Due to unavailability of certain services, poor quality of services and long waiting times, which can be indicative of a shortfall of health professionals, people choose to go to private providers and are left with no choice but to incur higher expenses. More recent evidences regarding treatment of COVID-19 patients suggest that the scenario has remained unchanged.

Note: 1. Health care provided by charitable institutions/trust/NGO run hospitals has not been considered.

2. Private hospital for out-patient care includes services provided by private doctors/in-private clinic

Source: NSSO, Key Indicators of Social Consumption in India, 2018

figure 2

Note: 1. Health care provided by charitable institutions/trust/NGO run hospitals has not been considered.

Source: NSSO, Key Indicators of Social Consumption in India, 2018

Per capita expenditures incurred by the state governments on health care, for most of the major states, has been lower than the national average of Rs 1,739. This implies that while India has been noted for an inadequate resource allocation for health care, performances of the state governments has been below par, with Kerala and Uttarakhand being exceptions. Typically, the worst performing states in terms of public intervention in health care, were also noted for higher out of pocket expenditure (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Per-capita public and out of pocket expenditure on health (in Rs)

figure 3

Note: 1. Expenditures are estimated in 2011-12 prices.

2. Population of states have been projected assuming constant compound annual growth rate of the previous decade

Source: RBI database, Census of India database, Economic Survey of India, National Health Accounts

Poor bear the Economic Burden disproportionately

Due to high out-of-pocket expenditure, the poorest in India cannot afford to avail health care services, which is reflected in the lower hospitalisation rate among these sections, as compared to their richer counterparts. This implies that with rapid commodification of health care, in which the role of the public sector has been substantially reduced, the poorest in India did not get adequate access to health care (Table 2).

Table 2: Share of hospitalisation cases among poorest and richest sections of the households in India (in per cent)

table pblic hlt

Source: NSSO Report—Key Indicators of Social Consumption in India, Health, 2018

Nonetheless, a small section among the poorest, that avails in-patient care, ends up sharing a higher burden than their richer counterparts. In other words, the limited reach of the public health care system has led to the economic impoverishment of the poorest sections of the population in India. The burden of expenditure on health care, estimated as a share of the total consumption expenditure, has been higher in 15 (out of 18) major states in India for the poorest sections of households as compared to their richer counterparts (Table 3).

State/UT Lowest 20 per cent of the households Top 20 per cent of the households State/UT Lowest 20 per cent of the households Top 20 per cent of the households
Andhra Pradesh 10.2 5.9 Madhya Pradesh 7.9 3.7
Assam 4.5 6 Maharashtra 11.5 5.6
Bihar 5.1 11.7 Odisha 6.5 4.3
Chhattisgarh 8.2 3.4 Punjab 12.7 5.1
Gujarat 6.2 3.9 Rajasthan 8.1 8.1
Haryana 5.3 4.9 Tamil Nadu 13.8 10.4
Jharkhand 4.4 5.7 Uttar Pradesh 8.4 7.9
Karnataka 9.5 5.8 Uttarakhand 9.5 5.6
Kerala 15.2 8.3 West Bengal 10 6

Source: Estimated from the unit level data of the NSSO

Among the major states, shares of the poorest were lesser than those of the richest households in Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam. This might seem to be a positive feature, since it shows a lower burden on the poorest sections of the population. However, these states were also noted for having the lowest hospitalisation rates among the major states in India. Thus, the lesser burden of expenditure on health care of the poor, as compared to richer households in these states, may not reflect desirable outcomes for the poorest sections of the population, since many among them may not want to get admitted to hospitals to avoid expenses. According to the NSSO survey (2018), hospitalisation rates in these states were 1.2 (Bihar), 1.4 (Jharkhand) and 1 (Assam), much lower than the national average (2.9).

Conclusions

It is now amply clear that the poorest sections in India have been hit hard by the pandemic. Many among them have lost jobs due to the economic crisis; now, when the economy has re-opened, a large number among them is staring at the possibility of losing lives due to the health crisis. A robust public health care system could have provided relief to the poorest, by reducing hardships associated with an impending health crisis. However, the study shows that the reach of the government in health care, across states, is limited, which has made these sections dependent on the private sector, that has led to economic impoverishment.

India, perhaps now more than ever, badly needs a strong health care system under the government, to save itself from a humanitarian disaster. To that end, the allocation of a greater quantity of resources by the state governments, which are primarily responsible for health care, is crucial. With the closing down of economic activities in the first quarter of financial year 2020-21, against a backdrop of the slowing down of the growth rate, the resource mobilisation of state governments was adversely affected. In this context, it is important to initiate tax reforms to grant greater autonomy to state governments in mobilising resources, to increase devolution of resources by the Union Government to the states, thus enabling state governments to increase development expenditure by relaxing orthodox fiscal guidelines.

Dr. Shantanu D. Roy is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Department of Policy Studies, TERI University. Mampi Bose is a policy analyst at the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability.

The views are personal.



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Dear Pradhan Sevak, now is Time For Action, Not Inanities

Dear Pradhan Sevak, now is Time For Action, Not Inanities


Representational image. | Image Courtesy: Free Press Journal

Dear Pradhan Sevak,

I start with a disclosure: I have never heard your Mann ki Baat—not once. Nor do I intend to in future. I also do not normally listen to your pronouncements on TV. Because I know they are mere braggadocio, amounting to nothing—words and promises that barely ever translate into action. But, for a change, I read your letter to fellow Indians.

I read it for I was curious. I thought you would surely and exclusively dwell on the most searing issue the nation is grappling with, which is growing exponentially. I thought your letter would reflect your thoughts on it and convey your strategies to contain and manage this beast, as also reimagine life beyond it. But, sadly, I found nothing of the sort in your letter.

It was vain and vapid, filled with platitudes and bromides: “Your affection, blessings and active participation have given me fresh energy and inspiration,” you wrote. People have “showcased the collective strength of democracy”, you insisted. You asserted that this strength has become an example before the entire world.

More of your clichéd refrains were repeated times without number: “From 2014 to 2019, India’s stature rose significantly. The dignity of the poor was enhanced…” The self-adulation continued: “In the last five years the nation saw how the administrative apparatus broke itself free of status quo and from the swamp of corruption as well as mis-governance.”

I was not surprised by your reference to “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas…” or “Ek Bharat…Shreshta Bharat”, both alliterations you deploy to convey meaning in a typically Orwellian streak. Nor was I surprised by the references to Article 370 (in the name of national unity and integrity of course) or the happy outcome of the age-old duelling over the Ram mandir and triple talaq, not to forget masking the citizenship law as a sign of Indian compassion against a “barbaric practice”. A laundry list of achievements!

Did I view the affirmation that “empowering the poor, farmers, women and youth has remained our priority” also as part of the same Orwellspeak? Perhaps.

I allude to the following oft-quoted refrain from George Orwell’s 1984:

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.”

Orwell also came to mind after you claimed that your government’s policies have led India to bridge the gulf between urban and rural lives. I smirked indulgently on reading this.

I owe it to you to explain why my head was so full of Orwell when I read your piece. Because even all the parallels listed so far still do not fully reflect the dystopia we are living in.

But first, your best, which you reserved in your letter for coronavirus. On the virus you exceeded my worst Orwellian phantom-building fantasies! Let me quote your prognosis in your own words:

Many feared that India would become a problem for the world when Corona hits India. But today…you have transformed the way the world looks at us. You have proven that the collective strength and potential of Indians is unparalleled compared even to the powerful and prosperous countries of the world… Be it clapping and lighting a lamp to the honouring of Corona Warriors by India’s armed forces, Janta curfew or by faithful adherence to rules during the nationwide lockdown, on every occasion you have shown that Ek Bharat is the guarantee for Shreshta Bharat.”

As is your wont, and as a piece of a continuing story, you preferred to win brownie points, and not just by counting the eggs that were unhatched (far from it, for even the chickens had not arrived home to be counted.) But look at the nation today; wallowing in the depths of the corona pandemic. Look at the decrepit healthcare, hobbled and trundling down the slope. And in their midst, these pyrrhic phantasmal averments!

The truth is that we did not prepare to face Covid-19. Ever since the first case was detected on January 30 in Thrissur, Kerala, and two more on February 2 and 3, we ought to have moved quickly to a whole new gear. China’s new hospital, built in a record 9 or 10 days and opened on 3 February had telegraphed the gravity of the virus.

Look at how New Zealand and Iceland prepared themselves. Iceland had its first Covid-19 case almost a month after ours, but their Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management had kept itself in readiness for the eventuality to plunge ahead. Tracking was at the heart of the matter.

Elizabeth Kolbert elaborates in a bracingly honest piece, How Iceland Beat the Coronavirus, published in The New Yorker on June 1: “The first case was followed by three more cases, then by six, and then by an onslaught. By mid-March, confirmed Covid cases in Iceland were increasing at a rate of sixty, seventy, even a hundred a day. As a proportion of the country’s population, this was far faster than the rate at which cases in the United States were growing. The number of people the tracing team was tracking down, meanwhile, was rising even more quickly. An infected person might have been near five other people, or fifty-six, or more. One young woman was so active before she tested positive—going to classes, rehearsing a play, attending choir practice—that her contacts numbered close to two hundred. All were sent into quarantine.”

The country did not just flatten the curve. It bent it to near elimination. As did New Zealand. They have leaders. They showed leadership when it mattered. Testing, tracing, isolating was always their mantra. Add to this the fact that in Iceland the whole task was run by the public health authorities. It can be argued that it was easy for a country like Iceland, with a population of 3.65 lakh, to test, trace and quarantine people. Yet the point is not the number, but the methodology. If anything, more numbers require more tests, more tracing, and more isolation.

The methodology and processes are the same, as is the planning to swing into action fast, in the here and now. We did nothing of the kind. Closer home, right in our midst, Kerala and Chhattisgarh’s governments managed to contain the spike, but instead of learning from them, we wasted the whole of February sedulously preparing for Namaste Trump as a reparative gesture for Howdy Modi. We played to his base egotistic monomaniacal narcissistic instinct, which is now magnifying and ringing out aloud across the United States, and in several other countries, as more and more people stand up to fight Trumps reprehensible and dumb words and actions in this George Floyd moment. (Ironically, we too had our moments of darkness, with diya jalao at 9 pm for 9 minutes; such a colossal waste of money and time!)

But in February we in India found the time to let loose a certain junior minister of finance to play the slogan provocateur with his infamous “Desh ke gaddaron ko…” call, and others played along to pour gasoline on the polarised fire. No advance thinking, no red-hot preparation, no planning—it’s no wonder we are where we are today.

We are paying with soaring fatalities—and many are dying without hospital admission.

But we continue with the bluster:

Due to the global pandemic this is certainly a time of crisis but for us Indians this is also a time for a firm resolve.

We must always remember that the present and future of 130 crore Indians will never be dictated by an adversity.

We will decide our present and our future.

We will move ahead on the path of progress and victory will be ours.”

How long are we to ride the coattails of false promises, theatrics, egotism and outright charade? It is as though the deaths and suffering did not matter. As though the migrant’s lives did not matter!

The truth is that it is an abject failure of the government to act adequately and on time to contain and stave off the blight. The suddenly clamped lockdown with no advance planning exacerbated the spread. Ironically, un-lockdown—the ongoing sequel to the ill-planned lockdown—also seems ill-timed. It has kicked in just as we climb up the Corona mountain to reach the summit.

But people have wised up. The long walks of the migrants will not have an eclipsing effect on the mind.

There are writings on the wall. Today the United States is awash with Black Lives Matter. The day is not far off when India too will be awash with PMLM—Poor and Muslims Lives Matter. These are transformational times, demanding change in approach and to build back better in future, not with high falutin paeans but with substantive and scientific management.

Cocooned in your official fortress, hermetically shuttered, far from the pulse and hubbub of quotidian toings and froings of life, watching virtual life play out by obsequious flunkeys and sundering TV anchors always at the ready to sing your praises, the poor citizens who had hitched their lives to your leadership are paying with their dear lives.

Do I then read again in putative Orwellspeak that your “Atmanirbhar Bharat” is your uniquely nuanced way to convey to citizens to rely on themselves, not on the government, to save their lives?

I don’t know. Nor do others.

The author is a former civil servant. The views are personal.



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Casual and Explicit: Ground Reality of Racism in IPL and

Casual and Explicit: Ground Reality of Racism in IPL and


The ongoing  #BlackLivesMatter protest has instigated many to come out and share stories of their subjection to racism and now it has hit the Indian Premier League (IPL). Darren Sammy, World Cup winning skipper from the West Indies, who is also a part of the SunRisers Hyderabad franchise, spoke about certain actions by his teammates that could have racist implications though he would like to believe otherwise. In this episode of 5.75 Ounces, Arjun Pandit, Nikhil Naz, Vaibhav Raghunandan and Siddhanth Aney discuss in-depth about racism in sport and in society in general (with video from Windies legend Michael Holding’s in depth talk on the matter with Naz on Instagram).



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COVID-19: More than One Lakh Cases in Maharashtra, Mumbai

COVID-19: More than One Lakh Cases in Maharashtra, Mumbai


Representational image. | Image Courtesy: Scroll.in

With the addition of 3,493 COVID-19 cases on Friday, June 12, the state of Maharashtra crossed the one lakh mark. The total number of cases of those affected by the novel coronavirus in the state, are 1,01,141, out of which 47,796 patients have recovered so far. A total of 3,717 patients have succumbed to the virus so far, and the fatality rate is 3.7%. Maharashtra currently has the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the country, and is far ahead of the number of patients in Tamil Nadu, the state which has the second-highest number with 40,698 cases.

The first patient in the state was found on March 9, in Pune. The next day, two patients were found in Mumbai. All of them had travelled to Dubai as tourists. The state crossed the one thousand mark on April 7; there were 10,000 patients on April 28. By May 9, the number had doubled, and there were 65,168 COVID-19 patients in Maharashtra by May 30. Since then, the number has increased by almost 35,000.

The total number of deaths in Maharashtra stood at 3,717 till June 12. Out of those patients, 2,044 died in Mumbai. The state’s fatality rate, at 3.7%, is better as compared to other states. Maharashtra has conducted 6,24,977 tests as of now, and the rate of positive cases is at 16.18%. The capital city of Mumbai has conducted 2,47,696 out of those, with the rate of positive cases at 22.28%.

As of now, 47,796 patients have cured and discharged; 25,152 such cases are from Mumbai. The recovery rate from COVID-19 in Maharashtra is at 47.25% and Mumbai has a recovery rate of 45.35%. In the last week, the state has recorded 20,912 cases and 868 deaths, at a daily average of 124 deaths and 2,987 cases. The numbers are worrying.

A serious concern about the numbers is that the state has not conducted tests according to its capacity. Maharashtra has 97 labs at the moment, a number much higher as compared to any other state. Out of those, 57 are government-run labs and the remaining 40 are private. The state’s daily testing capacity stands at 25,000. However, the highest number of tests conducted in the state were 15,998, on June 10.

Medical experts and the World Health Organisation has said that aggressive testing is the only way forward, and the fact that the state is conducting a lesser number of tests than its capacity, has resulted in scrutiny. Medical Education Minister, Amit Deshmukh, has said that it is part of government strategy.

We need to understand that random testing could give us a false picture of a fall in the rate of those testing positive for COVID-19. There could be false negatives; this needs to be avoided. As of this moment, we are seeing 19 positive samples out of 100, in private labs, and the corresponding number in government labs is 19.5%. This (strategy) has been decided by senior epidemiologists in consultation with the state government,” said Deshmukh, adding that the strategy would help in more focused testing and help in finding patients better.

Mumbai has posed a serious challenge for the state government. With the monsoon set to arrive in the city this weekend, the situation is expected to become more complicated. There is a serious concern among officials that Mumbai may end up with one lakh patients by the end of June. The Commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, I.S. Chahal, said on Friday that the administration is working on a plan to handle that many patients by June 30. “I will not say that the number of patients in the city will be one lakh by the end of June. However, we are increasing capacity to handle one lakh patients by the end of the month. According to our estimates, there could be 60,000 COVID-19 patients in that scenario, and we will have to treat them,” said Chahal.

The lockdown has been partially lifted in Maharashtra, and Mumbai has been returning to normalcy as well. There was a rumour doing the rounds on Friday that the increase in the number of patients may force the state government to bring in a lockdown again. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray immediately clarified that there was no such proposal on the table and that the state would not go in for another lockdown. He, however, appealed to people to take care of themselves and follow guidelines strictly.

The end of the lockdown and the resumption of the bus service, especially, has given rise to fears that it could result in the spread of the novel coronavirus further. Officials in the state’s health department said that the number could rise exponentially between June 25 and July 5. “This is our assumption. The state’s ratio of positive patients, who are found on a daily basis, could go up then,” a senior official told NewsClick.



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After CDV Deaths, Why no Translocation of Asiatic Lions?

After CDV Deaths, Why no Translocation of Asiatic Lions?


The mortality of some 92 Asiatic lions in the Gir forest region has eclipsed the positive news Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared with the world about the increase in their population on Wednesday.

“Population of the majestic Asiatic Lion, living in Gujarat’s Gir Forest, is up by almost 29%. Geographically, distribution area is up by 36%,” he tweeted.

According to Gir wildlife authorities , the population of Asiatic lions has increased from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020. Similarly, the distribution area of lions in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, where Gir is situated, has also increased from 22,000 sq km to 30,000 sq km.

However, a news report has raised questions on the veracity of this population result, calling the Block Count Method or Direct Beat Verification a 100-year old archaic methodology which lacks the scrutiny of contemporary science.

Bhushan Pandya, member of the state wildlife board and renowned wildlife photographer, said that the lion population estimation was conducted in 24 hours starting at 2 pm on June 5, through lion sightings near water sources or spotting the lion pride through radio collar signals in each forest beat of about 200-250 sq km.

He said that a monthly exercise, also known as Poonam (full moon) Avlokan (Count) is conducted during the day and at night, in the light of the full moon.

The five-yearly count is done using the same method, but it stretches over two days with the involvement of around 2,000 members, comprising the forest team, people from NGOs, scientists and other experts. This year, many people other than the forest staff could not join, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

As per another report, 92 Asiatic lions have died in Gujarat’s Asiatic Lion Landscape (ALL) since January 2020, according to a Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) committee report. ALL includes Gir National Park and Sanctuary and covers eight districts of Gujarat, including Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Porbandar, Rajkot, Gir-Somnath, Botad and Jamnagar, according to the 14th Lion Population Estimation Report 2015.“Some lions have died of in-fighting and many have died of the canine distemper virus (CDV). At the Jasadhar rescue centre, the two lions shown to the committee were suffering from CDV.

This time, 92 have died in five months, while 60 have died in just April and May. The Gujarat government in March 2018 had said that 184 lions have died in two years.

DT Vasavda, chief conservator of forest, Gir Forest, told NewsClick that lions have died since January for various reasons such as snake bite, drowning, natural death, infighting and disease Babesiosis. He denied any death due to CDV this year.

According to a report, CDV killed at least 36 lions in Gir in 2018 and it has not ebbed till now. That 60% of the lions are outside the protected area and increasing is another serious issue.

Shyamal Tikadar, chief wildlife warden, told NewsClick, “We are walking on the edge of the sword. Major carnivores and humans can not technically live together. We, as human beings and society, are living with animals due to our compassion, education and awareness. We have managed to avoid interfacing with the animals. But as the population of Asiatic lions is growing in Gir, I don’t know how long this coexistence will last.”

According to the WII report, 190 lion attacks on humans have been recorded between 2007 and 2016 in the Gir landscape, of which a small proportion (1.3 attacks/year) resulted in human fatalities. While attacks by leopards on humans in the same landscape were 383 between 2011 and 2016, 41 were lethal (7/year).

Nishith Dharaiya, associate professor at HNG University, who did his doctoral research on Asiatic lions and is also a member of state wildlife board, said, “The isolated satellite sites frequented by lions at Bhavnagar, Junagarh, Amreli, Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala have been expanded through corridors and extension of the forest as Greater Gir.”

Also read: How Changed Consumption Habits Can Protect Planetary Boundaries

YV Jhala, senior scientist with Wildlife Institute of India, said, “In the entire world, Gir is the only 250 sq km of secure area for Asiatic lions. There is 1,200 sq km of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in the vicinity, which has excellent habitat for lions. The Gujarat government should create a 1,000 sq km national park by rehabilitating the villagers outside the sanctuary. This will create a vast habitat for the expanding lion population to thrive.”

However, in order to protect the lions from getting infected from a potential disease outbreak, he advocates reintroducing some of them to the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

The Madhya Pradesh government has made “humongous efforts” for reintroduction of Asiatic lions in Kuno National park. H S Negi, additional principal chief conservator of forest, Madhya Pradesh,told NewsClick, “Madhya Pradesh government rehabilitated 1,545 families from 24 villages and expanded the existing area from 345 sq km to 748 sq km, thus up scaling the legal status of Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary to a national park.”

He added that the big buffer is connected to Madhav National Park in MP on one side and Ranthambore National Park of Rajasthan on the other side with contiguous forest cover. The rising population of lions can easily be accommodated in this huge landscape in the future.

“The present population of Asiatic lions has grown a lot from the original stock of about 20 animals. In case of a disease outbreak, the entire population can collapse. Hence, we need to trans locate at least a couple of lion prides to a geographically isolated place,” he said.

Vasavda, however, said that the Gujarat government and wildlife department are not in favour of translocation of Asiatic lions outside the state. He argued that there are many indigenous species which are confined to one particular region and they have survived well.

Faiyaz A. Khudsar, noted wildlife biologist, who has also filed a PIL in the apex court to trans locate lions to MP, told News Click, “Our country is home to the whole population of Asiatic lions. Therefore, it belongs to the entire world. We shoulder the bigger responsibility of its protection.”

He also referred to the outbreak of the CDV that had reportedly killed 1,000 of the 3,000 lions in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in 1994.

Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Centre at the University of Minnesota in the US and part of a team involved in mitigating the CDV outbreak at the Serengeti sanctuary, inferred that the inbred lion population is more susceptible to infectious diseases. “In a population with reduced genetic diversity, the parasite is more likely to find new victims with the same genetic susceptibility.”

Ravi Chellam, chief executive officer at Meta string Foundation and an Asiatic lion expert, said, “The Supreme Court on April 15, 2013, had ordered to trans locate Asiatic lions to Kuno within six months of its order. When that did not happen, a contempt petition was filed. I feel extremely saddened to say that nothing has happened and the matter is being delayed for one reason or the other, while CDV has already claimed so many lions in Gir.”

Also read: Centre’s Guidelines to Ease Mining Operations Might End up in Green Violations



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The Indian Premier League: A Monster That Threatens To

The Indian Premier League: A Monster That Threatens To


In 12 years, the Indian Premier League (IPL), from nonexistence, has become so big that it is threatening to gulp down the tournament that birthed it — the ICC World T20 (Pics: Vaibhav Raghunandan).

The world is connected in more intricate ways than we can imagine. An incident in one corner, seemingly inconsequential to everything else, is not necessarily as initially perceived. This notion — call it the karmic cycle or the butterfly effect — has been made glaringly visible by a virus. 

Of course, caught up in the novel everyday struggle of keeping oneself safe as well as earning your daily bread, we tend to forget this larger knowledge the pandemic provides. The consequences of our actions or inactions — hasty lockdowns bettered by hastier unlocking in India  — may come back to haunt us. And this will be sooner than we can imagine. The impact of incidents man made or otherwise — from the disastrous exodus of essential workers, selective denial of healthcare in the national capital, to cyclone Amphan on the east coast — will get marked and absorbed into history. And they will invariably come back at us with meaner intentions and implications. Cause and effect cycle is as old as the earth itself. 

Look at how cricket is trying hard to deal with the monster it unleashed onto itself more than a decade back. The game’s highest (on paper at least) decision maker — the International Cricket Council (ICC) — is unable to make decisions based on objectivity. Forget decisions, it is unable to even hold a virtual conference without disruption. Leaked emails, mudslinging and veiled threats from bullies take over proceedings. Needless to say, there is no bigger bully in the game than the Indian cricket board.

Also Read | Vasant Raiji, World’s Oldest First-Class Cricketer, Dies at 100

There isn’t much happening as far as actual cricket is concerned. But the game is still on at the boardroom level — the bone of contention being the biggest money spinner for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). 

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is, so far, the biggest sporting casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic unless the ICC and Cricket Australia decide to postpone the T20 World Cup scheduled from October 18 to November 15. The ICC members have sat across video chatting interfaces twice over the last fortnight trying to come to a consensus about the fate of the competition. And each time the power struggle between the BCCI and the world body took precedence, subtly once, explicitly the other time. 

The issue has many layers, starting with a rather iffy relationship India’s very own Shashank Manohar, the ICC chairman, has with the BCCI. That though is a dormant volcano at the moment. Other issues have spilled out, including a controversy over  the tax exemptions BCCI, as host of the 2021 T20 World Cup, was supposed to confirm for the ICC after getting clearance from the Indian government. The ICC threatened to take the tournament out of India. Now the world body has the mandate and power to do so. However, real power resides somewhere else in cricket, and it is also clear that the ICC doesn’t have the means to take a stance that will antagonize the rich. As things stand, the Indian Board has got an extension to the deadline to confirm the exemptions. 

This makes us wonder why there was an issue in the first place. With the ICC elections on cards, and a biggie from India likely to be the frontrunner in the fray from Asia, electoral politics could be a factor. 

Then comes the biggest factor of them all as far as money is concerned: The Indian Premier League. 

It is evident that the BCCI wants the 2020 season of the IPL to be staged (doesn’t matter if it is behind closed doors or in Timbuktu), and the reasonable, or rather practical window would be the one that is currently occupied by the World Cup. The Indian board, shortsighted as ever, can’t look beyond its own interests. The ICC, spineless as ever, is caught between its own mega tournament and the big spectacle that makes sense money wise for all stakeholders involved. 

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It would be ironic if the T20 World Cup gets muscled out by the IPL in this rat race. It was, after all, the inaugural edition of the World T20 that saw MS Dhoni get crowned as Captain Cool. It featured an Indian victory over Pakistan for the trophy, and ensured the Indian fan took a big liking to what was, till then, a weird and unwanted format — Twenty20. The IPL was perhaps present only as a skeletal idea in the upper echelons of the BCCI prior to that. That too after it was shown by Subhash Chandra and Zee that a T20 league has the potential to revolutionise cricket as a spectator spectacle. No one in the board, barring perhaps Lalit Modi, had any inkling that this format is going to make the BCCI rich and powerful many times over. 

Fast forward 12 years, the IPL, from nonexistence, has become so big that it is threatening to gulp down the tournament that birthed it. The BCCI seems to be giving out signals that it hardly cares whether the global tournament is staged or not. Of course, if this year’s World Cup gets pushed to 2021, there would be the small matter of a clash between the 2021 edition to be staged in India. The one with the tax issue, you see. The tax conflict suddenly seems to be not about taxes.

Needless to say, a postponed World Cup will make a huge dent on the cricket kitty of the smaller nations. In fact, this would drastically impact Australia too, one of the big boys of the sport. But BCCI will throw them a bone: a tour, a financially and logistically more lucrative treat for the Aussies than an iffy World Cup played in the shadow of the coronavirus. 

The BCCI, however, fail to also realise that in this blinded rush down a selfish avenue, they are also setting into motion something that would choke the global game to the verge of near lifelessness if not complete death. How different is the Indian Board’s action from what the Delhi government proposed last week — Covid-19 healthcare for Delhiites alone?

Recently, a friend and I were in conversation about the economic hit the game would take if the World Cup is shelved. The chat hit upon the concept of Pareto Optimality, named after Italian engineer and economist Vilfredo Pareto. The concept does not exactly provide a framework for social parity but lays down scope for a bare minimum of ethics a capitalist entity could display while chasing profit. Paraphrasing the economic concept, a move is not Pareto Optimal if there is no scope to make improvements to at least one participant’s well-being without reducing any other participant’s well-being.

It seems that BCCI has never believed in Pareto Optimality, ever since it became a superpower in the game. And its approach, especially during these uncertain times, could give cricket a body blow it might never recover from. The consequence from their actions now will determine the future of the game. All that clout and money will come to nothing if there is no global game to run at all.

Of course, the IPL might still survive but one can’t possibly imagine a cricketing world that revolves around the franchise circus. Besides, we also should not forget that there is relevance to the IPL is only because it is juxtaposed against the tours and performances of the national team in bilateral series and ICC tournaments. 

Lest we have forgotten, the biggest talking point in Indian cricket till coronavirus took over was how the IPL would be used to prime the players for the World Cup later this year. At present, it is either the IPL or the World Cup. Let us hope for cricket’s sake that Pareto Optimality prevails and the more morally and ethically correct course is taken.  

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