Disruption of essential supplies: Move policy from obtuse to sensible – The Economic Times

Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/et-editorial/move-policy-from-obtuse-to-sensible/articleshow/82555281.cmsSynopsis

Policy must address both kinds of problems. Any deemed sign of shortage leads to hoarding and realised shortage. This must be averted.



WorldIndiaAmidst regional lockdowns and movement restrictions, there are reports of disruption of essential supplies. Two sets of factors are at work here. The manpower engaged in production and logistics fall ill and so are unable to perform; and regulation prevents factories from working or goods from moving. Policy must address both kinds of problems. Any deemed sign of shortage leads to hoarding and realised shortage. This must be averted.

The identification of priority groups for vaccination needs to be tweaked further. Those engaged in producing and moving essential goods must have priority. Similarly, delivery personnel, retail employees, those who man milk booths and small stores, and come into contact with multiple people are themselves at risk from any customer who might be infectious at the time of interaction, and, in turn, pose a risk to multiple customers, in case they develop the infection. They, too, must move up the vaccine queue. Since production is interlinked and the distinction between essential and non-essential is not all that obvious, some lines of production that are essential might get blocked when non-essential ones are stopped to prevent the spread of the pandemic. If policy remains nimble, trial and error can arrive at a reasonably fair assessment of what activities need to continue at all costs and what activities can stay suspended. Ideally, the effort should be to let all activities continue, at a reduced, say, 60% capacity. Apart from vaccination, what would allow personnel to keep working without posing a risk to themselves and others is repeated testing. For that, test kits must be available that yield accurate results, and fast. Multiple test kit prototypes had made the rounds in the initial days of the pandemic, some promising to be fast and low-cost. The public must know how these fared in their journey towards approval and deployment.

From the level of obtuseness that blocked interstate movement of oxygen, policy has moved towards sense. Shortage of essentials would speak of policy failure.

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