Even as the government has been regularly reporting an increasing level of Covid-19 recoveries, the country doesn’t seem to have fared well in terms of fighting inequality among its people going into the pandemic. That’s because of low spending on public healthcare, poor access health services and labour rights etc, according to Oxfam – an international confederation of charitable organisations. India, which is ranked 129 out of 158 countries in the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index by Oxfam, spent just 4 per cent of its budget on health going into the pandemic — fourth lowest in the world, the index said. In fact, just 26 of the 158 countries surveyed for this year’s index were spending the recommended 15 per cent of their budgets on health to fight Covid.
“Nigeria, Bahrain and India, which is currently experiencing the world’s fastest-growing outbreak of COVID-19, were among the world’s worst-performing countries in tackling inequality going into the pandemic,” the index report said. It also claimed that despite an already disastrous track record on workers’ rights, several state governments in India have used Covid-19 as a pretext to increase daily working hours from 8 to 12 hours a day and suspend minimum pay legislation, devastating the livelihoods of millions of poor workers now battling hunger.
The index added that only half of India’s population have access to even the most essential health services while over 70 per cent of health spending is being met by people themselves. Also, most workers earn less than half of the minimum wage, 71 per cent don’t have any written job contract while 54 per cent do not get paid leave. Further, it noted that only around 10 per cent of the workforce in India is formal, with safe working conditions and social security.
The index, which was published earlier this week, ranked countries measuring their policies and actions in three areas that it said are proven to be directly related to reducing inequality — Public services including health, education and social protection, taxation, and workers’ rights. “The poorest people are least able to isolate, to protect themselves. They are more likely to have pre-existing poor health, making them more likely to die. Economically, it is ordinary people who are losing their jobs in their tens of millions, facing huge levels of hunger and hardship,” it said.
The CRI index also ranked India eight from the bottom of top 10 lowest scorers with respect to measures for trade unions, legal protection for women workers and minimum wages. India was also ranked fifth last among bottom 10 spenders on public services including education, health and social protection. “Towards the bottom of the overall health spending ranking is India, which has also made cuts to its health budget (albeit small) and has fallen to third-last position of this ranking,” it added.
The government on Sunday had said that India’s total Covid recoveries have crossed the “landmark milestone of 60 lakh.” It said that due to the enhanced countrywide medical infrastructure, implementation of the Centre’s Standard Treatment Protocol by the States/UTs, and total dedication & commitment of doctors, paramedics and frontline workers have led to a consistent slide in the number of daily fatalities. The total active cases in India stand at 8,67,496, ,” Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement.