Xiaomi Mi 10 MIUI 11 Update Brings NavIC Support, April 2020

Xiaomi Mi 10 MIUI 11 Update Brings NavIC Support, April 2020 Patch, More

Xiaomi Mi 10 MIUI 11 Update Brings NavIC Support, April 2020


Mi 10 has started receiving the V11.0.5.0.QJBINXM update in India. MIUI Stable ROM V11.0.5.0.QJBINXM is rolling out over-the-air, and the company has also made available the ROM packages for those who cannot wait. The latest MIUI 11 update brings the April 2020 Android security patch alongside. The Mi 10 was launched in India last month, and the flagship device is priced starting at Rs. 49,999. The phone comes with a hole-punch display, quad rear cameras with a 108-megapixel main sensor, and Snapdragon 865 SoC.

MIUI India has taken to Twitter and its forums to announce the arrival of a new update for Mi 10 users. The firmware version for the update is MIUI V11.0.5.0.QJBINXM, and users are receiving the update progressively over-the-air (OTA). Users should check for the update manually in the Updater app.

Alternatively, Xiaomi has made available the ROM packages for the Mi 10 for all those users who want to manually download the update. The size of the package is about 2.5GB, and it can be downloaded from the forums. The page also offers a step-by-step guide on how to manually install the update.

MIUI Stable ROM V11.0.5.0.QJBINXM changelog

As for the changelog, the latest MIUI 11 update for Mi 10 brings along support for Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (NavIC). For those unaware, NaVIC is India’s own navigation system, similar to the US’ GPS. Smartphones with the latest Qualcomm chipsets can now use NaVIC, and Xiaomi looks to bring that advantage to Mi 10 users in India. It also updates the security patch to April 2020 and brings along increased system security. The update optimises the status bar and notification shade, and optimises the Wi-Fi 6 icon that shows only when the device is connected to the network of this standard.

Xiaomi recently also made available the Android 11 Beta 1 update for Mi 10 users. This software build is meant for testing purposes only, and doesn’t include Xiaomi’s MIUI skin on top. This means that Mi 10 users can test the new update in its vanilla form, without any specific custom changes. Apart from the Pixel devices, a host other third-party phones like OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro phones have also received the Android 11 update.


Is OnePlus 8 Pro the perfect premium phone for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.





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Amazon Sued After New York Worker Brings Coronavirus Home,


Amazon has been sued for allegedly fostering the spread of the coronavirus by mandating unsafe working conditions, causing at least one employee to contract COVID-19, bring it home, and see her cousin die.

The complaint was filed on Wednesday in the federal court in Brooklyn, New York, by three employees of the JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, and by family members.

One employee, Barbara Chandler, said she tested positive for COVID-19 in March and later saw several household members become sick, including a cousin who died on April 7.

The lawsuit said Amazon has made JFK8, which employs about 5,000, a “place of danger” by impeding efforts to stop the coronavirus spreading, boosting productivity at the expense of safety.

It said Amazon forces employees to work at “dizzying speeds, even if doing so prevents them from socially distancing, washing their hands, and sanitising their work spaces.”

Amazon did not comment on the lawsuit, but said it has always followed guidance from health authorities and its workplace safety experts since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The Seattle-based company has benefited as the pandemic forced many consumers unable to visit physical stores to shop online more.

Unions, elected officials and some employees have faulted Amazon’s treatment of workers, including the firing of some critical of warehouse conditions.

Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said last week that Amazon has not fired people for such criticism.

Amazon is spending more than $800 million on coronavirus safety in this year’s first half, including cleaning, temperature checks and face masks.

At least 800 workers in US distribution centers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an employee’s unofficial tally.

Amazon ended 2019 with 798,000 full- and part-time employees.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring that Amazon comply with worker safety and public nuisance laws, and not punish employees who develop COVID-19 symptoms or are quarantined.

The case is Palmer et al v Amazon.com Inc., US District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 20-02468.

© Thomson Reuters 2020



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Masaba Gupta Brings The Sea To Us. Putting On Our Swimsuits For Daydreaming


Masaba shared this photo (Courtesy masabagupta)

Highlights

  • Masaba shared a throwback pic from Summer last year
  • “A memory,” she captioned the photo
  • Masaba can be seen sporting a swimsuit from her own collection

New Delhi:

Designer Masaba Gupta is giving us major beach cravings. Can’t deal. Masaba Instagrammed a glimpse of her Maldives memories from last year summer, hinting that an announcement is on the way. “A memory, stay tuned,” wrote Masaba for a photo, in which she can be seen soaking up the sun in a strapless, tropical-themed swimsuit from her own collection. The Maldivian waters and the clear blue sky offer the perfect backdrop for Masaba’s summer fashion look. Masaba had Instagrammed the same photo in April last year, with Maldives as the location, to share a snippet of her brand’s newly-launched swimwear. Take a look at this throwback post-card from Maldives.

Masaba is the daughter of actress Neena Gupta and West Indies cricket legend Vivian Richards. The 31-year-old designer, who had earlier written about struggling to embrace her “Caribbean body”, often features in body positivity posts. Masaba, who loves the sea, the sand and the sun, often drop glances of her favourite vacation memories like these:

Here are beach bums Masaba, her designer friend Pernia Qureshi and celebrity stylist Tanya Ghavri chilling in Masaba’s swimwear collection in Cancun, Mexico last year.

In Love.

A post shared by Mufasa (@masabagupta) on

Masaba is currently believed to be in Goa and is reportedly staying with actor Satyadeep Misra, who she is rumoured to be dating. Masaba and Satyadeep reportedly travelled to the actor’s Goa residence for a weekend getaway and have been staying there since the lockdown began in March. Masaba was previously married to filmmaker Madhu Mantena. They filed for divorce last year.





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T-Series Brings The Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra In Shekhar Ravjiani’s Voice


Screengrab from the video shared by T-series. (courtesy Youtube)

Highlights

  • T-series released the ‘Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra’ on Youtube
  • It has been composed and sung by Shekhar Ravjiani
  • “I’ve been praying for the well-being of humanity,” said Shekhar Ravjiani

New Delhi:

Bhushan Kumar’s T-Series recently gave us The Care Concert, a charity fundraiser with 18 top singers of the country to support the PM Cares Fund to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. The head honcho of T-Series known to release chartbuster music through singles and films, will now release something that can almost be called the need of the tough time we are living in today.

With the pandemic situation of Coronavirus taking over the world, Bhushan Kumar will release the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra composed and sung by Shekhar Ravjiani. The mantra releases on YouTube today, April 13.

Shekhar Ravjiani, who has given numerous hits with T-Series in films has now composed a soothing mantra from home in this lockdown period. The popular musician had earlier composed and lent his voice to Hanuman Chalisa a few years ago, which was appreciated and loved by his fans and they wanted to see him do more work in the devotional genre. Speaking about the mantra the talented singer said, “I’ve been listening to Shankar Sahney’s version of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra since many years and it is a prayer that I really love and recite regularly. During this lockdown period, I’ve been praying for the well-being of humanity with the hope that this difficult time will pass. Here’s my version of Maha Mrityunjaya mantra – a prayer from me to Lord Shiva to protect all of us.”

T-Series CMD, Bhushan Kumar says, “We have been in the devotional market space since the time my father started the company. With the blessings of Lord Mahadev, we are excited to release this version of Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra in Shekhar’s voice. We hope the Mantra will bring about positive change during this tough time of the Coronavirus pandemic that humanity at large is grappling with.”

Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, also known as Rudra Mantra or the Tryambakam Mantra, is considered to be having life-restoring powers. It is said to be beneficial for mental, emotional and physical health.

T-Series has always been the frontrunner in the market for devotional music, right from the time of the inception of the company. Long before T-Series, the music company came to be known for releasing hit Bollywood numbers, the music label was in its early days known for releasing pre-recorded bhajans and aartis in reverence of the Indian Gods and Goddesses, which was highly appreciated and loved by all.

In fact, many will remember T-Series founder Gulshan Kumar would prominently feature in the videos of several devotional songs released by the music major in those days in the 80s and 90s. His son Bhushan Kumar continues his legacy by concentrating sufficiently on this genre of music too.



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COVID-19 Pandemic Brings Glaring Gaps in Delhi’s Healthcare Services into Focus

COVID-19 Pandemic Brings Glaring Gaps in Delhi’s Healthcare Services into Focus


Representational Image.

New Delhi: With a continuing rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 in the national capital, glaring gaps in the Delhi government’s healthcare system are coming to the fore. While Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal successfully used his government’s healthcare initiative of mohalla clinics — a major poll plank after the subsidised power bill — to get elected, the pandemic has exposed the flaws in the system with medical staff, patients and sanitation workers in different stages of worry.

After the government declared its five flagship hospitals — Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital, GB Pant Hospital, Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital and Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital — would fight COVID-19, patients suffering from other diseases and conditions like renal failure, cancer and HIV, who regularly need access to hospitals, are facing hardships, with only emergency services functional and most OPDs and operation theatres closed.

Different departments in non-COVID hospitals are functioning at bare minimum capacity. The stringent lockdown has also worsened the situation.

Those undergoing treatment for kidney ailments and thalassaemia are going through challenging times. Dialysis patients are struggling for medicines and access to dialysis centres. With most government hospitals dedicated to treating cases of COVID-19, healthcare facilities that provide free dialysis have been unable to do so, citing a lack of staff.

Shyam Kumar Chabra, a resident of Mehrauli, undergoes dialysis thrice a week at Max Hospital. However, he was referred to LNJP Hospital three days ago since he tested positive for COVID-19.  He said he still has not undergone dialysis at LNJP. “I have not undergone dialysis for the past three days and I am in great difficulty,” he added.

Muneer Ahmad, 60, had undergone a kidney function test at Shanti Mukand Hospital at Karkardooma and was found to be suffering from renal failure on February 28. He was advised to undergo dialysis twice a week, and it was being done in the same hospital under the EWS quota.  All of a sudden, he was allegedly refused dialysis and was told the hospital did not have beds for patients belonging to the economically weaker section.

He has not undergone dialysis since March 12 and was turned away by LNJP and Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital. The doctors then referred him to Safdarjung Hospital.

“Taking him to Safdarjung from Laxmi Nagar on a scooter is not possible because he cannot sit for long and the policemen also do not allow a pillion rider. I cannot afford a three or four wheeler because I do not have the money. I am a driver and out of a job because of the lockdown,” Muneer’s son, Israr Ahmad, told NewsClick.

Israr took his father to Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital near Ashok Nagar for admission under EWS category, but he was turned away by authorities who allegedly said they only take up referral cases.

After running from pillar to post, Israr took his father back to Shanti Mukand Hospital, which finally agreed to perform the dialysis but handed him a list of diagnostic examinations to get done before the procedure. He was also asked for test results for COVID-19.

The costs that private hospitals offer paid services at, are unaffordable for many. Even for paid dialysis, hospitals are cutting down on time, which lead to symptoms showing up within two days.

“Dialysis patients must continue with regular treatment and take extra precautions. Skipping dialysis leads to serious adverse effects and increases risk of hospitalisation,” said Dr Vishnu, a senior nephrologist with a private hospital.

Nidhi, a dialysis technician at Shanti Mukand Hospital, said the patient needed to bring test reports for COVID-19 as a lot of patients are asymptomatic patients and normal screening at the hospital does not serve any purpose. “I have asked him for a few important diagnostic tests which cannot be performed at the hospital because most of the services are closed due to shortage of staff. We are taking extreme care before letting any patient inside because 14 members or our staff are in quarantine after coming into contact with a positive patient,” she said.

Forty-eight-year-old Chandrapal, a resident of Sangam Vihar, had a severe heart attack recently. There were blockages in his coronary arteries and he had been advised surgery. He was scheduled to undergo the surgery at Safdarjung Hospital on April 10 which was cancelled because of COVID-19. His family alleged that he has not been given another date and has been told to return when the ongoing crisis is over.

“My father is now bed-ridden, he does not look good. He often complains of severe chest pain. We took him to a private hospital at Kailash Colony but we cannot afford it as it is too costly. My father is the primary bread winner of the family; he stitches clothes at a tailoring shop. We also support the family’s income with the daily wages we get but that stopped because of the lockdown. He needs surgery as soon as possible, but no government hospital is ready to admit him,” said Chandrapal’s younger son Yogesh.

Similarly, Maitri had been undergoing treatment for oral cancer at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). On March 13, she was informed that she needed urgent surgery. However, all OPD services at AIIMS have not been functional and doctors are not performing surgeries. She is in severe pain as the ulcers on her tongue have started bleeding.

“We go to AIIMS’ emergency section almost on a daily basis. At present she is surviving on pain killers and some medicines to stop the bleeding. But the doctors have told us that they cannot do much as all other services have been suspended by the government,” her husband told NewsClick.

Almost all outpatient chemotherapy services have been shut down at AIIMS. Though the oncology department at Safdarjung Hospital is functional, those who need chemotherapy cannot go there.

After he developed some symptoms, 29-year-old Razzaque Sheikh had himself tested by Dr. Lal PathLabs and he tested positive on April 23. His wife Farzana Sheikh said that the same afternoon, she took him to RML Hospital, which referred them to LNJP Hospital.

“After examining his test results they referred him to Burari quarantine facility, which was not functional then. We went back to to LNJP. Then we were asked to go to Model Town quarantine centre, which also refused to admit him. We returned to LNJP to be sent to Wazirabad quarantine facility. The authorities there also refused to admit my husband, saying that they will take him in only after the hospital sends us in an ambulance with its staff. We came back to LNJP where doctors finally admitted him in the isolation ward the next day at noon,” she added.

The couple lives at J.J. Colony in Bhalswa with four others, including a child. Interestingly, the couple kept moving from the hospital to different quarantine centres via auto rickshaw. The hospital, despite knowing that one of them was COVID-19 positive, did not care to isolate him and send him in an ambulance.

Razzaque is doing well at LNJP, while his wife and other family members are quarantined in their house. “ASHA workers have come by between 3 to 4 times to check for fever. The police keep a watch on us. But we have not been screened so far despite the fact that I was with him all the time, even after he tested positive,” she said.

A senior doctor at Kasturba Hospital acknowledged that state governments and the Centre had failed to run other medical services parallelly.
 
“They should have improved medical infrastructure. Makeshift and separate isolation wards should have been created. Other departments should have been allowed to function with proper arrangements, keeping the safety of medical professionals and patients in mind. What is happening now is that patients’ access to hospitals have been restricted. Only emergency services are operational in all hospitals. All departments are either closed or working at the bare minimum. When the departments are not open, where will patients who have chronic diseases such as diabetes or conditions go? What will happen to cancer patients who need chemotherapy? Emergency services are run by senior and junior residents in Delhi government’s hospitals. Senior and permanent doctors have been engaged in administrative work,” he said.

He claimed that there was a drastic fall in the footfall of patients because of suspension of services and restrictions. “We were used to 250 patients in our paediatrics department OPD on a daily basis; a number which is now down to between 10 and 15. These are people who live in the vicinity of the hospital. Similarly, the gynaecology department used to treat around 350 patients daily. But the number has now fallen down to around 20. Since operation theatres are closed, delivery cases are referred to bigger hospitals on some pretext or the other,” revealed the doctor.

Kasturba Hospital is a hospital with 450 beds, situated in the thickly-populated walled city area of Delhi, on the Urdu Bazar Road.

‘We need basic facilities, not flower petals’

Doctors and paramedical staff accuse the government of failing to provide basic facilities to healthcare workers dealing with cases of COVID-19.

A doctor at the COVID ward in LNJP Hospital said the personal protective equipments (PPE) being supplied by hospital authorities were not of good quality. “There is substandard or an inadequate supply of PPE kits in many COVID-19 hospitals. The kits we get do not fit many of us. The goggles are of such bad quality that they often crack. We do not have access to complete PPEs, making us vulnerable to the infection. There is no proper arrangements for isolation of doctors and paramedics. We have to face the wrath of patients because of the inferior quality of food provided to them. Even nurses who have to serve for long hours do not get nutritious food,” he complained.

The absence of good quality PPE kits, said a doctor at Dr B.R. Ambedkar Hospital, is leading to infection among healthcare professionals. At least 32 medical staff at the hospital were recently tested positive. “Few days ago, a pregnant woman was admitted to the hospital. She was asymptomatic and had hidden her medical history. Later, she died in the hospital,” said the doctor.

Sixty-five healthcare workers were found to have been infected by COVID-19 at Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital. The situation is forcing them to go into quarantine, leading to a shortage of doctors in many top hospitals in the country. Since the numbers of health workers are inadequate, they have to work for longer to attend to COVID-19 patients, leading to an increased risk of infection. 

With doctors and other healthcare personnel testing positive for COVID-19, many hospitals have stopped screening them. A nurse at Delhi’s RML Hospital (under the Central government) alleged that “the hospital authorities have stopped screening us. Their focus is to fudge the numbers. Only those whose condition deteriorates are being screened. Those who exhibit symptoms are either isolated in a separate area in the hospital or sent to Safdarjung Hospital.”

She said it was discouraging many others who wished to lead from the front, as they are concerned about their own lives and well-being.

A lab technician at the Narela quarantine centre said laboratory staff are extremely vulnerable because they collect test samples of the suspected patients, and the threat to them is largely being ignored.

“We come in direct contact with patients or suspected patients while taking their swab samples. After completing our shift, we go home, posing the threat of infection to the rest of the family. We urge the government to make arrangements for our stay,” she said.

It is reported that many doctors, nurses, paramedics and other staff in non-COVID hospitals are either getting infected or reported as contact to infected persons and medical directors of respective hospitals are indiscriminately sending them in quarantine either at hostels or their homes for 14 days. This practice is causing an unnecessary shortage of doctors and staff at hospitals. It seems it is happening because either hospitals are not following standard SOPs or such persons are not following guidelines prescribed for healthcare workers.

“In view of above, all medical directors are directed to obtain written explanation from all such person as how these persons got infected or become a contact in spite of wearing required protective gears, maintaining safe distance and following precautions prescribed for healthcare workers. Further, medical director is required to constitute a team of doctors to ascertain whether a contact fulfils the Government of India guidelines to be declared as the contact of positive patient,” read the order, which was later withdrawn.

Calling it an insensitive move, doctors have opposed it. “The doctors and other healthcare workers are falling sick because the government has failed to provide basic facilities and services to them in several hospitals. If the government, health agencies and hospital administration really want to prevent such a catastrophe from happening, they must provide basic facilities to healthcare providers. It is stressful and demotivating for healthcare professionals to work in a life-threatening environment without proper facilities,” said AIIMS Residents’ Doctors Association President Dr Adarsh Pratap Singh.

He said the non-availability of PPE kits to doctors treating non-COVID patients also result in infections as the majority of patients were asymptomatic. “Today, PPE is a must for every doctor. As the numbers of hotspots are increasing, so are the asymptomatic COVID-19 positive patients,” he added.

In addition, he said, health workers need safer accommodation because they are at risk while commuting. “They need accommodation at safer places, closer to their respective hospitals,” he added.

A doctor from Maharaj Asgrasen Hospital told NewsClick: “The showering of flower petals by the military appeared to be a kind of formality like Republic Day. We do not need the pomp and show. The government needs to ensure our safety and security. We have no money for health workers and the health sector; our salaries are being deducted. The military should not waste money.”

‘All is well’

Responding to the allegations, Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain did his best to dodge questions and said the government is trying its best to address all the issues.

“We are ensuring availability of PPE kits to all hospitals. Doctors, paramedics and sanitation workers are corona warriors. We are doing our best to address all their grievances. We accept that they are overburdened and we acknowledge their efforts. We are regularly screening them and trying to take care of them. So far, the situation is completely under control. There is nothing to worry about,” he said.

Asked about the collapse of regular health services, he added: “Our non-COVID hospitals are functioning and there is no problem. Patients who come in are being taken care of. We are making sure that no one is denied medical treatment.”

On the slow and lesser number of screenings, he said that the government will now get testing done from private labs in Noida. “The decision has been made to bring down the time for results. Delhi is conducting the maximum number of screenings across the country and we will further boost the numbers,” he added.



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COVID-19 Crisis Brings to Light the Need for a Much Stronger Public Sector

COVID-19 Crisis Brings to Light the Need for a Much Stronger Public Sector


It is a sign of how bad things are when the editorial board of the Financial Times, the world’s leading business newspaper, carries an editorial calling for “radical reforms… reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades.” The FT editorial of April 3 has advocated, among other things, a more active role for governments in the economy, ways to make labor markets less insecure, and wealth taxes. The FT’s editorial board, increasingly concerned about saving capitalism from itself, had written about the need for “state planning” and a “worker-led economy” last year in August. But the April 3 editorial has garnered much more attention since it comes amidst a massive crisis.

By now it has become obvious that substantial state intervention in the economy—frowned upon by the apostles of neoliberal economics—is back to the center stage across the world.

The situation is such that the public sector, long maligned by neoliberal economists and weakened by governments beholden to neoliberalism, is playing a major role in the fight against coronavirus. Its role would have been much more effective and wide-ranging if it hadn’t been hit hard by decades of fund cuts and waves of privatization. Nevertheless, with the ineffectiveness of private production with profit motive as its driving force to handle a crisis becoming more evident, the public sector, production with state direction, and some amount of planning are making a major comeback.

Public Health Care

The case of the sectors that are directly concerned with health care provision is the most conspicuous, with the inadequacies of private health care during a crisis becoming evident to even right-wing leaders.

We see Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK, repeatedly talking about the need to protect the National Health Service (Britain’s publicly funded health care system). He even said, “there really is such a thing as society,” contradicting Margaret Thatcher, his conservative predecessor who batted for pure individualism in 1987 by saying “There is no such thing as society.”

Britain and many other countries in Western Europe have had relatively robust public health care systems. In many of these countries, such as ItalySpain and the UK, public health care systems have suffered in recent years because of fund cuts and privatization of public facilities. Apart from the policy vision of the leaders of these countries themselves, they also came under pressure from the technocrats of the European Commission, who repeatedly demanded spending cuts on health care. Along with the easy-going attitude displayed by many of the Western governments in the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, such weakening of the public health care systems have made their response to the coronavirus outbreak a more arduous task. For now, the governments of Spain and Ireland have temporarily taken over their private hospitals to deal with the crisis.

The case of the United States, with its private, insurance-based health care system, is far worse. Not only was a sufficient number of testing kits unavailable in the United States for months, but the costs of testing and treatment remain prohibitive for a large section of the population, particularly to the 30 million uninsured and 44 million underinsured. This means that many people simply wouldn’t be able to afford to get tested and treated, endangering the health and lives of themselves and others.

The difference between the United States on the one hand, and China and South Korea on the other, comes readily into the picture here. Testing and treatment for coronavirus is free in China, which was crucial in the country’s success in bringing the epidemic under control. South Korea has done extensive testing, which was made available for free. Treatment costs were covered by the government and the insurance companies.

The Importance of the Public Sector, However, Goes Much Further

In times of crises such as the present one, which is comparable to war, the ability of economies to produce (or at least source) and distribute things becomes critical. Two kinds of things assume particular importance:

  1. Essential things that are necessary for the immediate sustenance of the people. These include food and medicines, and in turn, the things necessary to produce them. If there are large gaps in the supply and distribution of these things, there would be a famine. If the gap is smaller, there would still be many unnecessary deaths. Even leaders who are otherwise callous about starvation deaths would be concerned about such an eventuality during a crisis, because social tensions that could rise as a result of this would make it even more difficult to tide over the crisis, whether it is a war or a pandemic. During the Second World War, Britain resorted to rationing to solve this problem. The people of India were squeezed to finance the Allies’ war in South Asia with Japan, and the result was the Bengal Famine, which took the lives of 3 million people.
  1. The kind of things that are necessary to tide over the crisis. During times of war, armaments would be the most crucial among these. In the case of the coronavirus crisis, the main things would be items like ventilators, masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and medicines to treat the symptoms. Large gaps in the supply of these things would be disastrous. In the case of a war, such gaps could lead to defeat in war. In the case of a lethal pandemic, people would die in huge numbers, as we see right now. We could say this is an industrial famine of sorts contributing to the casualties, with countries unable to make ICUs, ventilators and masks fast enough in adequate quantities, and in many cases, to set up hospitals and quarantine facilities quickly enough.

It is in this context that leaders of government who ideologically disagree with state intervention in the economy are seen taking direct action in commandeering private companies to produce necessary things.

Thus we see Donald Trump, who had initially resisted the pressure to use the Defense Production Act—a wartime law—to mobilize private industry, finally using the law to direct General Motors to produce ventilators.

The government of Italy directed its only producer of ventilators, Siare Engineering, to ramp up the production of ventilators for the country, and sent engineers and other staff members from the Ministry of Defense to help with production. The company canceled all its orders from abroad to produce for the country.

Countries with a large public sector, robust industrial capacity, and the ability to effectively intervene in the market would be at a considerable advantage here. That is the case with China, which put the state-owned China State Construction Engineering to work to construct two emergency quarantine hospitals at breath-taking speed. The state ensured the flow of products such as grain, meat and eggs into the Hubei province while it was under lockdown, and coordinated the production and distribution of masks and other medical products. Once the outbreak within the country was under control, it began supplying masks and ICU equipment to other countries in need.

India, a large country with a poor health care system, does not have enough masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for its health workers. The number of ICU beds and ventilators available in the country is very low. For a population of 1.34 billion, it only has 31,900 ICU beds available for COVID-19 patients, according to the country’s Health Ministry officials. To compare, Germany, with 82.8 million people, had 28,000 ICU beds as of mid-March.

If the number of COVID-19 patients in India surges, hospitals and their critical care facilities will be overwhelmed. The public sector Bharat Electronics Limited has been asked to produce 30,000 ventilators to meet the urgent need. Hindustan Lifecare (another public sector company) and the Rail Coach Factory under the Indian Railways are going to manufacture ventilators. The public sector Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which the government has tried continuously to weaken in the recent years, is now producing masks, sanitizer and coveralls for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It has also developed a ventilator prototype and is preparing for production.

Within India, it is the state of Kerala that has dealt with the pandemic in the most effective manner. In the Left-ruled state, which has resisted the policy of privatization pushed by successive central governments, public sector companies are manufacturing hand sanitizer and gloves, and have raised the production of essential medicines. Kudumbashree, a massive government-backed organization of women’s collectives with 4.5 million members, is making masks, which the public sector is helping distribute. Mass organizations of youth and popular science activists are pitching in by making hand sanitizer. Volunteers supported by a state-led initiative have developed a respiratory apparatus that could free up ventilators.

It is not as if making masks, sanitizers and gloves requires advanced technology. But industrial capacity is needed to churn them out in large numbers, or at least large mass organizations, class organizations or collectives that can mobilize people to manufacture them. The inability of the United States to even ensure the supply of such items stands out in this regard. Four decades of neoliberalism seem to have led not only to the undermining of industrial capacity useful for public purposes, but also to the hollowing out of collective energies.

Need for Production Capabilities and Societal Control Over Them

In short, the lesson is that in times such as these, a society needs two things.

  1. It needs production capabilities. During a time of crisis, if a country doesn’t have the necessary industrial capacity, it will be in trouble even if it has money to buy if the other countries that do have the production capabilities block the export of the required goods. This is what is happening right now to so many countries, such as Italy and Serbia. (In the mad scramble for resources, there have even been reports of countries offering higher amounts to buy masks ordered by other countries, and of some countries even seizing shipments for themselves.) Not only is industrial capacity needed, but some excess capacity is also required in some crucial areas. As the public health expert T. Sundararaman pointed out recently, the public health care system needs to have unused capacity, which will allow it to expand and take on the extra load when there is an emergency. Excess industrial capacity in China, which is often seen as a problem (including by sympathetic observers), turned out to be useful, with the country being able to manufacture essential goods to not just meet its own demands, but also that of other countries.

    But relying on market forces doesn’t give any guarantee of industrial capacity being built up. The kind of production capabilities built without planning would be haphazard, and may not cover the needs of an emergency when it presents itself. India, which adopted a strategy of substantial economic planning during the first few decades after independence, only to abandon it in the recent decades, is witnessing this to its peril right now.

  1. The society, or the state as the representative of society, needs to be able to control the production facilities. When a crisis hits a country with production capabilities in the private sector, the state can invoke emergency powers to bring them under control. But it would be a painful process, especially in countries where the private corporate sector is not used to submit to discipline. Given the enormous influence that the corporates have over the state itself, the state might try to prolong having to invoke such emergency powers, as was seen in the United States, and that could have disastrous consequences. India has the worst of all possible worlds—cronyism is rampant, industrialization has not taken off (whether it is because of cronyism or in spite of it need not detain us here), and the public sector has been undermined.

     

    Even when the state is trying to play a more active role, its efforts could be undermined by private firms acting in their own self-interest of maximizing profits. This was seen in the United States, where private companies were engaging in price gouging, by selling masks that are normally sold for 85 cents for $7, leading to the New York state governor to call upon the federal government to nationalize the acquisition of medical supplies. He said that the U.S. government should order factories to produce masks, gowns and ventilators; otherwise the situation would be impossible to manage. The state using private facilities can be costly as well, as was seen in Britain, where the National Health Service is paying 2.4 million pounds per day as rent to private hospitals for 8,000 beds.

Does calling for more domestic production capabilities that the state can control mean that every country should be left to fend for itself? Certainly not—every country cannot produce everything; smaller countries would find it particularly difficult. International trade would be needed for countries to procure things that they cannot produce for themselves. But as the developments of the recent months show, today’s trade regime has nothing to do with solidarity, and it provides no guarantee of countries being able to access goods during an emergency. This is no accident. Lack of solidarity is embedded in the way capitalism has developed, with the bulk of the world’s wealth concentrated in the hands of a few countries, and within countries, in the hands of the super-rich. This system has to be overhauled for a regime of solidarity to emerge. Production and its fruits becoming less concentrated in some regions of the world and in the hands of a minority would pave the way for power relations to be less unequal, which is a precondition for real solidarity among people and societies.

Along with socialized health care, an immediate stop to privatization, and a stronger, expanded public sector should become part of the transitional demands of the left as we search for an exit from the pandemic crisis.



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