I was talking to my friend yesterday. We were having a conversation about which business sectors have taken a bad hit, and which sectors have done well, during the pandemic. Obviously, the pharma sector has done very well, along with a few allied businesses in the healthcare sector, and the trend is likely to continue.
For any nation, the health and education sectors are the most important. Our health systems are doing their best, and the key people, the frontline health workers are doing an admirable job. Our deepest gratitude to them.
When we look at the other important sector — education — it has stopped. Schools are closed, and many teachers have lost their jobs or taken heavy pay cuts. There are schools that struggle to survive, with a fond hope of opening someday soon. The government has said that it is voluntary for the parents to pay fees. It is mandatory for teachers to come to school every day or deliver lessons online. How should schools sustain when fee collection is tardy, and all the operational expenditures have to be paid for, including the salaries?
So where is the cash flow for the schools, if the parents refuse to pay fees, or simply cannot afford it? Should such teachers be allowed to suffer? NO! You could keep running your school by cross-subsidising from any other business you may run.
However, as a nation, we should not stop education and training, because if it happens, it will have serious implications for the Indian economy. In case there are schools that are unable to pay salaries to their teachers, or the salaries are delayed by several months, and in many cases teachers are retrenched from service, how will their livelihood happen?
The drug conglomerates, the pharma companies, are making tonnes of medicines — exporting, and also providing to the Indian consumers. We all understand they are a powerful lobby. However, if vaccines and other allied medicines have to reach the consumers at fair prices, the government can levy a cess on such pharma companies and provide medicines at affordable prices.
When we can pay education cess and higher education cess to reform and rebuild our crumbling education systems, why not levy a cess on pharma companies and their supply chain? As responsible citizens of this country, is there anything wrong in these large pharma companies putting some money back in the hands of the consumer? The RT-PCR tests at the government hospitals are free. However, it costs Rs. 2500 if you get it done at a reputed private hospital!