COVID-19: The Conundrum of Centre vs State

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While we witness a rapid surge in the number of coronavirus positive cases, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel owing to various reasons such as strict measures adopted by authorities, increased testing, etc. There is also is a fierce debate going on, especially on social media regarding whom the credit of good or bad work must be given. Therefore, it becomes necessary to examine how exactly the battle against coronavirus is fought.

It is quite evident that doctors, nurses, police, and other field workers are on the frontlines in this battle. District Civil and Police Administration, Municipal Corporations play an essential role in managing them. Contact tracing and testing, which is considered as our weapon against coronavirus, are looked after by the district administration. The District Magistrates are monitoring the whole process. The responsibility of identifying the virus hotspots to contain the spread and ensuring the supply of essential materials to the public, also lies with the district administration.

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The state government supports the district administration in ensuring the availability of resources, which includes test kits, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), essentials, etc. The state governments are playing a crucial role in formulating strategies to combat the pandemic depending on the conditions prevailing in the states. One such example is the establishment of fever clinics by the Maharashtra government to segregate the COVID-19 suspects, and it was done due to rising positive cases among the staff of some private hospitals. These measures will play an essential role in curbing the menace. The innovative methods adapted by the Kerala government are also praiseworthy.

The central government was supposed to be the first responder to this crisis by ensuring the screening of international travelers and formulating appropriate guidelines. However, there are allegations that it failed to tackle the spread of virus at an early stage, which is also the case for most of the other countries. The role of the Centre also lies in procuring materials such as PPEs and test kits, and ensuring their availability to the states. However, there have been constant complaints regarding these issues by the States, and it has restricted the response of the individual States. The Health Ministry also looks after the nationwide implementation of COVID-19 strategies and shares expertise and resources with the states. Railways and Defence Services are proving to be the backbone of the pandemic response by ensuring a consistent supply chain within and from outside of the country. The role played by Air India in evacuating stranded citizens is also commendable.

The battle seems to be very much bottom to top rather than top to bottom. However, a significant portion of the credit is also with the bureaucracy rather than just the political establishments as far as crisis management is concerned. A proper synchronization between the Centre and the State will ensure that we come out of the crises as soon as possible.

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