Thursday, May 21, 2020

How the Indian communist-run state of Kerala successfully fought Coronavirus outbreak

The Indian state of Kerala has been a role model in the fight against Coronavirus pandemic. With a population of 34 million people, Kerala is governed by the ruling coalition of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), which is led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The state’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, is a member of the Communist Party’s Political Bureau. 

The communist party-run state has managed to contain COVID-19 spread better than most other Indian states. Kerala has reported only 4 deaths (COVID-19 related) with 600 cases after more than 3 months since the first outbreak of the virus in January. 

If we compare Kerala with other Indian states, with similar or less population, the statistics speak for themselves: The state of Punjab (28 million) has reported 35 deaths with almost 2,000 cases; the state of Telengana (35 million) counts 34 deaths with more than 1,550 cases. We could even compare Kerala with other non-Indian states or regions, with much more advanced economies, like for example California (39.5 million) which has more than 3,300 COVID-related deaths and over 81,000 confirmed cases. Similary, Canada, with a population of 37 million, has reported 6,000 deaths and more than 80,000 cases.  

The first case of COVID-19 in India surfaced in Kerala on January 31, 2020, imported from Wuhan, China. However, the state’s administration acted quickly and successfully, setting as a top priority the welfare of its people. The swift action of the state government in identifying the possible social contacts and subsequently tracing them started to show results by early April, writes “Indian Express” adding that the remarkable achievement of Kerala has now attracted international attention much like the famous ‘Kerala Model’ of development. 

The state maintains a universal health system which, despite the decades of neoliberal policies implemented by the central Indian government, hasn’t been eroded. According to “Indian Express”, what becomes important in the context of ‘flattening the curve’ of spread of COVID 19, is this priority accorded to public health. Public health and hygiene issues have never taken a back seat even when the focus started drifting towards privatisation and efficiency in the health sector.

The communist-run state government has done an extraordinary job in promoting the relevant campaigns about COVID-19, holding daily media briefings. The co-operation between the government and local social organizations and movements was also significant in the joint effort to eliminate the spread of the virus. For example, youth movements, like the Democratic Youth Federation of India, produced hand sanitisers, while women’s cooperative were involved in the production of masks. The local organizations of the Communist Partyu of India (Marxist) had their own important contribution, with their members satitizing buses, setting up sinks in bus stations for passengers to wash their hands and faces, while the Centre of Indian Trade Unions – the largest trade union federation in Kerala – appealed to workers to assist their fellow workers who face distress as a consequence of the quarantine. 

K.K. Shailaja, Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Kerala,
member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), is widely
praised for her role in the battle against COVID-19.
A characteristic example of the social policy implemented by the Kerala state government is given by Subin Dennis and Vijay Prashad in an article published on MR Online: “In a densely populated region of the world, quarantine is not an easy matter. The government has taken over vacant buildings to set up coronavirus care centres to quarantine patients, and it has made arrangements for people who need to be quarantined at home, but are in overcrowded homes, to move to facilities set up by the government. Everyone who is in quarantine and in these centres will be fed and treated by the local self-governments, and the bill for the treatment will be paid by the state.”

The communist-run state managed to provide millions of meal deliveries to schoolchildren as well as to those in need, guarantee two months of pension payments for the elderly people, while utility payments for water, electricity and debt payments’ interest were suspended. There is a huge gap between this policy and the one implemented by the right-wing government of India led by Narendra Modi

Here is what Dennis and Prashad point out in their article: “India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi took an odd attitude toward the coronavirus. He called for a partial curfew and urged Indians to clap hands and bang pans in public, as if this would scare away the virus. In fact, followers of his right-wing party circulated messages claiming that the virus would be killed by the noise. Kerala’s chief minister, on the same day as Modi’s lackluster speech, announced a relief package worth $270 million.”

What Kerala teaches us

The success of the Communist Party-run state government of Kerala in the fight against COVID-19 is indicative of the great capabilities of socialist organization. Alongside Kerala come the examples of Cuba and Vietnam, where the governments successfully tackled the Coronavirus pandemic. 

However, we must always keep in mind that there cannot be “socialist islets” in the ocean of capitalism. Although governed by Communist-led forces, Kerala is part of a capitalist country, it functions within the limitations of market economy.  As long as the capitalist mode of production exists, the workers, the impoverished masses will be chained with the shackles of exploitation, one way or another.  

That is why the struggle against capitalism in India and all over the world must be intensified, the marxist-leninist Communist Parties must be strengthened ideologically, organizationally and politically and the barbaric nature of the exploitative system must be exposed to its full extent.