Dr Harsh Vardhan, a surgeon by profession, has served as the Union Minister for Science & Technology, Health and Family Welfare and Earth Sciences of India for almost six years now.
According to the Minister, the most important coefficient is the “innovation coefficient”, and the most important aspect of the economy is the “ideas economy”.
In a conversation with Shradha Sharma, Founder-CEO of YourStory, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science & Technology, Health and Family Welfare and Earth Sciences of India, talks about the fight against COVID-19, how India is in control of the situation, and why there might be a silver lining to this global crisis.
Watch the full interview here:
He says, “We tell our innovators to apply their mind to finding solutions to problems of the people of India.”
Dr Harsh Vardhan is confident that the young innovators of India — with their startups — can bring about a very significant qualitative change in the life of the common man in India.
“I have extreme faith in your abilities in your capabilities, in your capacities, in your intellectual and scientific acumen,” he says.
COVID-19 vs India
As India battles the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected millions of people all across the globe, the minister proudly proclaims that India has fared very well compared to the rest of the world.
However, he cautions that we still need to fight — even harder than before. To all entrepreneurs of India, Dr Harsh Vardhan says, “We need to fight it in your minds as I’m sure that once you apply your mind, once you put your intellectual acumen to test to find good-quality all-round COVID-19 solutions.”
India should be at the forefront of great solutions — vaccines, drugs, scientific equipment, testing capabilities, using AI for screening — to fight COVID-19.
Claiming that the Ministry of Biotechnology and the Department of Science and Technology have already extended their support to almost 120 startups across different fields, he adds that they intend to help many more.
“I feel delighted to share that we have given a call for proposals on our own. As soon as COVID-19 came to India and started becoming a significant threat to the population, we had given a call for proposals. In DST, we gave a call for proposals, which got almost 500 responses,” Dr Harsh Vardhan says.
Testing not an issue in India anymore
When asked about the state of testing, the Minister said that the question is “no longer relevant”.
“Until a couple of years ago, the test for virological diagnosis used to go to America. We used to send our swabs and blood samples to America. Even during the early days of this pandemic, we had only one lab to test the virus in Pune,” says Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Today, he adds, India 472 such labs with the ability to test coronavirus and the country is conducting 80,000 tests per day, and has the capacity for 95,000 tests per day. The Minister says that even the WHO has appreciated India’s efforts.
Having divided the country into three zones — red, orange, and green — has given a total control over this situation, he says.
“We know where the virus is, which area, which district, which city, in what proportion. Accordingly, there is a well-devised, well-planned well-implemented strategy to take care of the virus and to take care of our people who have gotten the disease,” says Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Coronavirus: A blessing in disguise
Saying that the lockdown and social distancing are the two important components of social vaccine against the disease until we find a vaccine to coronavirus, the Minister added that the discipline shown by us has helped in a big way.
“We have got this confidence to start relaxing the lockdown. And in future, ultimately, imbibing these practices are going to help the country,” he adds.
According to Dr Harsh Vardhan, in future, coronavirus will be remembered as a blessing in disguise for humanity because it has taught us many better ways to lead a better life.
“As a health minister, I can say that all these better additions to our lifestyle are not only going to help us fight coronavirus but also to help us in fighting many other communicable diseases, waterborne diseases, and diseases that are spread through the oral-faecal transmission,” he says.
What lies ahead
Dr Harsh Vardhan believes that we have diagnosed the problem and the solutions. “As a doctor, I can say with utmost confidence that if somebody religiously follows social distancing norms and uses masks, no COVID virus can adversely affect their health,” he says.
Proud at the number of innovations coming out of the country at the moment, the Minister extends his full support to these young entrepreneurs.
He adds, “We are very proactively trying to help young people. We have tremendous faith in your abilities, and I’m sure that one day when India becomes a global power, I’m sure we will become the most powerful scientific nation of the whole world, only because of the contribution of the young people.”
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