​Fighting The Covid Battle — Strengthening Infrastructure Beyond Bengaluru

​Fighting The Covid Battle — Strengthening Infrastructure Beyond BengaluruMedical services in rural Karnataka (Twitter)
  • We want to see every nook and corner of the state have sophisticated, multi-speciality hospitals with ICU facilities and other services — which is why it is crucial we go beyond Bengaluru with a two-pronged approach.

Strategy without execution is an empty vessel making much noise! It is ironic that we can secure peace only by preparing for the battle. And the war here, is against a pandemic that has hit our nation hard and moved beyond the big cities.

As trends show, the country may have to face the wrath of a third wave of Covid-19. The pandemic has shown industries that reducing dependence on a single geographic area is critical to survival. It is thus, imperative, that we are prepared, on home ground, to tackle another health crisis and put in order a plan to reduce the caseload on cities.

The administration is going all out with testing, tracking and treatment to tackle the mounting cases in districts, and it is our vision to make Karnataka a healthcare-resilient state.

We want to see every nook and corner of the state have sophisticated, multi-speciality hospitals with ICU facilities and other services — which is why it is crucial we go beyond Bengaluru with a two-pronged approach — utilising existing resources at district level that can support our ongoing endeavours and strengthen these facilities further to create a robust infrastructure in preparation of the future.

Karnataka is also at the heart of technology and innovation, making it a hotbed for the IT-BT sectors. The state hosts almost 60 per cent of all biotechnology companies in India, manufacturing life-saving drugs and housing state-of-the-art R&D centres, while also swarming with India's best innovative biotech start-ups.

Our competent leadership in the biotech space is proving advantageous for the state in the current circumstances and we have ready infrastructure to take on production to serve the nation’s pharmaceutical needs.

If not now, then when?

The state’s pharmaceutical sector exports around 40 per cent of what it manufactures, with its production units spread in and around Bengaluru. Additionally, leading companies are amplifying their investments in these areas to cater to the current medical requirements, that has significantly extended the growth advantage.

While, in Bengaluru, we already have plans for a state-of-the-art Life Sciences Park, the state government is encouraging units from cities like Mangaluru, Mysuru, Belagavi, Hubbali, Shivamogga, and others, in order to 'build innovation and a technology ecosystem'.

These adjoining cities and districts have potential competitive advantage with a vast talent pool, skilled manpower, infrastructure facilities and cost-effective manufacturing facilities.

To cite a few examples — among the 25 new manufacturing sites approved by the Centre for Remdesivir production, one of them is a Belagavi-based pharmaceutical company.

A Covaxin manufacturing unit is being set up in Malur town of Kolar district. A Dharwad-based firm will manufacture the Sputnik -V. The firm has a biologics research and development centre in Belur Industrial Area near Dharwad where the Covid- 19 vaccine will be manufactured.

Another Mysuru-based company, which was involved in research to develop a drug for Covid-19, since the pandemic started last year, has achieved a breakthrough by developing new drugs to kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus, using artificial intelligence.

Production capacity of vaccine manufacturing units have now ramped up.

India is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of Hydroxychloroquine and many countries especially the USA are depending on the exports from India to help treat Covid-19 patients.

India manufactures around 70 per cent of the world’s supply of hydroxychloroquine, and besides the five laboratories that produce the drug, two are in Peenya and Kumbalgodu on Mysuru Road in Bengaluru.

The state government is also exploring manufacturing capabilities of the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals (IAHVB) in Hebbal, Bengaluru, as it fulfils the basic requirements to produce Covishield and Sputnik vaccines.

To add to it, the recent liberalised policies, the Covid-19 vaccination plan, and financial assistance to vaccine manufacturers also gives them an opportunity to further strengthen their prospects.

The Beyond Bengaluru programme of the Karnataka government, which aims to boost IT and BT penetration and innovation in the state holistically, will give an impetus to building an innovation and technology ecosystem beyond the metro and secure them with advanced facilities.

The pandemic makes clear a need for state-level preparedness to control such diseases in the future. Due consideration is being given for decentralised governance, response and the relative success of mobilising state and local resources jointly. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the states to test its functions, performance and re-examine its resources, to deal with the pandemic in a densely populated country like India.

While the scale of pandemic-instilled human suffering in India is shattering, and a challenging battle for mankind against the Covid-19 outbreak, it is the responsibility of every state government to drive all its resources, for the spirit and potential that collective action holds, to alleviate it.

The author is Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka and Minister of Higher Education, Information Technology, Biotechnology, Science & Technology, Skill Development, Entrepreneurship and Livelihood, and tweets at @drashwathcn


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