THE ROAD AHEAD: THE GOVERNMENT’S ROLE IN THE NEW NORMAL

Charcha 2020: Fundraising and Philanthropy Track, 14–16th May 2020

Speakers: Deepak Singhal, IAS, Govt of UP; Jasmine Shah, Delhi Dialogue & Development Commission; Pramod Bhasin, Asha Impact (Moderator)

About the Session: The session looked to answer a few key questions — What is the bold thinking and drastic action that is needed to be taken to address the bottlenecks for effective public-private partnerships? What can (and cannot) the government do in today’s environment? How does the government manage the re-opening of the economy, the gaps in the preparedness of the health system, and fostering the civic sense and behavioral change needed in the post Covid world? What are the best practices and strategies being used by state governments that can be scaled to other hotspots?

Watch the video recording of the session here

Key takeaways from the session:

  • Need to embrace ‘living with covid’ as a mindset and focus on stronger management until we find a preventive cure. The economic impact of the imposed lockdown on livelihoods and employment is higher than the mortality rate; the government and civil society must work alongside to normalize living with COVID.
  • Like other diseases with a high mortality burden, we as a society need to adopt certain behavioral changes (better hygiene, wearing masks, social distancing etc.) and governments at all levels need to think about making it easier for people to adapt to these changes (e.g. placing sanitizers, mobile wash-basins at public places)
  • There are many ‘different Indias’ within India and hence a central strategy to open up doesn’t make sense. States need to be empowered to create their strategies at a state/ district/ city level depending on the risk and the infrastructure availability; finance to be decentralized too.
  • Enabling infrastructural facilities that adhere to all safety norms and precautions along with building a sense of trust in the emergency medical facilities would make re-opening of the economy much easier.
  • Enhancing testing capabilities and ensuring sufficient medical infrastructure by repurposing some existing facilities to manage the pandemic as cases rise.
  • Weighing the costs and benefits of the lockdown, are choosing to champion a phased opening up as the economic consequences of the lockdown, especially on livelihoods are enormous. States cannot continue operating in perpetuity without any revenue.
  • Also focused on the humanitarian crisis that the pandemic and lockdown have created. The city has been providing for the neediest — ones without shelter and food — by collaborative action of all stakeholders including NGOs, government, RWAs, corporates, etc. All this action has been galvanized at an incredible speed.
  • Health: In villages, without functional Community Health Centers (CHCs) and Primary Health Centers (PHCs), it is hard to set up and maintain quarantine protocols. The state of medical infrastructure is weak and hence need to invest in medical infrastructure, staffing, and training of medical and nursing staff to operate on machines such as ventilators.
  • Migratory: There are huge logistical challenges to support migrant populations as there isn’t the adequate infrastructure to aid them. The Government needs to provide full financial support, food, and shelter to enable people to go back to their hometowns. Also need to think about gainfully employing them.
  • Economic: Promote entrepreneurship at the block level as a large percentage of the workforce has moved back to villages.
  • The government has played an enabling role during this pandemic, bringing together and leveraging capabilities of the three million NGOs and their last-mile reach to support citizens.
  • Governments by and large have been inaccessible but the crisis has made them listen and be receptive to ideas and solutions from the private sector. But it's important to create structures that enable more engagement and participation on an on-going basis rather than as a reaction to the pandemic.

For example: Dialogue and Development Commission in Delhi has been set up to do just this. During the pandemic, it partnered with Genpact to set up a call center to connect with active covid patients daily.

  • Build trust through the collective action of the govt and civil society, Businesses and RWAs to play a critical role in ensuring monitoring of the violation of essential norms such as wearing masks, washing facilities
  • India’s medical infrastructure including the PHCs at the local level is not equipped to handle advanced diseases let alone a pandemic. Healthcare spending has to be increased from the current 3.6% to at least 5% of the GDP.
  • Government bodies need more effective collaboration both horizontally and vertically. We need more effective use of our funds and convergence of funds between different departments and schemes.
  • The focus should also be on making rural India a vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurship and service delivery.

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