Mohandas Pai says lack of health governance and communication hurting us badly
GN Bureau | May 18, 2021
Blaming the ‘health bureaucracy’ for mishandling the Covid-19 response, failure of vaccination drive and lack of proper communication, Mohandas Pai, chairman, Aarin Capital Partners, and a Padma Shri recipient, has called for greater transparency in the rollout of vaccines.
Criticising the central government’s move to open vaccination for the 18-44 age group from May 1 and calling it a hurried decision when the states were yet to learn to build up their own capacities, Pai said the second wave of Covid-19 is a PR disaster and there is total lack of transparency and communication both by the states and central government.
“It is the job of the CM to manage the state. Maharashtra was rightly criticised too but they got their act together and done a good job when initially they didn’t know what to do and were in deep trouble,” Pai said while speaking on how the Delhi government mismanaged the oxygen supply.
After Delhi faced a huge oxygen crisis and the supreme court appointed a committee to monitor the supply, Pai said the court should not have intervened and instead should have told the government to set up an expert committee.
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On vaccine supply he said when the centre opened vaccination it should have told the states about their progrmame and directed them to a channelising organisation to procure the vaccine jointly or go directly which the centre did not do. “We should blame the health bureaucracy for this because the health bureaucracy has to inform political leaders about the pros and cons and risk analysis and accordingly advise them. They seem to have abdicated their responsibility in several directions because we don’t see them having that impact at all,” said Pai.
He was speaking with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during the live webcast of Visionary Talk series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform.
Pai, who is also the chairman of Manipal Global Education (Manipal University), said there is a gap in the capacity of health officials and every state should have set up a group of experts to advice the govt. He added that the central government too has not been transparent.
The centre, he said, should come out and state the number of vaccines it will give to which state for the next 15 days. It can make a 15-day schedule for everybody and go on advancing every fortnight and inform stakeholders about anticipated production for next three months.
“At least people will have data. There has to be greater transparency in the rollout of vaccine in future. With the manner in which the data is given for next three days … there is so much anxiety and fear … there needs more transparency and communication. To me the second wave has been a PR disaster, total lack of transparency and communication both by the states and central government,” he said.
While responding to a question on the country’s top virologist Dr Shahid Jameel’s resignation as chairman of the scientific advisory group of Indian SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing consortia and how this may pan out, Pai said he (Pai) has been constantly told that health bureaucracy is resisting advice of experts and countering them.
“What is the point in having an expert body if you don’t listen to them? Give reasons if you don’t want to listen to them. The Government of India officials by nature are arrogant. They think they know everything. They try to dictate to you and they treat you shabbily.”
As part of many government committees some of which are equally good and others equally bad, Pai said he has seen that government officials don’t care for things and do things only to show people they are doing something. “They have been exposed in health bureaucracy and many of them should be sacked for misleading people. You have an expert committee. You must listen to them and argue it out and come to a consensus. There are people much better than you. There are virologists, epidemiologist and you must sit down and dictate a consensus document. You must listen to them. It good for the government to listen to them because tomorrow he said if anybody points a finger they can always they listened to experts,” he said.
Pai, a co-founder of Akshay Patra Foundation, also said that each state must have a health committee which should advise the chief minister and talk to the public and calm them down. He likened the government’s handling of Covid to an act of colonial state where instead of being collaborative and cooperative people sitting around somewhere are telling what to do. “Lack of health governance and communication is hurting us very badly. Below the PM and the health minister, there should have been much more official communication and dissemination of information,” he said.
Pai also said that India needs massive public investment and the government cannot abdicate its responsibility because people are losing their lives. We need to reexamine health and put in a framework of putting in Rs 75,000 crore to Rs 100,000 crore extra on health. "Money is not a problem in this country. The problem is political will and execution capacity at district level with the help of state,” he said.
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