Even as the world is struggling to cope up with the massive coronavirus outbreak which has sickened more than 1,25,000 people across the globe, the chair of the UK think tank Chatham House, Jim O’Neill, on Wednesday made derisive remarks against India saying that if the coronavirus outbreak had started in India, things would have deteriorated even further. Jim claimed that the “quality of Indian governance” is not a patch on the way the Chinese dealt with the epidemic.
Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe”, Jim heaped praises on the Chinese model of containing the virus that has so far claimed about 4600 lives globally, with more than 3000 deaths in the Mainland China alone as per the official Chinese government figures. However, analysts suspect more number of death than the official number since Chinese state authority is notoriously known for withholding crucial information detrimental to its global standing.
“Thank God this didn’t start in somewhere like India because there’s absolutely no way that the quality of Indian governance could move to react in the way that the Chinese have done, that’s the good side of the Chinese model, and I think you could probably say the same about Brazil too,” O’Neill said while ridiculing India’s ability to clinically restrain a rapidly contagious pandemic.
The former chief economist at Goldman Sachs, Neill’s assertions about India betrays his lack of awareness about India’s galloping progress in the field of healthcare and its resilient traditional practices that have prevented deadly epidemics from spreading their baneful claws in the country. Besides being one of the largest suppliers of generic medicines globally, India has also displayed remarkable dexterity in containing fatal diseases such as the pneumonic plague that broke out in the city of Surat in September 1994.
After the initial panic that is usually associated with the outbreak of a lethal disease, the government swiftly recouped and stopped the spread of the disease by identifying cases and providing them with antibiotics. It also ordered the sterilisation of cargo, clearing of ports infested with rats and spreading of insecticides over vast areas. Within months, the plague was stemmed and Surat emerged as a leader in public healthcare.
In addition, India has an array of time-tested traditional practices that serve to strengthen its competence in containing deadly contagions. India has staggering crowds in events such as Kumbh, Jagannath Yatra etc. Temples and other places of worship where a legion of people throng on a daily basis are filled with rats and other rodents but it still ducked from being the epicentre of contagions like SARS and coronavirus.
While Jim fawns over China’s exemplary measures to control the transmission of coronavirus, it is an irrefutable fact that the novel coronavirus emerged from one of the noxious streets of markets in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, with the cause of the zoonotic contagion residing largely in the deeply problematic Chinese practice of wildlife trade that had earlier caused a similar epidemic SARS in 2002-2003. However, China evidently failed to acknowledge the gravity of the problem then and allowed its lucrative wildlife trade to flourish, endowing the world with an even pernicious pandemic.