On the south-west corner of India, lies the lush state of Kerala. Well-known among travel enthusiasts for its greenery, the coconut and paddy fields, the seashore, pilgrimage centers, and relics of colonial architecture. For many others, Kerala stands out as one of the most literate states in India with its human development index on par with some of the most progressive countries in the world.
The state has been in news recently for some other reason though. It is for the manner in which Kerala not only tackled the coronavirus pandemic but also flattened the curve.
As covid19 spread throughout the globe, India’s first positive case of coronavirus was traced back to Kerala – a medical student who returned from Wuhan. With a porous border and a huge number of expatriates traveling to and from the state, it hardly took any time for the coronavirus to spread and the curve to bulge high.
Two months down, Kerala has not only controlled the spread of the pandemic but has also flattened the curve. How did Kerala manage to do this? Who does one credit for this outstanding way of controlling the spread of the deadly virus? Is it the administrative system and the healthcare facilities? Or, is it due to the literacy rate of this state?
The simple answer is it is a combination of right governance, proactive civil society, and best healthcare facilities. Let us diagnose the role of each of these elements:
No doubt the health facilities in Kerala are one of the best in the country. With at least two primary healthcare centers for every three villages, the extensive healthcare infrastructure turned out to be a boon for tackling the virus. What made Kerala stand out is the manner in which it tackled the high demand for isolation wards with coronavirus outbreak. While the Indian government transformed railway berths into isolation wards, Kerala turned its houseboats as isolation venues. Some nature therapy for those placed under isolation!
Constant monitoring, aggressive testing, and contact tracing emerged as the real game-changers in the fight against coronavirus.
Proactive Civil Society
Be it coronavirus or any other pandemic, a success story cannot be made without the proactive participation and support of the civil society. Adhering to self-imposed quarantine, accepting social distancing, and the wearing of masks, have been strongly followed in the state. To make the masses understand the severity of the situation, several self-help groups and NGOs came up with awareness campaigns on the importance of personal hygiene, cleanliness, and the need to maintain social distance.
Resident associations, youth organizations, and professional organizations all came together for the “Break the Chain” campaign – which got widespread popularity through social media feeds and videos.
The true test of governance machinery is its ability to tackle situations like coronavirus outbreak. It is in such difficult times that the grit and leadership qualities of those in the position of power and authority come to the forefront. The governance model in Kerala follows the paradigm of an inverted pyramid – with village panchayats, municipalities, and local governing bodies having ample authority to make the impossible possible. This decentralized governance system enabled large-scale monitoring and testing of the citizens. Also, rather than getting into the panic mode, government bodies adopted the attitude of vigilance. Proper and regular communication about the coronavirus pandemic went a long way in building trust in the people.
What Kerala model has proved is that it takes sheer resolve and robust administrative systems to fight Covid-19. While there has been a lot of coverage on how Kerala flattened the curve – one needs to keep in mind that this was not achieved overnight. Also, flattening the curve does not mean the pandemic does not exist anymore in the state. Rather, Kerala has lessons for people and governments around the world with its frugal innovation methods, community mobilization, and decentralized governance.
Mastering India gives you an insight into the rich culture and heritage of the world’s biggest democracy – India. At Mastering India we are driven towards building awareness around India and help you understand the growth opportunities in this country.