Covid-19: Delhi in Crisis
The situation in Delhi has not improved despite the Supreme Court reprimanding the administration for its management of the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been a substantial increase of cases on a daily basis due to the failure of stopping community spread of the virus. This situation has surprised many as the capital of the nation has traditionally been viewed as a city with sound infrastructure. How did the capital fail to contain the pandemic and what structural factors can be identified as the main reasons for this crisis? The first question points to a failure of administration, which in the context of Delhi seems odd given the mandate that the present government captured during the most recent elections. It appears that the various government agencies meant to serve the common public have failed to protect them from the crisis. The widespread nature of the virus has highlighted the limited capability of the healthcare system in Delhi.
The first step to understand the present crisis in Delhi would be to look at the administrative failure. The administration includes both the Delhi government and the local municipal bodies. Presently, both are run by two different political parties ( Aam Aadmi Party and Bharatiya Janata Party), both of whom have failed to see eye to eye on various issues in the past, and the present situation has not been helped by the inability of the two parties to cooperate and work in unison. This has led to various gaps in the effort to contain the pandemic in a situation where we could afford none. Eventually the spillage of partisan politics into the sphere of governance has contributed to this catastrophic situation. The failure of the health care sector in Delhi is even more surprising due to the large budget allocations that have been made to this sector. This highlights faults in the manner that the funds are utilised, rather than directing the funds to add to the pre-existing infrastructural capabilities the allocated money has been diverted to short term schemes which are motivated by the politics of patronage and populism. It further highlights the necessity of rethinking governance in the 21st century.
Lastly, while the present regime have warranted criticism due to their failure to stop the spread of the virus, a deeper retrospection is required to prevent anything of this magnitude from happening in the future. In the midst of the pandemic various groups have demanded an increase in public spending on health care. One has to also revaluate the manner in which the public funds are utilised in the healthcare sector. For too long the emphasis has been on the short term needs while very little has been added to the infrastructural aspects. Hence, while distribution of public goods should be an important part of public policy, equal attention needs to be given to increasing future capabilities .