NEW DELHI: A discussion paper published by the World Bank has lauded measures taken by India in dealing with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In a recently-released paper titled, ‘India Covid-19 Procurement: Challenges, Innovations, and Lessons’, produced by Health , Nutrition, and Population practice of the World Bank and authored by Gandham NV Ramana, Dinesh Nair, Suresh Kunhi Mohammed, Sanjeet Kumar and Shanker Lal, praised the Modi-led Government’s efforts in overcoming challenges like shortage of medical supplies and equipment, innovating and streamlining procurement process and, supporting private sector in manufacturing through funding.
According to the paper, the pandemic unleashed horrors of magnitudes never even imagined before. Restriction on the movement, due to lockdown, resulted in crippling supplychain mechanism of essential commodities especially ones intended for medical use. The manufacturing system and medical equipment etc. got hit on multiple fronts, be it unprecedented demand, limited means of production or unavailability of labour. The situation got further aggravated by limited availability of ‘ready-to-use’ raw material.
The paper analyses in detail, the steps taken by the Central Government to make sure that supply chain for “essential medical commodities” were not crippled, especially during the first wave. Also, it looked into initiatives taken to establish local market through “a whole-of Government approach”, where the Central Government worked closely with ministries, public administration, agencies and private enterprises to overcome problem and issues. Prevention of hoarding and black marketing of essential items was also a top priority of the Government, according to it.
“Severe global supply-chain constraints of essential Covid commodities and unprecedented demand for life-saving equipment, led to an entirely supplier-driven market and to huge variation in prices. To address this concern, the Indian Government took over the responsibility for centralised procurement to support the states” it added.
The paper also highlighted and praised the decision of the Central Government to create and empower the inter-ministerial groups facilitated in streamlining decision-making which lead to faster procurement process and eventually led to the creation of local markets. As per the World Bank assessment, there were four areas where India even outshined even the countries “rated high on the Global Health Security Index”.
These key innovations by India area (a) adoption of a whole-of-Government approach to stimulate local production that helped to steeply reduce unit prices and dependency on global supplies; (b) introduction of accelerated tendering process and quality assurance protocols; (c) efficient supply chain management informed by computerised modeling that helped to project number of cases and admissions, and (d) quickly moving the quality-assured Covid commodities to the Government’s e-procurement site, which enabled states to start accessing these products at competitive prices without going through a tendering process.