With its 1.3 billion population and with one of the largest diaspora in the world, India today is poised to play an effective role in the post-pandemic global stage in all spheres – be it economy, society, or international peace or geo-politics. Today’s plenary session is an important step towards engaging with the diaspora experts from various fields in order to understand their views and gain insights about their own experiences and ideas on ways to deal with the challenges posed by this Global pandemic. Indian diaspora is known to be one of the most respected, renowned and talented group in the world and has won laurels for its host country as well as for India through its stellar achievements in various domains. We believe that through the confluence of our diaspora’s knowledge and expertise, we can overcome the momentary impediment that Covid has brought in the pace of India’s rapid growth.
From the very beginning of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in January last year, countries across the world have faced unprecedented challenges in almost all the sectors – health, economy, education, transport to name a few. Covid-19 is no longer a health issue alone. It has impacted our social and international dependencies. The vulnerable group of the society especially the poor, farmers, small & micro businesses, migrant laborers have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. Therefore the challenge would be to create a socio-economic platform to take care of their needs in these trying times. We must not give them the feeling that society is blind towards their needs, that they will be excluded from access to health care or economic recovery benefits. Only then it will be true ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas aur Sabka Vishwas’.
The economies of almost all the countries including India have taken a hit because of the pandemic. But at the same time, the pandemic has also given us an opportunity to devise ways and means to quickly get out of this quagmire. Aatmanirbhar Bharat is a step in that direction. In the wake of pandemic, India has taken many initiatives and decisive steps including a USD 266 billion economic package to support in the economic recovery of our country. By pushing towards becoming self-reliant i.e. Aatmanirbhar Bharat, we seek to utilize India’s mammoth workforce and innovative skills in building domestic capacities as well as fully integrate ourselves in the global supply chain. This would provide jobs, boost economy, and at the same time enhance India’s reputation in the World.
Covid-19 has also affected our health related preparedness in the beginning of the pandemic. Like other countries of the world, India also faced shortage of PPE kits, masks and other life-saving equipment, however with the combined efforts of government, people, private players, NGOs, these challenges have been quickly overcome. Covid-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to rise to the challenge of providing a robust healthcare facilities to all citizens particularly the vulnerable sections of the society who cannot afford the higher cost of healthcare. I believe that we have been successful to a large extent in this regard. As the crisis unfolded, despite all the limitations, India handled the pandemic by augmenting the existing medical care facilities – thereby succeeding in not only restricting Covid 19 positive cases vis-a-vis its population but also in ensuring that the mortality rate due to Covid-19 remains one of the lowest in the world. The credit goes primarily to our health care professionals, front line warriors and general public for their resilience.
Distinguished Guests, as you know, the Covid-19 crisis is both a challenge and an opportunity. Challenges have come in the form of preparedness, managing with limited resources, limiting the sufferings of common man, saving lives and livelihoods. This pandemic also gave us an opportunity to reflect on how to do things better. Covid-19 did not distinguish between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, rich countries and poor countries. As a result there is an obligation on our part to help other nations particularly the less resourceful ones to overcome the challenges posed by this pandemic.
India has always been in the forefront when it comes to global cooperation and as always, India played a pivotal role in supply of essential medicines, test kits, protection gears to over 150 countries while addressing domestic shortages of essential commodities like PPE kits, Masks etc. in the true spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Govt. of India, through its pro-active measures has not only evacuated more than 3.2 million Indians under Vande Bharat Mission but also has assisted more than 120 nations to safely evacuate their nationals stranded in India, which itself was a huge challenge involving massive coordination of logistics from interior parts of India.
India is also playing a lead role in cooperation on vaccine development for Covid-19 and has pledged USD 15 Million in GAVI- the Global Vaccine Alliance. Also true to the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam during the 3rd Donor Pledging Conference our Prime Minister offered India’s capacity in contributing to global health efforts.
The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic has caused widespread sufferings to our people. But at the same time it has also had positive effects such as less pollution, decrease in road traffic and regeneration of environment. One of the post-Covid challenges will be how to sustain these gains without adversely affecting the lives and livelihoods of the vulnerable sections of the society. We must now reflect on the recovery process, on making this world and certainly our country a better place to live, where we can take care of each others needs; give our children a greener planet where our next generation will not have to use air filters in their home for breathing cleaner air !!
These are some of the thoughts I wanted to share with you. I hope during this session, we will get the opportunity to listen to your ideas on “how India can face Post-COVID challenges”. Your valuable inputs and ideas will help us further to fine tune our policies and initiatives in this regard. Finally, I wish to thank you all for your valuable time and hope that the deliberations and discussions in this session would be fruitful.
Remarks by Minister of State for External Affairs at the Plenary Session-II of the 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention (9 January 2021) on “Facing Post-COVID challenges-Scenario in Health, Economy, Social and International Relations”
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