The suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput shook the country and once the initial shock wore off, media trials took the stage, often even putting the judiciary’s informed sense of justice aside. Television debates, prime time news with its sensationalized headlines and the media Court began revolving around Rhea Chakraborty, the late actor’s girlfriend. It has been over a month, and while pressing matters like the Coronavirus, for instance, continue to plague the Nation, the media is focused on Rhea and Sushant’s romance, every emoji that Rhea used in her WhatsApp chats, and well her daily schedule to the last detail. This brainless, misogynistic banter has stripped Indian media of its last vestige of common sense. If you’re thinking to yourself, if not Rhea Chakraborty, then what else? The answer is, the new health policy, rising Coronavirus cases, Bihar floods and job loss.
Health Data Management Policy
On August 26, a draft policy was introduced by the Centre, with a mission to make sweeping changes in the country’s health management system. This draft of the Health Data Management Policy of the National Digital Health Mission was released to the public for comments and feedback, with a deadline of a week for any feedback or comments. This time limit seemed ridiculous considering the policy is shaped to alter the way the health system is perceived in India.
The National Digital Health Mission, formally announced by the Prime Minister on Independence Day, seeks to create a digital health ID for citizens. This will be linked to people’s Aadhaar cards, with a 12-digit unique identification number that is further linked to people’s biometric details. The likes of a key to a database of a person’s health information. The draft policy has been floated and comprises details of how the data will be collected, processed, stored, shared, including the ‘personal and sensitive’ data of a person.
Concerns regarding the health policy
The data will be stored at 3 levels - Central, state or Union Territory and health facility, and anonymised data in an aggregated form will be used for research, statistical analysis and policy formulation. However, speculation is rife of the motto of collecting an individual’s health data, suggesting it may be aimed at fulfilling corporate interest rather than affordable healthcare. Another cause for concern is the urgency with which this policy is being pushed through, and experts have questioned this.
“One week is ridiculous,” said T Sundaraman, former director of the National Health Systems Resource Centre, an advisory body to the Union health ministry. “Usually, the time given to seek responses from the public is one month to three months. Who asked for a health ID? We already have Aadhaar. Why is there a mission for this? And why is it located outside the [health] ministry? The real game is about how they are providing a digital framework for corporate entry.”
Rising Coronavirus cases
India broke the world record of the highest number of Coronavirus cases reported in a single day, with its 80,092 cases on August 30. The news of the Nation’s spike of Coronavirus cases came after a usual slump in the number of positive cases reported daily for a few weeks. The highest tally on a Sunday was last recorded on August 9 with 63,851 fresh cases. After the August 30 Sunday’s spike, the seven-day average of daily cases in the country stands at 73,318, a new global record.
The month of August brought with it an alarming rise in the number of Coronavirus cases with more than 76,000 fresh cases being reported daily for 5 consecutive days. The growth rate of new infections stood at 13.1 per cent in the last week, in comparison to the 4.7 growth rate of infections registered in the previous week. While the first week of August had reported a growth rate of 10.9 per cent, the second week of August had reported 5.9 per cent growth in fresh COVID-19 cases. Alarm bells were also set ringing when the fatalities started to spike.
India reported over 1000 fresh deaths for four consecutive days in the last week of August, nearly doubling the growth rate in fatalities in comparison to the previous week. The growth rate of deaths was 3.9 per cent in the last week of August, in comparison to 1.7 per cent recorded in the previous week. While news suggests that the spike in the cases is due to Unlock 4 guidelines, which cannot be put off as we need to get the economy back into gear, the rising number of Coronavirus cases points to a gaping hole in the country’s healthcare infrastructure.
The floods that have been lashing the state and wreaking havoc in the lives of the people of Bihar haven’t got the media attention they deserve. The death toll stands at 13, while close to 50 lakh people have had their lives disrupted. The number of people affected by the floods, across 14 districts, stood at 49.05 lakh, up from 45.39 lakh on Friday. News of the number of affected panchayats rising to 1,043 from 1,012 on the previous day is a matter of concern.
The 768.5 mm of rainfall that the state has received caused the water levels of several rivers to rise above the danger mark and thus affected populations of three adjoining districts of East Champaran, Gopalganj and Saran, all of which fall in the Gandak basin. Other rivers which have been flowing above the danger levels at various places include Kosi, Budhi Gandak, Kamla, Bagmati and Adhwara.
Job loss among Indians
The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy highlighted the impact of the Coronavirus on the working sector, with its recent figures. Nearly 5 million salaried people lost their jobs in July, thus taking the total number of job losses in the category to 18.9 million.
CMIE data shows 17.7 million salaried jobs were lost in April 2020 and another 0.1 million jobs were lost in May. “On a net basis, the plight of salaried employees has worsened since the lockdown began as by July, their losses had swelled to 18.9 million,” CMIE said in a statement. Why is this a worrying issue?
In a country where 21% of all the employment is salaried and thus more resilient to an economic shock, if this sector has been hit so hard, one can only fathom the damage that has been done to the economy as a whole.
CMIE underlined this very angle, saying “While salaried jobs are not lost easily, once lost they are also far more difficult to retrieve. Therefore, their ballooning numbers are a source of worry.” While the unlocking has created a demand for jobs once again, one cannot ignore the absolute shambles the salaried class is in.
Hopefully, prime time news which reeks of speculation and conjecture, can take a leaf out of this, and focus on imperative issues apart from Rhea Chakraborty.