Indian Express Editorial Analysis
13 May 2020

1) Building trust-


From claiming that the Aarogya Setu app is unhackable, to suggesting that it must be the safest app ever because millions are downloading it — they are compelled(forced) to issue fresh guidelines to safeguard the privacy of users. The government has come a long way, tacitly(in a way that is understood or implied without being directly stated) acknowledging the trust deficit(gap) and the need to address it.



Trust is an essential ingredient for the success of Aarogya Setu in helping to contain the pandemic, because it must acquire(get) a critical mass of users to be of any use. On Monday, an order by the empowered group on technology and data management, set up by the national executive of the Disaster Management Act, established the protocol(rule) for handling data by the various bodies involved in the management of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Outside that circle, the data may be shared only with the research community in anonymised(remove identifying particulars or details from) form. Breaches(violation) will attract penalties according to relevant sections of the Disaster Management Act, besides other applicable laws.



The government has fixed security flaws(errors) in data handling detected by a French white hat hacker, limited the purpose of data collection to dealing with the pandemic, and restricted the types of data which may be collected and the period for which it may be held. And crucially, by promising punitive(inflicting or intended as punishment) measures, the order sets to rest public anxieties(concerns) about privacy.

Problems about technology are not adequately(sufficiently) addressed by technology — by claiming that software is hacker-proof, for instance. It is best addressed by the law, by the certainty of liability and the penalties thereby attracted.


But perhaps this order should be read as a first step towards a law, as a letter of intent rather than a compact. Justice BN Srikrishna, who headed the committee which had produced the first draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill, has pointed out that the order is not lawful — supportive legislation is required by Aarogya Setu, rather than merely an order by the executive.

(A letter of intent is a document outlining the understanding between two or more parties which understanding they intend to formalize in a legally binding agreement. 

On May 1, the ministry of home affairs had made the app mandatory for employees in the public and private sector, and in government. Local authorities were urged to secure complete coverage in containment zones.

The Noida police then extended it to everyone, threatening imprisonment and fines for non-compliance(non-observation).


These may be emergency interventions, but the app now requires legislative backing. In the absence of an underlying law, it would remain vulnerable(weak) to legal challenge.

The new guidelines for data handling in Aarogya Setu system are a welcome first step. Supporting legislation must follow.


2) Heed the difference-


As the third phase of the lockdown winds(comes) to a close, several states have reportedly argued against a complete easing of restrictions.

At a video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, the chief ministers of at least four states — Maharashtra, Telangana, Punjab, and West Bengal — were of the view that the lockdown should be extended beyond May 17.

The CMs of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh expressed reservations about the resumption of passenger trains.



But even as they are wary(concerned) about the virus — justifiably so — the state governments also do not want to lose any time in getting the economy back on the rails. As Arunachal CM Pema Khandu said: “The fight to contain the coronavirus must not have a compromising(harmful) effect on the economy”.

The two imperatives(needful) might seem conflicting(opposite). But the key to resolving the impasse(tough problem) lies in recognising that different states have different needs and demands, and they should be given a greater say in decisions on which areas to open up and how after May 17.

While announcing the third phase of the lockdown, the Union home ministry allowed the resumption of economic activities in districts that had not seen a single COVID-19 case in the last three weeks of April, the green zones, permitting markets to re-open, factories and industrial units to resume operations, and e-commerce in non-essential items to re-commence.

The ministry also relaxed the lockdown in non-hotspot districts, the orange zones, continuing with stringent(strict) restrictions in the districts with high caseload, the red zones.


Some states, notably Punjab and Delhi, opposed this district-centred containment approach at the outset. At the latest video conference, their reservations were amplified(strengthened), with several other CMs, across party affiliations(leanings), adding their voice to them.

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s plea(request) that the authority to slot areas into red, orange and green zones be delegated(transferred) to states had the backing of BJP-ruled Haryana. And as Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal pointed out, the district-wise formula is impractical for densely-populated areas such as the country’s capital. Kejriwal’s demand to do away with the green, orange, red zones, and cordon off(to prevent people from getting into (an area) by putting a line of people or objects around or in front of it) only the containment areas, found support from his Karnataka counterpart, BJP’s B S Yediyurappa.


A major lesson from the nearly two-month-long battle against the coronavirus is that the country’s demographic, economic, and cultural diversities do not allow for a one-size-fits-all approach. Successful strategies to take on the pathogen — for instance, in Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha, parts of Rajasthan and Telangana — have relied on and responded to the local officials’ knowledge of regional specificities.


The exit strategy should be based on the understanding that these officials are attuned(understand) to the situation on the ground. While the Centre could frame the broad principles, micro-planning — including deciding which areas to open up — should be left to the states.


3) NDA government is trying to align Ayurveda with modern knowledge-


Ayurveda is not just a medical system, it is a manifestation(reflection) of our symbiotic(involving interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association) relationship with nature. It has helped cure serious diseases and many foreign companies have patented(obtain a license) important ingredients used in ayurvedic remedies.

Ayurveda should have become the forerunner(a thing that precedes the coming or development of someone or something else) of India’s great medical heritage, but we started despising(hating) our culture, heritage, and scientific traditions. As a result, people in the country lost their connection with nature — ayurveda went away from us.

For many years, when India wasn’t free, numerous attempts were made to destroy the country’s cultural heritage.



But even after Independence, successive governments did not give special attention to ayurveda. After the NDA government assumed office, the task of reviving this system of knowledge got a new lease of life.

Ayurveda is not just a medical system, it is a manifestation of our symbiotic relationship with nature. It has helped cure serious diseases and many foreign companies have patented important ingredients used in ayurvedic remedies.

But they have introduced these ingredients to the world without acknowledging ayurveda. In the process, many such remedies(solution) have gone out of our reach.

In his messages to the country, during the course of the nation’s battle against COVID-19, PM Modi has highlighted the beneficial impacts of ayurvedic practices on the immune(resistant to a particular infection or toxin owing to the presence of specific antibodies) system. These practices prepare the body to take on this serious disease without causing any side effect.

NDA govt deserves praise for taking yoga into people’s homes — it should also be lauded(praised) for bringing ayurveda into the limelight(focus).


In reviving ayurveda, PM Modi has tried to make it more scientific and employment-oriented. The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) became a full-fledged ministry in 2014.

Modi’s efforts have led to June 21 being declared as the International Yoga Day. In 2016, the AYUSH ministry declared Dhanteras, Dhanvantari Pujan, celebrated a day before Diwali, as Ayurveda Day.

Previous governments treated Ayurveda in a step-motherly(did not pay attention) manner. The budget for the development, promotion and dissemination(spread) of ayurveda was negligible compared to that for the modern system of medicine.

But the Modi-led NDA government has ensured adequate(enough) funding to the AYUSH ministry. The budget for AYUSH, only Rs 1,069 crore in 2014-15, has almost doubled to Rs 2,122 crore 2020-21.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) was established in Delhi in 1956. Before Modi became PM, there was no dedicated space for ayurveda sciences in the AIIMS campus. The Modi government established the All India Ayurveda Institute at a cost of Rs 157 crore in an area of about 10.015 acres in Delhi — this has given the discipline a distinct identity.


The efforts of saints and scholars of ayurveda did push the previous governments to establish the department of Indian System of Medicine under the Union ministry of health. Posts up to the level of secretary were also created for the department. But it was never accorded the same importance as modern medicine.

PM Modi appointed an ayurvedic doctor in place of an IAS officer as secretary of AYUSH. The result of his visionary and courageous decision has been extraordinary.

Rajesh Kotecha established new standards in education, medicine, and research of ayurveda. His efforts have ensured that the project for the scientific development of Rasaushadhi is being implemented after 20 years. This treatment has been found to be an effective cure for acute promyelocytic leukaemia, a type of blood cancer.


PM Modi has also made his intentions clear in the latest episode of Mann Ki Baat. His efforts have created awareness among people about ayurveda. The prime minister has also encouraged the practitioners of ayurveda to combine the fundamental principles of the system with some of the diagnostic methods and standards of modern medical science. This will undoubtedly create many employment opportunities.


The teachings of Swami Vivekananda have left an indelible(strong) mark on PM Modi. Swamiji wanted India to become a world guru.


By supporting ayurveda, and reiterating(repeating) its importance in the fight against the pandemic and other diseases, PM Modi has taken important steps to fulfill Vivekananda’s vision. We wish him and all of us a prosperous, proud, and empowered India.