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From The Socialist newspaper, 28 April 2021

Covid pandemic

India's health system in meltdown under Modi's misrule

An unmitigated public health disaster is gripping India. The daily number of people infected with Covid-19 has exceeded 350,000 for a week - the highest of any country since the pandemic began. Health services have been overwhelmed. Dead bodies are lying outside hospitals. Patients are dying from a lack of oxygen supplies, forcing relatives to scour the black market to obtain scarce and exorbitantly priced bottles. Meanwhile, the Modi-led Hindu-nationalist BJP government isn't addressing the shortages of medical supplies by intervening in capitalist manufacturing. Instead, it has allowed unmasked and non-socially distanced mass election rallies and religious gatherings to take place, thereby spreading the pandemic.

Yuvraj of New Socialist Alternative (CWI, India) reports on this disaster, and why socialism is the only alternative.

photo Ganesh Dhamodkar/CC

photo Ganesh Dhamodkar/CC   (Click to enlarge)

India's health system has failed to scale up in order to handle the current surge. Instead, it is simply melting down under the sheer pressure. Patients' families being made to desperately look out for beds is commonplace. Some families have travelled as far as 500 kilometres with patients in a desperate search for beds. Medicines, oxygen, and all kinds of supplies, are running short.

Doctors, nurses and medical staff are reeling under this acute pressure. Making matters worse, fires have broken out at hospitals.

The failure of the health system is, in brief, the failure of the capitalist system and the ruling political elites serving its agenda.

Reckless implementation of neoliberalism over the past three decades has seen the healthcare system largely privatised. And a conscious policy of underfunding of the public health care system has seen it cut to the bone. The control of resources, under private ownership, has meant they are only put to use when profits are guaranteed.

At the start of the pandemic private hospitals kept aloof. They later joined with the public sector making their resources available - but only at prices that were simply beyond the reach of even the middle class.

The interplay of market forces serves the needs of capital but only at the cost of society. Take the example of critical medical supplies. India does have a relatively large-scale capacity to produce most of these supplies. It is the third largest pharmaceutical industry in the world by volume. But despite such a mammoth manufacturing capacity, we see acute shortage of drugs and a consequent hefty pricing for them.

The pharmaceutical industry in India is mainly geared towards exports and has been manufacturing primarily for its global clients, ie global pharmaceutical giants. The capitalist state largely doesn't interfere with the interests of private capital. Consequently, this manufacturing base could not be utilised to produce the medicines or other supplies needed to deal with the Covid crisis.

Take the case of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, for example. Building upon India's pharmaceutical manufacturing strength, the Serum Institute of India was selected for manufacturing the vaccine. Serum now manufactures millions of doses and supplies them worldwide.

Last year, prime minister Narendra Modi visited its plant and attempted to portray it as a nationalist endeavour. But all his pretences have now fallen flat. The pricing of the vaccine in India is now the highest in the world, costing Rs.600 (around $8) per dose. And this is when the company could make a profit even at price of $2, as stated by the owner of Serum itself.

BJP, the ruling party, now epitomises all the ugliness one could imagine of capitalist politics. While the government relentlessly preaches people to follow social distancing, the BJP has shamelessly flaunted even basic protocols when it came to mass gatherings, for its own political benefit.

One of the BJP-ruled states hosted Kumbha Mela - a large religious gathering that saw gatherings of literally thousands of devotees crowding together. These crowds, mainly from northern India, are potential voters for the BJP's Hindu nationalist agenda. Needless to say, Kumbha Mela became a Covid superspreader event, infecting hundreds of thousands. The massive election rallies in West Bengal (eastern state), hosted by the BJP and including the PM, have also contributed to spreading the disease.

The state and established political parties have thus been preoccupied promoting their own agenda or serving the interests of their masters, ie the capitalist class, while thousands are left to perish.

This is the ugly face of capitalism and hence the need to overthrow capitalism and replace it with socialism - a system based on public ownership of large-scale industry, with democratic planning of production geared to serving the needs of society.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 28 April 2021:


Elections

Vote TUSC to oppose sleazy capitalism

Why you should vote for TUSC

Campaigning for a no-cuts, socialist Liverpool mayor


International news

India's health system in meltdown under Modi's misrule


Campaigns news

Socialist Student action marks the way for a national student movement for free education

South West regional conference shows that socialist ideas can grow

To get Socialist ideas out there, we need to have the funds


News

Protesting works - unite to defend the right to protest

No trust in billionaire football owners - kick them out and reclaim the game

Private sector is stealing the NHS

39 'postmasters' cleared - now clear the rest

Generation eviction


Workplace news

Usdaw's virtual annual conference - a mockery of union democracy

PCS ballots members in Jobcentres over safety

Goodlord strikers fight fire and rehire as part of day of action

Devonport tugboat crews strike against rota changes

St Mungo's workers walkout

Thurrock bin strike in third week


Ireland

How partition of Ireland derailed a revolutionary struggle for national and social liberation

Irish police aid strike-breaking at Debenhams store in Dublin


Welfare state

Poverty increasing. Welfare state in crisis. Do we need a new Beveridge Report?


Environment

What councils can do to protect the environment


Readers' opinion

The Socialist Inbox


May Day Greetings 2021

International Workers' Day - struggle, solidarity, socialism


 

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