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8th May – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Toxic disaster: Safety paramount when exiting lockdown
  2. Should healthcare be a fundamental right?
  3. Water wisdom during a pandemic

TOXIC DISASTER: SAFETY PARAMOUNT WHEN EXITING LOCKDOWN

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

  • The disastrous leak of a toxic chemical that has killed several people and left hundreds sick near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh comes as a shock to a nation struggling to cope with a prolonged lockdown.
  • Styrene, the chemical involved is included in the schedule of the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989.
  • The rules lay down strict norms on how it should be handled and stored.

What should be done now?

  • The Andhra Pradesh government must focus immediately on the medical needs of those who have been grievously affected by the gas leak.
  • International safety literature cites it as a substance that may cause cancer; there is thus no safe limit for exposure to it.
  • Solatium payments and compensation for the victims and families are important, but so is access to the highest quality of health care for the victims.
  • This is also a warning for industries across India that are going to reopen after the long lockdown and safety of industrial chemicals requires continuous watch, with no scope for waivers.
  • As India aims for a wider manufacturing base, it needs to strengthen its approach to public and occupational safety.
  • Transparent oversight is not a hurdle to industrial growth.
  • It advances sustainable development by eliminating terrible mistakes.

-Source: The Hindu


SHOULD HEALTHCARE BE A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT?

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Introduction

  • India has never spent more than 2% of its GDP on healthcare.
  • Healthcare facilities across the country straddle different levels of efficiency and sufficiency.
  • This Pandemic has opened the eyes of people to the importance of universal and robust public health services and the need for everybody to be covered by quality healthcare, or for health services to be accessible to everyone.
  • There is a huge amount of the cost of this whole pandemic, total lack of preparedness for it and that it can strike everybody.

Agenda of healthcare as a Fundamental right: Universal Healthcare

  • This is a ripe time to actually take forward the agenda of right to healthcare and making healthcare universal.
  • Making healthcare a right means changing it from being treated like a commodity that can be purchased on the market.
  • In classical economic terms, this is a public good, it is a good with a very high degree of externality.
  • The idea was that if we give immunisation and some antenatal care, that’s enough, but that’s not the case.
  • We need very good disease surveillance; we need an integrated primary care system that can deliver in the field. We need tertiary care with the most sophisticated of ventilators.
  • If the public takes a greater interest, then obviously, governments also have to respond. We can achieve access to quality healthcare for everyone in the coming 5-10 years in most States across the country and as for a budget, around 3-4% of the GDP for public healthcare.
  • Publicly organised healthcare, would be a good starting point for putting in place at least a basic kind of universal healthcare (UHC) system.

Way things are being handled now:

There are States whose main approach has been to re-purpose existing hospitals providing comprehensive, tertiary, secondary healthcare for COVID-19 and patients that are therefore pushed out because of this, have to either seek care in the unaffordable private sector.

In States such as Kerala – public health services have done a remarkable job of containing the spread of the epidemic, especially through their primary healthcare activities.

Issues with the draft proposal for Universal Health Care

  1. The right to health and the right to healthcare are different things. The right to healthcare is enforceable in a certain way, but in this context, the right to healthcare is something that should be done immediately.
  2. Healthcare is a State subject. Making it a state subject could facilitate Central Money to flow, however, even the response to this pandemic shows that actually that doesn’t work.
  3. Getting the resources that are required is another issue. The middle class, the upper class, the ruling privileged persons will have to pay a price if you want a metric of equal health quality.

Establishing a Universal Healthcare System

There are a few constraints, considering that currently we have a fragmented health system. We have one health system for the poor, another for the middle class and another for the rich and the super rich. What we need to do is to move from this fractured system towards a single healthcare system for everyone.

The idea that the government can regulate private hospitals, harness them in public interest will remain.

Conclusion

  • Today, it is the public system, with all its problems, that has risen to the occasion.
  • So, in this sense, even the ‘worst public health States’ have stood by the people. But it doesn’t mean that the private sector has no role.
  • We need for the private sector, a much clearer regulatory regime and ways of contracting that are useful and it is most important that they supplement, not substitute, the strengths of the state.

-Source: The Hindu


WATER WISDOM DURING A PANDEMIC

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Introduction

The World Water Day on March 22 was observed more online than in-person this year, considering the Pandemic

More than any previous year, there was a recognition of the importance of water in handwashing and personal hygiene practices.

Theme of Water Day 2020: “Water and Climate Change”

Water is the primary medium through which climate change impacts trickle down to the community and individual levels, primarily through reduced predictability of water availability.

Highlights

Climate change and water are inextricably linked – Growing populations and their demand for water increases the need for energy-intensive water pumping, transportation, and treatment.

This contributes to the degradation of critical water-dependent carbon sinks such as peatlands.

Due to climate change, water cycles experience significant change, which reflects in water availability and quality.

A warmer climate causes more water to evaporate from both land and oceans; in turn, a warmer atmosphere can hold more water, roughly 4% more water for every 1ºF rise in temperature.

Extreme weather events

  • These changes are expected to lead to negative consequences in the water sector, with increased precipitation and run-off (flooding) in certain areas and less precipitation and longer and more severe scarcity of water (droughts) in other areas. Wet areas are expected to become wetter and dry areas drier.
  • This influences almost all aspects of the economy including drinking water, sanitation, health, food production, energy generation, industrial manufacturing, and environmental sustainability and ultimately the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • In coastal areas when more freshwater is removed from rivers and aquifers, saltwater will move farther upstream into the river mouth and the aquifer, which will put pressure on the limited freshwater available on the coast, forcing water managers to seek costly alternatives like desalination plants.

Mitigation strategies

  • India has come up with climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies and appropriate policy measures.
  • The government is implementing the ‘National Action Plan on Climate Change’ through eight National Missions, including the Water Mission.
  • However, effective policies need the support of the local governments, corporates and NGOs.

Way Forward

  • Water resources planning must be given due consideration while dealing with climate impacts.
  • As tanks and ponds can store and recharge the excess rainwater to the aquifer, their rejuvenation (desilting) facilitates flood and drought management.
  • We need to revisit our rich tradition and culture of water wisdom in water resources management.
  • More public awareness on the need for climate-resilient actions, including protecting carbon sinks like oceans, wetlands, peatlands, and mangroves, adopting climate-smart agricultural techniques, rainwater harvesting, waste-water reuse, and judicious use of water, should be generated and inculcated in each citizen.

-Source: The Hindu

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