India is presently passing through the worst phase of the pandemic. The scenes at hospitals, crematoriums, pathological labs, and in homes are heart-wrenching. Many young lives are being lost for want of basic facilities like medical oxygen and ventilators. Distressed and anguished citizens are begging for help but to little avail.
It is distressing to find that there is no dearth of people who are trying to take advantage of this calamity by hoarding and black marketing essential drugs and medical equipment. The worst part is to find that many highly educated and influential people, who have developed symptoms of the disease, not getting themselves tested or not disclosing it to their contacts; and thereby accelerating the spread. Many people with symptoms have traveled in public transport risking the lives of co-passengers and adding to the alacrity of spread.
Last year we all had seen disturbing visuals of pandemic aftermath from developed countries like the US, UK, Spain, Italy, etc. We had seen how the pandemic had exposed the fault lines of the healthcare system in those countries.
The most unfortunate part is that despite getting more than nine months of lead time (since the second intense wave hit the developed world) we failed to develop inadequate basic health infrastructure to handle the emergency. Rather, at many places, the infrastructure already built last year to manage the crisis was either diluted or completely dismantled. Citizens had also lowered their guard. Norms were being flouted with impunity.
Anyways, we have this situation to survive and learn our lessons. In my view, the following could be the key learnings for this crisis:
(a) First of all, we need to introduce Ethics as the main subject at the primary and secondary levels. The ease with which educated, uneducated, rich, and poor break compliance rules, endanger others’ lives with selfish motives, is despicable. No society or country can expect to develop with this tendency.
Recently, I had an opportunity to look at the language books of primary and higher secondary classes. I was aghast to note that none of the books contained any story from Panchtantra or Jataka tales, indubitably amongst the best treasures in ethics and wisdom. In my view, Panchtantra alone may suffice as a literature book for primary classes (standard 1 to 5).
(b) We need to build robust healthcare infrastructure in private-public partnership. The CSR spending of the corporate sector must exclusively be dedicated to health and education at least for the next decade.
(c) Physical activity (NCC, Sports, Yoga) must be actually made a compulsory subject till graduation level. Many young people are struggling with weak lungs, respiratory issues, weak immunity, etc. It is extremely important to inculcate a healthy lifestyle and develop strong immunity from a very young age. This must be strictly implemented, unlike the present system, where the physical education period is usually free time for students.
(d) The graduation program must include at least 500hrs of compulsory social service (CSS) for all streams. Each college must affiliate at least five recognized NGOs and students must be assigned to these NGOs for completion of CSS. Any cheating in this must result in total disqualification of the student.