The COVID-19 health emergency has been one of the toughest challenges the humanity has faced in recent times. Ever since the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak began in the country, the Modi government and the state governments have been putting a brave fight to defeat the Chinese menace and have done an exemplary job to keep the pandemic in check.
However, there has been a concerted campaign by a section of society to discredit the initiatives of the government and are trying to create panic in the society. The so-called experts, aided by media are indulging in misleading the public by aggravating the crisis.
On Saturday, a similar campaign was pushed by a one health-expert named Ramanan Lakshminarayanan, who came up with fanciful numbers to state that India would be facing close to 300 million COVID-19 infections and 2.5 million deaths due to coronavirus outbreak.
Ramanan Laxminarayanan, a UPA-era public health entrepreneur, made an appearance on various media network on Saturday to float his conspiracy theories pertaining to the future coronavirus outbreaks in the country.
Who is Ramanan Laxminarayanan?
Ramanan Laxminarayanan, who was pitched up as an expert on diseases and epidemics by the media outlets of the country, however, in reality, is not an epidemiologist. Dr Ramanan Laxminarayanan is not even a doctor but has a PhD in economics.
Ramanan Laxminarayanan actually claims to be an economist and has worked for a little-known not-for-profit organisation named Public Health Foundation of India for the last four years.
Ramanan Laxminarayan is also founder and director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP) in Washington DC, and also senior research scholar and lecturer at the Princeton Environmental Institute at Princeton University. His claims of being an economist are also disputable.
According to BJP leader Vijay Chauthaiwale, Laxminarayanan while working with PHFI in India, had launched two private companies without taking appropriate PHFI permission. Later, PHFI did not renew his contract in 2016 and also sued him for stealing the NGO’s intellectual property. Ramanan Laxminarayanan had also the lost case and had to return back the Intellectual property rights to the PHFI. The court even awarded legal costs to PHFI.
In addition to his role in US-based NGO CDDEP, Laxminarayanan also ventured into commercial activities by starting a company called Health cube, which according to him works in the area of diagnostics, as pointed out by Twitter user Naren Menon. Another venture set up by the so-called health expert is “Public Health Technologies Trust”.
The websites of both Health Cube and Public Health Technologies Trust suggest that Ramanan Laxminarayanan is into the business of health solutions. PHFT in its website claims to use state of the art IT and systems design tools and technologies to empower the Indian population to obtain better health through optimal use of technologies.
In the interview with various media outlets in the country, Ramanan Laxminarayanan indulges in fearmongering by shooting up numbers and making bizarre claims on the extent of coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Speaking to controversial news anchor Barkha Dutt, Ramanan Laxminarayanan claimed that the government did not test lot many suspects resulting in the transmission of the virus and stated India needs to be on a complete lockdown immediately. “We missed the bus on testing, If you wait 3 weeks, lockdown won’t work,” he added.
Many are saying these projected numbers by Ramanan Laxminarayan will cause panic. I disagree. I think him telling us that India could get 300 to 500 million #Corona cases by July is a call to action. It brings home gravity of what could happen if we don’t isolate diligently https://t.co/Xumlwkwk6o— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) March 21, 2020
Arguing for a complete lockdown, Ramanan Laxminarayanan came up with fanciful numbers on the show stating that 300-500 million Indians could test positive by July without any immediate drastic measures such as a lockdown. He also stated India needs to prepare for the worst-case scenario and need to call for ventilators on a war footing.
Later, Ramanan Laxminarayanan pushed similar numbers on Rahul Kanwal’s show on India Today channel, where he claimed that India could be heading to a stage where we could be having death cases going into lakhs. Lakshminarayan, continuing with his magical figures, claimed that nearly 10-15 million people will be affected seriously and will be needing critical care in the coming days.
According to Ramanan Laxminarayanan, if mathematical models applied in the United States and the United Kingdom were applied to India, the country could be looking at 300 million COVID-19 infections.
Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan suggests that if mathematical models applied in US & UK were applied to India, we could be looking at 300 million #Covid19 infections.— India Today (@IndiaToday) March 20, 2020
Listen in to Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan in conversation with @rahulkanwal.#Newstrack Full Show: https://t.co/nE7H2M0wtB pic.twitter.com/EzUBHf8trq
“Most of the infections will be mild, however, 10 million severe infections will happen within the next two weeks and Indian does not such intensive care facilities to handle such scale,” claimed Ramanan Lakshminarayanan.
In a classic case of speculation, Ramanan Laxminarayanan said that India could be facing close to 2.5 million deaths if we are unprepared for the upcoming future. The so-called disease expert, however, failed to authenticate his numbers and did not reveal the source of data before inventing such fanciful numbers.
Moreover, his claims are basically a statistical modelling assumption and not clear facts. He did not even clear much about inputs he used to derive at such higher numbers of mortality. Rather, he has resorted to useless fear-mongering to create undue panic.
Further, Ramanan Laxminarayanan seems to be using the US and UK data to conclude there will be millions of coronavirus deaths in India in the next few weeks. The attempt by Laxminarayanan to directly co-relate western models to compare a health crisis in India and to come up with such higher number is extremely unfair, as the data inputs concerning India is entirely different. The Indian climatic and health conditions are very different from the western countries, hence adopting such models to derive at numbers is unreliable.
A clear case of Conflict of Interest? :
The blatant fear-mongering by the so-called heath expert Ramanan Laxminarayanan, however, has a commercial angle to it. As we looked into carefully, the two companies set up by Laxminarayanan are into manufacturing of medical devices, tools and health solution through diagnostic kits. The diagnostic kits and the gadgets can be used remotely at any location to conduct a series of tests at any place without having to go to diagnostic centres.
Ramanan Laxminarayanan, understanding the scale of current health emergency in this county, perhaps now looking at opportunities to promote his commercial interests. As public health facilities in the country are already facing a huge pressure with an increased number of cases being reported positive, Lakshminarayan has found a suitable time to create more panic in the country so that he could create more pressure on the government to test more aggressively.
Once, the government decides to carry out more tests on public, Laxminarayanan and his company may push those diagnostic kits and testing devices at throwaway prices. The scaling up of numbers intentionally and shooting up imaginary numbers by making fictional claims that more than 300 million could be infected with the virus, Lakshminarayan is indulging in speculation, in a way to push the government for private testing across the country.
Interestingly, the media of the country seems to have a joined with the so-called health expert in promoting such vicious idea at a time of the global epidemic. Rather than rigorously questioning the so-called health expert on his fear-mongering and fictional mathematical models, the media houses have indulged with him to create more panic, in a way to promote the commercial interests of an organisation.