Government of India must immediately nationalize all healthcare infrastructure and services; and stop profiteering from illness

Growing number of people are demanding that Modi government and all state governments must immediately nationalize all healthcare infrastructure and services in wake of acute national emergency threatening public health and social justice in the country. Also, we demand that government must strictly enforce the 2018 Allahabad High Court’s Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Ajeet Kumar order that all receiving salaries from the government and their family members should get themselves treated at government health care facilities. Implementation of this order alone will make the government health care robust.

After over 15 months when the World Health Organization had declared the corona virus as a worldwide public health emergency, the government’s failure to plan, prepare and respond effectively to the pandemic has resulted in avoidable human suffering and untimely deaths. India has reported the world’s highest-ever number of cases in 24 hours yesterday (over 3.5 lakhs), along with a debilitating shortage of hospital beds, medicines, oxygen, ventilators and even cremation facilities in several parts of the nation. Reports of people looting oxygen in Damoh (Madhya Pradesh) to Delhi High Court underlining that due to fear of oxygen tankers being waylaid in some states, like Haryana, “these should be brought in through a special corridor and paramilitary security” is very deeply disturbing and alarming. 

Despite tall claims of the government to not allow black marketing or other corruption, it is common knowledge how money is being fleeced from the people for every possible service that should have rather been guaranteed to every human being as a matter of fundamental human right to health. People are often forced to pay many times more inflated prices for basic services like ambulance, hospital admission, medicines, oxygen, and even cremation related services like hearse van.

Modi government has also miserably failed to ensure that private healthcare services are offered to no profit basis at a time when the entire country is reeling under severest form of public health and humanitarian crises. Rather the government itself has negotiated a maximum price cap for private sector that allows it to earn huge profits. But farmers are made to struggle for almost 5 months now to get even minimum support price for their produce. Since the lockdown was imposed in March 2020, government had capped the price of RT-PCR test in private sector at Rs 4500 which has now come down significantly since then (~Rs 600). People of the country owe an explanation why did the government allow the private sector to charge Rs 4500 for a test earlier? Likewise, despite UK based AstraZeneca/Oxford that did the research and development of the Covid vaccine, claiming that it will rollout the vaccine at no profit, the manufacturer of this vaccine in India (Serum Institute of India which is selling it as ‘Covishield’) is reaping profits. Covishield was bought by the government of India earlier at Rs 210 per dose, and then price was reduced to Rs 150. Why was government made to pay Rs 60 extra per dose? Ironically, the vaccine which is entirely produced in India, Covaxin, costs even more to the government: Rs 295 per dose. Covishield manufacturer had earlier wanted to sell it at Rs 1000 per dose in open market. First our government had put a maximum cap of Rs 250 per dose for private sector but now it has arbitrarily allowed a raise in price to Rs 400 per dose for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals. One can imagine the corporate impunity and loot that Serum Institute is selling the vaccine at highest price within India compared to the price at which it has sold the vaccine in every other country in the world. Covaxin, another vaccine for Covid that is being sold by Bharat Biotech but whose initial important research took place in government's National Institute of Virology, Indian Council of Medical Research, announced that it will sell the vaccine to central government at Rs 150 but charge Rs 600 from state governments and Rs 1200 from private. Should not government strictly regulate these greedy vaccine manufacturers so that they are not able to reap unlimited profits? Also why should not government take over these vaccine manufacturing and nationalize it?

Government should bring the private health industry under its control, so that from vaccines to diagnostics to medical care, everything is free of cost in a country where a lot of its citizens are already reeling under intensifying economic hardship. The prohibitive cost of medical care is a barrier blocking all those who need life-saving care, and is even pushing people deeper into poverty. Health security for everyone can only come when we address inequalities and injustices in health as well as in every other sector. That is why ending privatisation and protecting public health, public water, public education, public transport, and other public services, along with ensuring social security for everyone, are among the most important human needs today. Countries like Spain have recently nationalised their health services, whereas about 30 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa, Cuba and Sri Lanka have had a government-funded healthcare system for a long time.

We demand that:

  • Government must nationalize all healthcare services and related infrastructure across the country without delay – including health-related manufacturing and other essential parts of the health system. All big corporate hospitals, vaccine manufacturing, diagnostics chains and others should be government run, however, space should be protected for charitable hospitals and community-run healthcare facilities that can function autonomously (like IITs and IIMs) within the overall government health policy framework.
  • Government should increase public health spending manifold, with increase in number of healthcare providers from community health workers, nurses, doctors, sanitation and hygiene workers, and other healthcare workers at different levels. Community health work is work, and therefore same labour laws and rights and wages among other rights and entitlements should be guaranteed to every healthcare worker.
  • Community-based healthcare and support services in villages and urban areas should be established and strengthened instead of promoting private sector.
  • Government must ensure that all those who have overpaid for Covid test or other health services must get fully reimbursed
  • Cost price of vaccine to other health services be determined in a transparent manner (and on same benchmarks as govt has estimated cost of farmers' produce)
  • Serum Institute must be made to return the money it has over-charged the government (Rs 60 per dose - the difference between 210 and 150) and Bharat Biotech should return Rs 145 (Rs 295-150) oer dose
  • Maximum price cap on vaccines and every other healthcare service in private sector (for Covid and all non-Covid illnesses) should not be more that 1.5 times of its production cost, a standard which has been generally agreed for the farmers of the country. When private sector stops to exist after nationalization of healthcare services then universal access to all healthcare services and same quality for everyone must be the norm across the country
  • Oxygen used by industries must be stopped immediately and all oxygen be made available for healthcare services
  • Vedanta must not be allowed to restart operations of Sterlite at any cost
  • As per news, 30% of Covid admissions are of VIP for mild to moderate symptoms. VIP culture must come to an end. All admissions to hospitals should happen in a coordinated manner using some tansparent system which can inform patients, if they cannot be admitted immediately, how much they may have to wait so that there is no panic. Ideally patients should not be required to buy anything from the open market.
  • Government should encourage burial rather than burning dead bodies as an environmentally friendlier way.
  • Government must ensure proper compliance with health insurance and life insurance claims in Covid cases. It should also ensure compensatory job to a dependent both in government and private sectors in case of Covid death of working person.
  • Government should administer polling booth-wise demarcated areas for identifying and containing the virus. Examining the fulfilment of basic needs of these smallest constitutional demarcation in terms of area would become easier in light of curfew and lockdowns in many cities now.
  • Government must not curb freedom of expression or impose any form of sanction on media but at the same time discourage news that is not based on science and evidence.
  • The UP government has ignored the 2018 Allahabad High Court’s Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Ajeet Kumar order that all receiving salaries from the government and their family members should get themselves treated at government health care facilities. Implementation of this order alone will make the government health care robust. So this should be immediately implemented.

  • Dr GG Parikh, medical doctor and invited member of National Executive, Socialist Party (India), who also participated in 1942 Quit India movement and went to jail
  • Pannalal Surana, national President, Socialist Party (India): 94237-34089
  • Dr Sandeep Pandey, national Vice President, Socialist Party (India): 0522-2355978, 9415022772,
  • Dr Lubna Sarwath, Telangana General Secretary, Socialist Party (India): 99630-02403
  • Brij Khandelwal, socialist thinker
  • Sheeva Dubey, Assistant professor, D Y Patil International University, Pune
  • Praveen Srivastava, faculty (Physics), Queens' College, Lucknow: 94152-69790
  • Harshavardhan Purandare,
  • Bobby Ramakant, CNS, Asha Parivar, and Socialist Party (India): 9839073355,