India’s response to shocks – 1962 war to COVID pandemic (The Indian Express)

India’s response to shocks:- Covid-19 has been a great shock to the world and India. A shock would not be a shock if it could be predicted. Hence, the question to ask is how does a country respond to shocks? India as a country has faced many shocks and here’s my list. The distinguishes between the Center’s reaction to the current pandemic and its responses to shocks in Indian History.

Three criteria to analyze Indian government’s response

  1. The team
  2. The science
  3. The organizational innovations put together

India’s Response to Shocks Previous Incidents

First, 1962’s Sino-India War –

  • Exactly 55 years ago, a full-fledged war broke out between India and China. The Sino-India war began on October 20, 1962, when the People’s Liberation Army of China invaded Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh (then known as the North-East Frontier Agency) in a synchronised move.
  • Response- Defence reform
    1. The new defence minister was appointed.
    2. The financial allocation for the defence was increased
    3. Alters India’s understanding of the world and foreign policy in a fundamental way.

Second, 1966 Severe Drought –

  • In 1966, due to drought, food grain production fell by 20 percent. Foreign food aid came to the rescue of the starving population.
  • Team- Indira Gandhi (PM), C Subramaniam (agriculture minister), and M S Swaminathan (scientist).
  • Response-
    1. Start of Green Revolution.
    2. Science and technology were relied on and organizational innovations like the Food Corporation of India [FCI] were made.

Third, 1975 National Emergency

  • Team- Indira Gandhi (PM) and Sanjay Gandhi.
  • Response-
    1. The harsh family planning program was launched by PM Indira Gandhi on her son’s insistence. Despite the efforts to create awareness and support for sterilization [surgery to make a person or animal unable to produce offspring], the camps were receiving a lukewarm response.

Fourth, External sector shock 1991

  • Team- P V Narasimha Rao (PM), Manmohan Singh (FM), M S Ahluwalia (finance secretary), and S S Tarapore (from the RBI).
  • Response-
    1. S S Tarapore played a key role by not acceding to the capital account convertibility requirement of the IMF.
    2. Response to the shock, in this case, was that both policy and organizational change was brought about slowly, without disrupting the economy.

Lastly, India’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Team- No clarity about who is in the team.
  • Response-
    1. Not clear if the Covid-19 task force and control room in the Niti Aayog is the same.
    2. Mismanagement in providing information regarding Covid-19 response.
    3. There are some vaccine-related issues such as the gap between the two shots and taking two different vaccines. This contributes to vaccine hesitancy.
    4. Confusion related to vaccine procurement.
    5. Allowing huge gathering such as Kumbh Mela, election rallies were obvious cases of not following science.
    6. Few cases of which reveal the unimportance the government gives to science.


There is a drastic difference between the handling of COVID-19 pandemic shock from the previous shocks. The government needs to improve on all three criteria.


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