How Communist led Kerala controlled the Coronavirus

RISHWAJEET: “Kerala, a state situated onthe tropical Malabar Coast of southwestern India, is one of the most popular touristdestinations in the country.

Named as one of the ten paradises of the worldby National Geographic Traveler, Kerala is famous especially for its ecotourism initiativesand beautiful backwaters.

Its unique culture and traditions, coupledwith its varied demography, have made Kerala one of the most popular tourist destinationsin the world.

” Oh hey! I was just reading Kerala’s Wikipedia entry…asone does.

Did you know that Kerala was the first placein India to have the novel Coronavirus? yeah that’s true.

It was also the first place which seems tohave successfully controlled and contained the virus.

How did they do it? Is it because its world famous beaches, backwaters, mountain ranges and wildlife sanctuaries? No.

It’s communism, baby! Let’s do it! How Communist led Kerala controlled the Coronavirus So there has a been a country-wide lockdownfor over three weeks now.

Is that right?I don’t know.

Time does not exist for me in quarantine [laughs].

India has seemingly successfully slowed downthe virus.

The numbers are still growing, but at leastit’s not exponential.

Silver lining, folks [chuckles].

In early March there were is cases in India, of which 3 of them were in the Southern state of Kerala.

Now Kerala is a very unique state becauseof its long history of communist-led government.

This communist government has seemingly successfullyflattened the curve, which is a gigantic achievement.

Not just in India, but across the world.

At the time of recording, we have 342 recoveredpeople with 123 active cases, with 4 deaths.

These are excellent numbers.

Let’s take a look at our international friendsand see how they’re doing.

DONALD TRUMP: Supposing you hit the body witha tremendous uh in other words ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think yousaid that hasn’t been checked but you’re gonna test it.

And then I said supposing you brought thelight inside the body you could—which you can do, either through the skin or uhh insome other way—and I think you said you’re gonna test that too.

Sounds interesting.

Right and then I see the disinfectant knocksit out in a minute—one minute, —and is there a way we can do something like that? Uh by injection inside or-or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and itdoes a tremendous number of the lungs so it’d be interesting to check that.

So that you’re gonna have to use medicaldoctors with but it sounds interesting to me.

RISHWAJEET: Oof.

That’s rough.

So how does Kerala do it? I managed to get Dr.

B.

EKBAL on this show, who’s a member of the Kerala state planning board.

And I just wanna stop here for a second andask you to like, share and subscribe, because this was a very difficult interview to get, and I would really appreciate your support.

Alright, let’s take a look.

RISHWAJEET: This is Rishwajeet Singh on leftclicktvand I’m delighted to have on the show today Dr.

B Ekbal.

He is a public health activist, academic andneurosurgeon.

He’s also been serving as a member of theKerala state planning board since 2016.

Dr.

EKBAL, welcome to the show.

DR.

EKBAL: Great to meet you and great to be withyou.

RISHWAJEET: So could you start by talkingabout the coronavirus situation in Kerala right now, and how’s it going there? DR.

EKBAL: Well you know that the first threecases of Corona patients came to Kerala on 30th January and then we detected Corona infectionthen detained them.

There were only very few contacts with them, and we thought that we are fairly safe [laughs].

But it was only the beginning, as can be expected, because we have a large number of expatriates from Kerala.

The next batch came in March.

This was a few patients from Italy.

And then of course, from various parts ofthe world.

And Kerala is one ethnic group which is allover, as you know.

Maybe next to Gujaratis.

RISHWAJEET: Now, Kerala has a pretty goodsocioeconomic situation and a lot of skilled workers which regularly travel outside India.

This made the state particularly vulnerable.

But Kerala was also prepared.

DR.

EKBAL: Do you know that in 2018 we had thisNipah that happened in a small place in Calicut.

But that time, for the first time Kerala peoplestarted talking about and understanding what is meant by our ‘index case, ’ what ismeant by ‘contact tracing, ’ what is meant by ‘quarantine, ’ etcetera.

Of course this was a learning experience forus.

RISHWAJEET: The novel coronavirus requiredsimilar measures.

DR.

EKBAL: When the Corona also came, and basicprinciple is identification of the case, then contact tracing, quarantine.

This was done fairly well in Kerala.

Because our contact-tracing, if you look atthe figures, for one positive case we have traced contacts up to 100 cases.

People were housed in special centres meantfor Corona quarantined patients.

And the home-quarantined persons were veryregularly monitored.

You know, as we have a very well-functioningpanchayat raj system, and in every ward there is a sanitation committee, we have ASHA workers, and the police personnel also were working.

And the CM himself, Chief Minister himselfstarted voluntary sena you see, so for an army of youngsters, between 20 to 40 years.

And so far all of them were a very regularteam, regularly monitored the quarantined patients.

And secondly, we also started what we callthe ‘Break-the-Chain’ campaign, which also was a great success.

We said, of course all these three principles, so washing your hands, keeping social distance, and thirdly covering your mouth when you coughor sneeze, at the earliest stage.

Now we have made universal use of reusablemask now we have taken to use that.

So therefore you see that all these publichealth measures were brought in, because of our maybe preexisting learning experiencein countering Nipah and the flood, from which we faced last two years.

So but then we know that we are not complacent, you see, we know that for that matter this is a pandemic unless, I used to say maybewith some exaggeration that unless the United States of America controls COVID in New York, Kerala will not be safe [laughs].

RISHWAJEET: So today we’re seeing healthcaresystems all across the world collapse because of insufficient funding and austerity measureslike all around the place, really.

So could you talk about the Kerala’s healthcaresystem and like what has the Kerala healthcare model been before this pandemic, and how ithas helped the state to really survive this and overcome it.

DR.

EKBAL: We were always talking about Keralamodel of health.

Maybe last half a century, maybe more thanthat also.

In fact it is part of Kerala model of development.

Kerala model of development can be definedas a high human development index.

This is in spite of low economic status, yousee.

Even among different states, the Kerala’sper capita income was low.

Only very recently we are picking up.

Others have defined the Kerala model of health, they say that it is good health at low cost.

Good health with social justice and equity.

This is the general discussion of Kerala model, because you know that we have a fairly good, robust system of public health system, startingfrom the primary healthcare, secondary, supplementary, and parallel with that, the missionaries startedestablishing hospitals in different parts of Kerala.

Most of them are doing family medicine andhomeopathy medicine, not the corporate type of private setup.

Of course, private hospitals also came intoexistence in Kerala.

But you should understand that in late 1980s, Kerala started facing crisis as the longevity was increasing because of the good healthcare, that’s all.

RISHWAJEET: So here was a state which hadsuccessfully improved its healthcare, but as life-expectancy increased, so did diseases.

How did they manage that? DR.

EKBAL: The public health system was not revampedor expanded enough to handle this increasing morbidity.

It was stagnating, you see.

And then it was stagnating into that [unintelligible]private hospitals in a big way.

Of course these corporate hospitals in Keralaare not that corporate if we compare with other Indian states RISHWAJEET: Right, right [both laugh] DR.

EKBAL: But now there are bigger hospitals, super-speciality hospitals came, that I think that is a major contribution of Kerala toIndian polity.

That we started what is called a people’scampaign for decentralised planning.

RISHWAJEET: People’s campaign for? DR.

EKBAL: Decentralised planning.

RISHWAJEET: Okay, decentralised planning.

DR.

EKBAL: It was initiated by Dr.

Thomas Isaac, who was the planning board member at that time.

I was also a planning board member at thattime.

[unintelligible] So we all started this decentralisation campaignand wherein the maximum decentralisation was done in the health sector with public healthinstitutions.

From primary healthcare centres up to districthospitals were and lower to the local police.

Understand? And moreover that are three things happenedin Kerala.

One was an administrative decentralisation;we decentralised finance also.

That 25%of the state budget is allocated tothe local police.

When a budget is presented, every panchayatknows how many money they are going to get.

Okay? Based on a criteria.

And thirdly, we also decentralised planning.

Not only that we handed over the money, theycan spend according to their [unintelligible].

And of the total amount, 40% can be spentfor social welfare, social service, including in education and health.

And suddenly there was a change in the publichealth system.

Because I can tell you, I was working as aneurosurgeon in medical college at that time.

I was in charge of the health allocation inthe planning board.

When I looked at the figures, I found thatup to that time, more than 70% of the money was going to the medical college, not to thehealth services hospitals, you know? That changed completely.

RISHWAJEET: Decentralised planning worked.

All the wasteful expenditures in just bureaucracystopped, and the process became much more efficient [chuckles] This really surprisedme.

That’s interesting that you bring that up, because when we look that up across the country, you’d expect every single state to be doingthat, really, but I mean of course we’re not seeing that in India, and like Keralaseems to be sort of an anomaly here, and that’s why I wanted to focus on like what makes Keralapolitics and I mean like just politics in general that has allowed it to be so good.

Also about decentralising, uh the people havethis idea in mind that it’s only by like rigid state planning and like centralisationof power that such measures can be taken and lives can be improved, but you bring aboutlike a very interesting point about how decentralisation actually improved people’s lives in a materialway.

DR.

EKBAL: You see, that is the major game changerin Kerala.

I want to put it on record.

RISHWAJEET: Mhmm.

DR.

EKBAL: That is the game changer in Kerala.

Uh because many think that many think thatplanning is a very sophisticated, expert-assisted process and the local bodies plan it, okay? RISHWAJEET: Yeah [laughs] DR.

EKBAL: And moreover, decentralisation meansdecentralisation of corruption.

RISHWAJEET: Right.

DR.

EKBAL: All these arguments are there, butsurprisingly I can tell you, from my experience as a public health activist, that I was surprisedhow intelligent these local body functionaries-and they were very ably assisted by the expertsalso.

RISHWAJEET: Mhmm DR.

EKBAL: See grassroot democracy, what we meanis it is a expert-assisted grassroot democracy, see? So there is a lot of expertise available inKerala, you know that a large number of people coming, retirement and coming back to be, uh coming back to their homes have got expertise.

So we at that time started what we call ‘VoluntaryTechnical Corps’.

RISHWAJEET: Experts working with people onground worked splendidly.

DR.

EKBAL: And then in 2016, this government startedwhat is called Aardram mission.

Uh by which the primary healthcare centreswere converted into family healthcare centres.

The PHCs were functioning up to 2 o’clock.

We have increased up to 6 o’clock.

Number of doctors were increased from twoto three.

Nurses from three to four.

All lab facilities were provided.

All essential drugs were stocked.

So that way the public hospitals in Keralaimproved tremendously.

We had some advantage, Kerala had some advantagecompared to other states in that our public health system was very robust.

RISHWAJEET: Right.

So that’s what I wanna focus on, becauseum I mean recently we’ve seen a lot of privatisation happening across the board really.

And that continues to happen even when we’redealing with a pandemic and um we’d had the liberalisation reforms, we’d had allof that, and it seems as if the states are not focusing on public goods, on public services, and that’s what I wanna focus on: what do you think is specific about Kerala and theLeft parties here that has allowed it to do this? What do you think, or like, you have the experienceso, could you relate the political and the healthcare part of this for me? Of course the uh I purposefully did not mentionthe ministry when I talked about ’96, 2006- RISHWAJEET: [chuckles] DR.

EKBAL: 2006 and 2016.

All these were were the left [unintelligible]governments you see? RISHWAJEET: Yeah DR.

EKBAL: So during [unintelligible] government’sregime, generally speaking, the healthcare facilities improves.

And unfortunately in Kerala what happens isthe government changes every five years, so the— RISHWAJEET: Yeah [chuckles].

Now Kerala again has a very unique situation, wherein every election cycle the government changes between two coalitions.

One which is led by communists, and one whichis led by neoliberals.

And the interesting part here is that bothof them follow socialist policies in Kerala.

The left has managed to create a culture whereif you’re anything less than a socialist, you’ll just not win.

That’s the dream.

DR.

EKBAL: And down below, even the right-wingpeople they know that they are coming in [unintelligible] with the people and they cannot simply beatthe Left just by you know some false allegation against the left.

RISHWAJEET: Mhmm.

DR.

EKBAL: They have to prove their worth, yousee.

They have to do something concrete there.

So the local body system.

The decentralisation system has sustained.

The intervention of the Left parties is obvious.

Not because I am I belong to a Left streamof politics that I am saying this.

If you look at objectively, with statistics, you can see that.

RISHWAJEET: Another important thing I talkedto Dr.

EKBAL was the culture in Kerala.

Right, so you would say that it like the Left’sideology that allows it to do this, or would you say that it is like the Kerala culturethat forces like every party to do this? ‘Cause I think both of these factors exist, sort of, there? But what do you say on that? DR.

EKBAL: Now this is a very important question.

Let us see what happened in Kerala duringthis epidemic.

See whenever we feel a crisis, Keralites allcome together, whether Right or Left.

RISHWAJEET: Hm, hm.

DR.

EKBAL: That is a part of our culture.

You know that Sri Narayana Guru, he used tosay that we should stand united.

Now you look at this epidemic.

This pandemic.

The private sector came voluntarily to theKerala government and offered all help.

RISHWAJEET: Hm, hm.

DR.

EKBAL: In fact, my friends in [unintelligible]were asking, ‘Are you going to take over the private hospitals?’ You know that I have a friend, uh Dr.

[unintelligible]I have to mention that.

He is a leader of the private, self-financingmedical colleges, 17 of them.

There are 22 private medical colleges.

5 are under the Christian community, theyhave a separate organisation.

So [unintelligible] one morning telephonedme and told me that we are ready to give all our facilities for Corona control.

They have hostels—single room hostels! 200 per college, all of them.

All the ICU unit.

All the ventilators.

And the Christian groups also followed.

And you know that two medical colleges, onein Kannur and one in Wayanad, they offered all facilities and we have taken it over.

Kannur we have taken over—not by force! RISHWAJEET: Mm DR.

EKBAL: They asked us to take it over.

And there these two private hospitals areconverted into—private medical colleges are converted into COVID hospitals now.

So this is happening.

So I think that Kerala has got a social capital.

Their respective political moorings becauseof the tradition, our renaissance movement, the ethos of the renaissance movement whichinfluenced everybody.

You know that there are renaissance leadersin all communities, especially the downtrodden.

That traditionally is there.

And the of course the tradition of the progressivemovements is there.

Because of that, in a time of crisis, everybodystands united.

So at this point of time, if you ask me myviews on private sector, I won’t say it.

[both laughing] DR.

EKBAL: Because I am standing united with themto [unintelligible].

After that we can have ideological differencesand debates.

RISHWAJEET: Yeah DR.

EKBAL: But at this point of time, they’realso helping us, you know.

RISHWAJEET: Mm DR.

EKBAL: Yeah, so that social capital is therein Kerala.

RISHWAJEET: Yeah, because when one talks aboutlike a lot of the audience on this show is international as well, so when people thinkof communist places, or communist ruled states really, they think that the government islike dictatorial, and it takes over everything, and that’s how it gets the work done butit’s really you say that the private, capital, and like the private institutions have actuallyjust willingly allowed the government to control them, because they just care about the people.

DR.

EKBAL: Yeah, yeah, that is there.

But then you can see that the Left just setsthe agenda in Kerala.

RISHWAJEET: Right, right.

Exactly.

Yup.

DR.

EKBAL: The Left just sets the agenda in Kerala.

That has to be considered.

[Scene changes to Rishwajeet laughing] RISHWAJEET: Folks, don’t worry.

This is not opposite land.

Private capital suddenly is not generous.

It is the Communist government which setsthe agenda and all the private entities follow that [laughs] So like, even in the developed countries, we are not seeing much, like in the United States they don’t have universal healthcare, and that’s leading to a lot of poor and marginalised people dying because they justcan’t afford to go to the doctor and everything from like tests to getting an ambulance, everythingtakes so much money that people just don’t have that much savings.

So I just want to ask you this final thing:what do you think in the political realm must be done, caused about internationally, thatallows the world to be better prepared for something like this that happens, like ifit comes again—probably would, as scientists seem to be saying, — and just improve thelives of the poor and the working class, really? DR.

EKBAL: See, it has to be considered that healthis a fundamental human right and it should be protected by the state.

Even in the United States, if you look atthe presidential elections, there are three topics the presidential candidate debate everytime.

One is international affairs, second is domesticaffairs, third is healthcare! RISHWAJEET: Mm.

DR.

EKBAL: And thirty million people in Americaare denied healthcare.

I am not making an allegation as a leftist.

This figure is given by Obama Barack.

So Obama came and he introduced the Obamacare RISHWAJEET: Yeah DR.

EKBAL: to thirty million people.

And one of the promises of Trump was thathe will dismantle it.

But he could not.

Should understand that, see whenever you say‘America is turning Right, ’ many of the Right policies he wanted to introduce, hecould not.

He could not even build a wall between Mexicoand America.

RISHWAJEET: [laughs] I mean, that was a bluff.

DR.

EKBAL: Yeah.

So therefore you see, I am sure that Americanpeople will take care of.

I am sure that globally there will be a relookat the way they are handling the health of their people.

I am sure.

RISHWAJEET: Right.

I mean, we certainly hope they do, becauseI mean, Bernie Sanders who was the only one who was advocating for universal healthcarehas just dropped out of the Democratic race, and because of the DNC, and it’s all a [unintelligible].

We just hope that whoever comes actually doesimplement universal healthcare and even across the world, really.

DR.

EKBAL: Yeah RISHWAJEET: Yeah, okay.

Dr.

EKBAL, thank you so much for coming, andI’m grateful to everyone who’s doing their best, handling this crisis, and thank youso much for that and [speech overlap] DR.

EKBAL: We will tide over this crisis and learna lot of lessons from it.

RISHWAJEET: Hm… DR.

EKBAL: And I think, I am already started talking.

At least from Kerala point of view, we aregoing to divide our history into two: before Corona and after Corona.

[both laughing] RISHWAJEET: Yeah.

This was a significant point.

Yeah, alright, thank you so much.

Is there any social links, any place peoplecan find you, online? DR.

EKBAL: Yeah my email is there, WhatsApp isthere, you can always contact me.

Phone me up.

RISHWAJEET: Right DR.

EKBAL: I always phone back even if somebodyunknown to me.

I have a dual responsibility, three responsibilitynow: I am the chairman of the medical board, I am now today government appointed me asa committee to look at the dedication and issue and then I am a planning board member.

But nevertheless, I will.

Definitely.

RISHWAJEET: Alright.

Thank you so much.

Alright, that was Dr.

B.

EKBAL.

I would highly, highly recommend that youwatch the full interview which I’ll link down below in the description if you wantto learn anything about Communist rule in Kerala or Kerala politics in general, andhow such a Communist rule has survived in a democratic country.

Definitely watch that interview.

So, what can the world learn from this? How do you create a place where you care aboutthe working class and have the ability to prevent any pandemics or any public healthissues? Now it is undeniable that wealth is neededfor this.

Kerala gets a lot of its wealth from remittanceby skilled workers who are in the Middle East and developed countries at least can do this.

They have the resources.

But, even for developing countries, or underdevelopedcountries, all of these terms are very—not very well-defined, but this was the resultof Kerala’s great public education system.

This education system could create such educatedand well-skilled workers.

A strong public-goods system, which includeshealthcare, which includes education, and all the infrastructure which supports allof it.

This baseline already put it way ahead ofother places A decentralised healthcare system that listened to experts while following theneeds of the people on the ground created such a system that it was responsive enough, and efficient enough, that it could really control the pandemic.

With their experience in dealing with theNipah virus, they were already kinda ready, and as soon as they saw the first three cases, they got to work.

Roll the clip.

TRUMP: And this is their new hoax.

But you know, we did something that’s beenpretty amazing.

We’re 15 people in this massive countryand because of the fact that we went early, we went early.

We coulda had a lot more than that.

We will do everything in our power to keepthe infection and those carrying the infection from entering our country.

We have no choice.

Whether it’s the virus we’re talking about, or many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threatto the health and well-being of all Americans.

Now you see it with the Coronavirus, you seeit.

RISHWAJEET: Tracing, testing, quarantining, and locking down the entire state.

This worked, and they were successful.

This kind of stuff you can only do when you’renot interrupted by silly things like the fucking profit of the pharmaceutical industry.

Kerala has now seemingly successfully containedthe spread of the virus and these “developed countries” could do the same tomorrow ifthey wanted to.

They have the resources, they can follow thesame path.

What they lack is political will.

You know who could change the situation? Workers owning the means of production.

Alright, buh-bye.

Oh hey, what a great video.

I’ll definitely be linking the full interviewdown below, so check that out and thank you so much for subscribing.

Thank you so much to ThoughtSlime for featuringthis channel and thank you to everyone who came from there.

I loved reading your comments, you’re allso lovely and kind and fun.

So keep commenting, and if you have any videoideas or something you wanna watch, comment down below, and I think that’s it.

Alright, stay safe.

.

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