Kerala gets accolades from Amartya Sen and Noam Chomsky
Famous philosopher and social critic, Noam Chomsky has said that the way Kerala responded to the Covid-19 pestilence was a surprise to the whole world. He was speaking at the ‘Kerala Dialogue’ discussion forum organised by the state government to explore new ideas in the context of the Covid pandemic.
‘Kerala Dialogue’ is a platform that brings together leading thinkers, policy-makers, professionals, scientists and the general public to a shared space where they could rethink and re-imagine development for a world disrupted by the outbreak of the pandemic. Apart from Chomsky, the first edition featured Nobel-laureate and economist, Amartya Sen and WHO Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan.
In his comments, Chomsky said, “The differences in the way between Kerala and the rest of India, and the rest of most of the world, on how they reacted to the crisis was quite startling. Not many places have dealt with it the way Kerala has. This pandemic has brought out very sharply the extraordinary inequality that has been, of course always there, but greatly exaggerated through the neoliberal period”.
Asked if there will be a fundamental change in the world at the end of the Covid pandemic, Chomsky said that countries like the US are trying to continue the current situation and move to more dictatorships, restrictions and people-watching. “But there are movements all over the world to counter this. Coordinating this can be a huge force. They can make changes and they are all trying to create a new world.”
As he recalled his travel through Kerala, Chomsky said, “The last time, it was quite remarkable to see the differences between Kerala, and the rest of India, Tamil Nadu next door and other parts of India. It was interesting to note that in Kerala people were reading newspapers instead of seeing people banging on your windows pleading for a rupee.”
Amartya Sen, in his talk, appreciated the public healthcare system and the high level of literacy in the State. “I think Covid would be a transformatory movement in Kerala. There is a danger of being deluged under the rather deceptive economic slogan that is so dominant in India today and there is widespread resistance to that. But it also suggests that combating bureaucracy, combating red tape, and doing things with exceeding speed, which indeed is what Kerala seems to have done in dealing with Covid. It is not only important in dealing with Covid-19, but it also important for making economic development to get going at a high speed.”
He came down heavily on the unplanned and unstructured lockdown which caused distress and hardship to all but he was all praise for Kerala’s efforts in contact tracing, quarantine and reverse quarantine which was successful in containing the spread of the outbreak.
Professor Sen also pointed out that the collapse of the public system which has happened in Europe has not happened in Kerala. Though Europe had a tradition of public sector intervention it is not there now but that kind of reliance on the public sector can be still seen in Kerala.
In her reaction, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said that countries which responded to the early warning issued by WHO were better prepared to face the pandemic. On January 30, the World Health Organization issued an emergency alert for global Covid-19 defence. But Kerala had already started preventive measures in early January, anticipating potential problems. That is why the first cases from Wuhan could be discovered. Following this, Kerala was able to locate, quarantine those who had contact with them and contain the outbreak. Kerala has been able to contain the disease as fast as possible due to proper preventive measures.
“Vietnam, which disintegrated with the invasion of the United States, has confronted this pestilence and not a single Covid related death was reported there. South Korea has also effectively controlled the pandemic without even a lockdown. Taiwan, Hong Kong and New Zealand are other countries that dealt with the disease. In Europe, Germany was able to prevent the spread of the disease in a good way. What saved them was that Germany did not adopt a commercial hospital system like the US. In America, hospitals are just business. Italy is the country where the pandemic has caused great human damage. It was Doctors from poor Cuba, who have been the victims of the US economic assault for more than six decades, who moved to Italy to help them out. This pandemic was able to show the extraordinary inequality of the world. In the United States, it was most pronounced. The racist character of America was once more exposed. Blacks and their descendants from Spain and South America suffered the most in the United States. In a sense, Donald Trump is killing poor black people”, added Chomsky.