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Civil Society from India seeks global support towards systemic changes in India and rest of the world committed to public health, social equity and justice in the times of COVID-19

As the country delegations gather to discuss the agenda prepared by the World Health Organization’s Executive Board at the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA), we, concerned citizens of India belonging to organisations and movements committed to health, rights and justice as well as members from the medical fraternity would like to draw global attention to unimaginable scale, and critical issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic in India. A number of world leaders have called for a ‘Pandemic Treaty’, which will govern the future global approach to pandemic preparedness and response. But the language used is that of health securitisation and the mandate of the treaty is being seen through the lens of International Health Security Regulations alone.

It is pertinent to state that we are concerned about the lives of people and their well-being. There is a growing sense of people having lost faith in the current Government of India – which continues to exhibit its apathetic attitude towards its citizens. The Government confronted the first wave of the pandemic with a hastily imposed lockdown that left millions hungry and to fend for themselves. It also perpetrated one of the largest migrations of its own citizens.  When the Government should have been spending its time on building up medical, social and logistical support for its citizens to handle the pandemic and economic crisis, it was busying itself priding on the illusory victory over COVID-19. During the massive and fatal second wave, it was not only callously unprepared, and under-prepared, but, also criminally negligent in the implementation of internationally developed scientific protocol for the treatment of the viral attack and its secondaries. With utmost disdain towards people’s lives, it abandoned the patients and families at a crucial juncture when people required governance mechanisms to prevent blatant profiteering and black marketing of life-saving drugs and oxygen. India’s high mortality rate is a direct result of this negligence and apathy, clubbed with irrelevant & over-medication, and unscientific treatment meted out to hapless people[1].

No other country in the world may have witnessed widespread prescription medicines being sold over-the-counter. As evidence suggests, heavy and multiple dosages of irrelevant antibiotics and anti-parasitic medicines have wreaked havoc with people’s health – leading to even asymptomatic persons having to shift to life support and worse, lose their lives. The government shamelessly allowed experimentation on people of India by the pharma lobbies, yoga gurus, private hospitals, a few doctors and quacks alike treating them as guinea pigs, who are now exposed to the additional threat of the deadly Mucormycosis fungal infection that is seeing unprecedented escalation[2].

We, the citizens of India, are uncertain about the Government’s position at the WHA, however, we do know that it has lost its credibility to represent the people of India. We seek to gather global support for systemic changes in India and elsewhere, while at the same time, calling for a commitment to strengthening public health systems globally by honoring ‘Health as a Universal Right’ through all means possible – Increased resource allocation for the public health sector in national budgets, increased investment in R&D, and providing equitable access to quality public health services, especially for the most marginalized sections of our societies. In spite of long known studies and predictions of real possibilities of novel pathogen borne pandemics, the global community failed to respond to Covid-19 in earnest, and often succumbed to narrow private economic interests in the initial stage, allowing the disease to become a pandemic. With our invasion of ecologically isolated niches and Climate Change threatening to unleash more novel pathogens into human environments, we must learn hard lessons and prepare before the next such threat strikes.

Institutional Failure Responsible for Loss of Countless Lives[3]

The complacency of the Indian Government after the first wave thoroughly exposed its lack of preparedness for the second wave. The already critical situation was further exacerbated (as widely reported by internationally media) by a series of missteps overwhelming the public health infrastructure that has been systemically weakened over the last few decades by policies and disinvestment.

Subsequently, the Government of India ignored the potential second wave warnings from doctors, health experts and its own committees. A Parliamentary Committee[4] in November 2020 pointed out the ‘glaring lapses’ in emergency supplies, including oxygen. Another expert group of scientists formed by the Government warned of a more contagious variant of Corona-Virus in early March of 2021.[5]  The Government’s endorsement of local-bodies’ and state-level elections[6], and allowing massive congregations at religious festivals[7] only aggravated the already critical situation. As the world is well aware, the severe lack of preparedness from the state led to the chaos that unfurled, with hospitals and doctors taking to social media sending distress calls for oxygen replenishment and upgrading medical infrastructure.

The urban and rural healthcare infrastructure in India was grossly insufficient and did not have the necessary infrastructural capacity to take care of surge in the number of patients. This is a result of the chronic underinvestment in healthcare, and shift towards privatization of essential health services, especially in rural pockets of the country. Moreover, sub-optimal rollout of vaccines has created panic, confusion and chaos, which has further impacted the lives of the people.

Prioritizing Superstition over Science

When the primary focus of the Government, health departments and medical fraternity should have been to spread scientific temperament and establish proven treatment protocols, the people were constantly fed quasi-scientific and superstitious beliefs. Even when India was clocking a record number of infections and deaths due to COVID-19, a constant barrage of misinformation found its way into the public domain, many of which were acknowledged and promoted by authorities in the Government and the Ayush Ministry[8]. Alternative medical/medicinal approaches were blindly promoted without rigorous scientific and clinical testing of their efficacy and safety, which – if proven, could have added to our collective knowledge and repertoire towards an effective response to COVID-19 The Government literally allowed the overriding of medical sciences with mythological invocations.

Reckless Overmedication and Serious Consequences

Due to the failure of Indian medical authorities to issue and implement a clearly articulated scientific treatment protocol for Covid-19, many a medical practitioners were in breach of WHO and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) protocols and guidelines in their reckless and untimely use of drugs that have drawn no conclusive evidence of fighting the infection and has resulted in a deadly impact, like

  • Ivermectin, Fabiflu, Tocilizumab, Remdesivir, Convalescent Plasma, all of which have not shown any significant effect in any of the clinical trials and were not in the WHO protocols were prescribed recklessly, thereby severely compromising the natural immunity of patients, and creating unnecessary vulnerabilities to a myriad of secondary infections. Some of the state governments had announced dosage of Ivermectine as a prophylaxis, for anyone above 18 years[9]. Remdesivir, despite its very limited effect, was made to look like a magic drug, creating a rush and panic among patients to procure spending tens of thousands of rupees (upto over 1000 USD)!
  • Broad spectrum antibiotics like Doxycycline and Azithromycin were prescribed in the first week to symptomatic and asymptomatic patients alike, and even promoted as preventive drugs, hindering body’s ability to fight the virus subsequently. Similarly, corticosteroids were randomly prescribed in higher dosages (Dexamethasone over 12mg) in many cases without accounting for risk factors, such as diabetes – while the globally recognized protocols clearly prescribed 6mg dosage of the same.
  • Despite Convalescent Plasma being another experimental treatment that had not been accepted by the WHO or any leading government medical hospitals; countless big and small private hospitals prescribed and profiteered by promoting and administering Plasma as therapy. It took an acute shortage of plasma and countless deaths[10] and a strong campaign by certain sections of the civil society and medical fraternity, for the government to finally remove It from the treatment protocol.
  • At this moment, India is facing a dangerous spike in cases of Black Fungus (Mucormycosis) amongst COVID-19 and post-Covid-19 patients, that is speculated to be a direct result of rendering patients severely immunocompromised due to the faulty medications and high doses of steroids. It is also linked to forcing people to desperately buy and use industrial-grade oxygen in the face of dire shortage of medical-grade Oxygen

Corporate Loot in Time of COVID-19 Crisis: 

While it is yet to be empirically confirmed, there is need for a serious investigation into the link/s between alarming death rates in India and the reckless medication, which have suddenly gained a huge market share in India. Most crucially, the Government of India, stood and watched as people paid the price and companies profited.

It is an irony of our times in India, that the Union Government that seeks to centralise power in so many ways, has now created a multi-tier pricing policy for vaccines revealing its commitment to corporate profit rather than its citizens. The new policy earmarks that the Centre and states will have to negotiate independently with companies, as though vaccines are a luxury good in a so-called free market, instead of a basic service that the state should guarantee for its people.

Public Health Crisis Handled as Disaster Management: 

The Government of India has been tackling the pandemic through a disaster management strategy and legality of the Disaster Management Act, rather than treating it as a public health crisis.

Passing authoritarian strictures that further compromised the health and immunity of the people of India, allowing states to implement cruel measures on migrant workers – men, women and children – such as spraying them with disinfectant chemicals[11], using the law and order apparatus to ruthlessly ‘control’ movement, instead of pressing into service measures that aided the people at large, the deeply over-stretched medical and care fraternities has only increased the peril and fragility of peoples’ lives and health – both physical and emotional.

Another serious implication of the pandemic being seen and handled as a disaster rather than a public health crisis is the fact that all decisions on medical protocols and advisories are being made and issued by civil bureaucrats, rather than the scientific and medical fraternity, public health specialists, etc.[12] The Government is deliberately obfuscating the data pertinent to incidence of infections and mortality.[13] Anyone trying to unearth these discrepancies is denounced by the State and also liable to inviting severe reprisals by the State.[14]

Health as a Right of People is Severely Undervalued:

India’s public spending on health care has remained an abysmally low of around 1.6% of GDP, one of the lowest even among developing countries.  With citizens forced to bear huge expenses for health care, this pushes out the poor to the brink of health care access. A very tiny portion of even this amount is actually spent on public health infrastructure or investments. The second wave is not only a health, economic and livelihood crisis, but, a crisis of humanity. Today, not only scores of Indians have been brutally snatched from their loved ones, many young children have been orphaned, and those who have survived are heavily indebted and made poor by a system dictated by greed of private capital – hospitals, pharma companies and insurance alike. Equating health care and health coverage misses the point of public health investment in favor of indemnifying health, and is thus an indicator of shallow proportions.

We call upon the World Health Assembly to not limit its responsibilities to a short-term and piecemeal ‘pandemic treaty’, but rather focus on public health care investment and infrastructure.

Our Appeal to the WHA

We, call for strong global political commitment to address the challenges in public health care, by having instantiated the case for India. Health should be seen as an investment in human capital, which is essential for social and economic development of a country. Therefore, the governments should take a primary ownership role in ensuring people-centric and equitable delivery of health care to all its citizens. But, this role is not being fulfilled by most governments, especially those in Low-Middle Income Countries (LMICs). As World Health Organization’s Global Health Expenditure database shows, there is a wide variation between the High-Income Countries (HICs) and LMICs on the Current Health Expenditure as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In many countries, the General Government Health Expenditure as a percentage of Current Health Expenditure has also been shrinking over time. This reveals a dangerous trend that the governments are slowly withdrawing its responsibilities of ensuring health of its citizens.

We, the undersigned, draw the attention of the Assembly through the Office of India’s Permanent Mission at Geneva to the following:

  • Underinvestment in health care sector by national governments and demand a publicly funded Universal Health Care.
  • Need for an international ring-fenced fund for renewal of health care infrastructure in LMICs
  • Supply chains for products required for essential and emergency medical care during the time of an international healthcare crises. This also encompasses easing of restrictions on exports and imports of raw-materials and components for vaccine manufacturing, by possibly waiving off TRIPS Agreement as subscribed to by the WTO
  • Pooled procurement and public manufacturing of products required for essential and emergency medical care during the time of an international health care crises
  • Accountability of national governments to its citizens and the international community, on health and health-care delivery. We also demand accountability and transparency on data pertaining to vaccine and vaccination status as well as efficacy of vaccines and other medical drugs as regards their lines of treatment
  • Transparency in reporting of morbidity and mortality statistics, by national governments to its citizens and the international community.
  • International health governance processes should be initiated during the time of an international health care crises and the Office of the World Health Organization should honored
  • Emerging concerns like Antimicrobial Resistance and Neglected Tropical Diseases and challenges posed by HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria should also be addressed in priorities
  • We demand provisions to be made and strictly adhered to by national governments for those who need regular medical treatment and hospices. They mustn’t be barred from accessing their critical and follow-up medical services
  • Keeping in mind the state of overcrowding in prisons and consequent risk of infection, we demand the authorities to uphold human rights and liberties of those incarcerated, and those wrongly held without conviction

Though we are yet to enter into a formal phase of negotiations for the treaty, the emphasis given on surveillance, whereby individual rights are controlled & curtailed by the state; and vaccines in the discussion about the treaty shows a very narrow approach taken by the high-level stakeholders. At a time when the political capital available for increasing public expenditure on health is high, the pandemic should be seen as a wake-up call for revamping the global health care system, and restructuring it for the larger good in consonance with democratic principles.


Endorsed by


1Aaditeshwar SethGram Vaani
2Aashish GuptaUniversity of Pennsylvania
3Abdul AzeezDaya hospital
4Abha Dev HabibDemocratic Teachers’ Front
5Aditya Vikram Rametra Pushpanjali Trust
6Agnes kharshiingINSAF, HRLN
8Aishwarya RajIndependent
9Akash SrivastavLok Manch
10Akshit SharmaGuhaar And National Alliance of people’s movements (NAPM)
11Amarjeet Kumar Singh All India Students Association (AISA)
12Ambika DasOmon Mahila Sanghatan, Jharkhand, India
13Amir Khan SherwaniAll Indian Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP)
14Amit KumarDelhi Solidarity Group
15Amitabh Pandey JournalistDaily Akhand Doot, News paper
16Amrit Kumar GoldsmithAssam Christian Forum
17Amulya NidhiPeoples Health Movement India
18Anil Tharayath VargheseDelhi Forum
19Animesh guptaMovement
20Anirban BhattacharyaCentre for Equity Studies
21Ankit JhaRashtriya Awas Adhikar Abhiyaan
22AntaraDelhi Solidarity Group
24Anuradha BhasinKashmir Times
26Arun KrishnanMumbai Nurses Collective
27Arun MohanConcerned citizen
28Arun Prasad DihudiCSD Odisha
29Arundhati Dhuru NAPM
30Arundhati RoyIndependent
31Asha Sankar VResearch Scholar
32Ashok ChoudharyAll India Union of Forest Working People AIUFWP
33Avinash KumarNetwork
34AyshaRight to Food Campaign
35Bhanita Talukdar INDEPENDENT
36Bhargavi S.RaoCFA & ESG
37Bijay BhaiBharat jan Andolon
38Birendrakumar SinghSelf
39Bismi GopalakrishnanMahatma Gandhi university
40C. R BijoyResearcher writer
41Carthi MannikarottuCSEM
42Cedric Prakash Human Rights and Peace Activist
43Chhavi parasherIndependent
44Cibia Shehlin HussainIndependent
46Daniela Bezzi Independent Journalist and Activist
47Dayal DuggalResidents welfare association
49Debasis Shyamal Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum ( DMF)
50DeepaJagya Aapni Campaign
51Denzil FernandesIndian Social Institute, New Delhi
52Dinesh SahniNo affiliation
53Dr Ashwini Independent Researcher
54Dr CK RajuMITS, A.P.
55Dr Godwin SKGovernment College for Women Thiruvananthapuram
56Dr Madhu Rai No organisation
57Dr Mohan Mamunni Personal
58Dr Prince K JChikithsaneethi
59Dr Ramshanker TiwariNational Hawkers Federation, Trade Union Faridabad HR
60Dr Sandeep PandeySocialist Party(India)
61Dr SreelathaChikitsa neethi
62Dr Thomas George Indian Medical Association.
63Dr Vijayan K GPuthencruz Medical Center
64Dr. Anil Pisharody Indian Medical Association.
65Dr. Goldy M GeorgeContributing Editor, Forward Press
66Dr. Prechard B. M. Basaiawmoit North East Dialogue Forum (serving as Consultant)
67drabdulazeezvk@gmail.comDaya hospital
69Elin LakraDelhi Solidarity Group
70Evita DasDelhi Solidarity Group and Pakistan India Peoples’ forum for Peace and Democracy
71FUKUNAGA Masaaki Sociological Society of India
72Gajanan PhutkeNone
73Gautam Chaudhury Self
74Geetika SharmaBetter careers consulting
76Grace BanuTrans RightsNow Collective
77GULAFSHA,Delhi Young Artsts Forum
78Harish TharayilGovernment medical college Kozhikode
79Harsh KapoorSACW
80Himanshu DamlePublic Finance Public Accountability Collective
81Himanshu ThakkarSouth Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People-SANDRP
82Isfaqur RahmanEllora Vigyan Mancha, AIPSN & JSA Assam Chapter
83JayachandranKerala Saasthra Sahitya parishath
86Jesu RethinamCoastal Action Network
87Jesudas AthyalIndividual
88Jibin RobinDelhi Solidarity Group
90Joe ThomasPersonal Opinion
91Johnson ThomasIndividual
92Jose KaviMatters India
93Jose SebastianInstitute for Enterprise Culture & Entrepreneurship Development
94Kanan Gupta MDI Gurgaon
95Karnabati Das MahapatraPurba Medinipur Matsyajibi Forum
97Kavita KabeerAll India People’s Science Network (AIPSN)
98Kc AlavikuttyIndividual
99Krishna kumar PHM food and nutrition group
100Kumar SahayarajuCoastal Students Cultural Forum (CSCF)
101Kundan KaushalUniversity of Delhi
102Laji PaulHealthy India Movement
103Lalita RamdasLARA
104Lionel FernandesRetired Reader in Politics, University of Mumbai
105LokeshSocial Security Now
107Macherla Mohan RaoNational Federation of Handlooms and Handicrafts
108Madhuresh KumarNAPM
109Madhuri ChauhanMobile vaani
110Malcolm NazarethIndividual
111Mallika SIndividual
112Mamta DashAIFFRS
113MANIMALAPakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy
114Margaret Gonsalves (SFCC) Sisters For Christian Community.
115Mariam DhawaleAll India Democratic Women’s Association
116Martin PuthusseryIndian Social Institute, Bangalore
117Mary MathaiIndividual
118Mecanzy DabreMaharashtra Hakwers Federation
119Medha PatkarNarmada Bachao Andolan
120Milind ChampanerkarPipfpd
121Mohan Kumar VVolunteer, Palliative Care Department, Kasturba Hospital Manipal Karnataka
123Narendra PatilNational Fishworkers Forum
124Nasir TyabjiFormerly with Jamia Millia Islamia
125Neelima SharmaSecretary, Nishant Natya Manch, Delhi
126Nikhil DeyMazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
127NishankDelhi Solidarity Group (DSG)
128NishantPeople’s Resource Centre
129Olencio SimoesNational Fishworkers Forum
130Om Prakash SinghIndividual
131Pani LaguriOmon Mahila Sanghatan, Jharkhand, India
132ParimalaForum for IT-ITES Employees-FITE
133Peehu PardeshiJan Swasthya Abhiyan
134Philip MathewIndividual
136Prafulla SamantaraLok Shakti Abhiyan
137Prakash LouisJesuit Migrant Service
138Prakash MeghePak India people’s forum peace and democracy
139Pratibha J MishraCentral University of chattisgarh Bilaspur
140PraveenSelf employed
141Priya DharshiniDSG
142Pushkar rajPUCL
144Raja Rabbi HussainDSG
145RajanGraylands hospital
146Rajesh DSG
147Rajkumar Forum For IT Employees
148Rajkumar Sinha NAPM, Mp
149Raju naikNational Network of sex worker India(nnsw)
150Ramani AtkuriIndependent
151Ramu RamdasFormer Chief of Naval Staff
152Ranjeet KindoTribal Research and Training Centre
153RatnaEmpire Diaries
154Renu Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
155Rita ManchandsIndependent author and rights activist
156Rohit Prajapati Environment Activist, Researcher, and Writer
157RomaAll india union of forest working people
158Roopal GuptaIndividual
159RushdaNational Federation of Indian Women
160Sachin NDSC, University of Delhi
161Sagari R RamdasFood Sovereignty Alliance , India
162Sairu PhilipIAPSM
163Saji GeorgeIndividual
164Saktiman GhoshNHF, India
165Sanjay KakFilm maker
166Santi TiriyaOmon Mahila Sanghatan, Jharkhand, India
167Sarbendu GuhaCPI(ML)
168SehjoIndustree Foundation
169Shamsul IslamAssociate professor University of Delhi (rtd.)
170Sheema KermamiTehrik-e-Niswan
171Shikha KapurAcademic
172Siddharth ChakravartyThe Research Collective
173SnehlataNeenv Delhi Forces
174Sonu P YadavNGO
175SOUMYA DUTTABharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (translates to India people’s science campaign)
176SreedeviMedical college palakkad
177Sreedhar RamamurthiEnvironics Trust
178SubhadraSelf Employed Women Association-Delhi
179Suhas KolhekarNational Alliance of People’s Movements
198Sukumar MitraPeople In Distress
180Suman Kirti Lata RundaSocial Justice and Ecology Secretariat, South Asia
181Sumit KatariaPresident SFI Delhi State Committee
182Sushobha Barve Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation
183Swadha PardesiIndependent
184T B MiniTrade union centre of India
185Tani AlexNew Delhi
186Tapan BosePakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace & Democracy
187Thomas FrancoPeople First
188Thomas FrancoPSU National Task Force
189Unnikrishnan BPhysician Private Practice
190Utsav kumar singhIndependent
191Vani SubramanianSaheli Women’s Resource Centre, New Delhi
192VarnaPinPoint Ventures LLP
193Veishonai Individual
194Vidya DinkerIndian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
195Vijayan MJPakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD)
196Virginius XaxaFormerly with Delhi School of Economics, Delhi university
197Vivek PatilIndividual


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[2] Biswas, S. (2021, May 23). Black fungus: India reports nearly 9,000 cases of rare infection. BBC NEWS.

[3] Coronavirus in India: Latest Map and Case Count. Coronavirus Outbreak in India. (n.d.).

[4] Sofi, U. (2021, April 25). ‘Glaring lapses…’: Parliamentary committee report flagged concerns over oxygen supply last year. Hindustan Times.

[5] Ghoshal, D., & Das, K. (2021, May 3). Scientists say India government ignored warnings amid coronavirus surge. Reuters.

[6] Agarwal, V., Pokharel, K., & Mandhana, N. (2021, May 9). As Covid-19 Surged, Indian Teachers Died After Working Elections. The Wall Street Journal.

[7] Kamal, H. M. (2021, April 22). Kumbh Mela and election rallies: How two super spreader events have contributed to India’s massive second wave of Covid-19 cases. Firstpost.

[8] Sharma, D. (2021, May 22). ‘Enough is enough’: Ima demands prosecution of Ramdev under Epidemics Act. (A. Roy, Ed.)Hindustan Times.

[9] Pullanoor, H. (Ed.). (2021, May 10). Goa To Start Using Drug Shunned By Us Regulator For Covid Treatment. NDTV.

[10] Banerji, A. (2021, May 19). Multiple studies, letter from experts force AIIMS-ICMR to drop plasma therapy as Covid-19 treatment. Firstpost.

[11] Cvorak, M. (2020). Coronavirus: Indian migrant workers sprayed with disinfectant amid mass exodus from cities – video. The Guardian.

[12] Talukdar, S. (2021, May 6). India’s COVID-19 crisis: Flat-footed communication strategy, risk-averse bureaucracy add to distress. Firstpost.

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