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Economic Survey: How India’s Covid Response, Inspired By Dharma And Science, Helped Save Lives

Given that India is currently witnessing the worst pandemic in over a century which has infected tens of millions of people and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives across the world, it wasn’t a surprise that the first chapter of 2020-21 Economic Survey is all about how the governments, at the centre and states, have handled this once in a century crisis.

However, what surprised many (pleasantly or not) was the choice of quotation with which authors of the Survey chose to open the chapter with. It’s a shloka from Mahabharat’s Shanti Parva.

आपदि प्राणरक्षा हि धर्मस्य प्रथमाङ्कुरः। (Saving a life that is in jeopardy is the origin of dharma)

‘India’s response stemmed from the humane principle advocated eloquently“ in this verse, reads the Survey. The focus was naturally on saving the lives first followed by responding to the unprecedented economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic. ’Lives lost cannot be brought back but the temporary loss to the economy can be recovered’ was the common sense logic that inspired the country’s response - rooted in India’s civilisational ethos.

The Indian government also learned from history. It ‘drew on epidemiological and economic research especially those pertaining to the Spanish Flu’ which resulted in adoption of two public health measures to control spread of COVID-19: reducing interactions between people with measures like quarantines while simultaneously encouraging better sanitary practices to check spread of the germs.


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