A picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre) and the two leaders of his groups to fight coronavirus - Niti Aayog member Dr V.K. Paul (right) and principal scientific advisor to the PM, K. VijayRaghavan. Illustration: Soham Sen/ThePrint
A picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre) and the two leaders of his groups to fight coronavirus - Niti Aayog member Dr V.K. Paul (right) and principal scientific advisor to the PM, K. VijayRaghavan. Illustration: Soham Sen/ThePrint
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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s action plan to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the country has so far seen unique measures to reinforce the capacity of the healthcare system and tough steps such as the 21-day lockdown.

The brain behind these emergency and unprecedented decisions is a team of more than 30 doctors and scientists who are working tirelessly as part of two special groups.

The team was formed earlier this month as the government scrambled to formulate its response to the coronavirus outbreak which was wreaking havoc in country after country, two sources said. The team was divided into two groups: One consisting of health experts and another of scientists.

The team’s main task is to advise the PM on every technical policy decision with regard to the pandemic. It is also tasked with assessing the nature of the outbreak, and the casualties it may cause.

According to the sources, the first group, constituted on 18 March, is headed by Niti Aayog member Dr V.K. Paul. It has 20 other members.

The other group is co-chaired by Paul and principal scientific advisor to the PM, K. VijayRaghavan, and has nine other members. The first meeting of this group was held on 21 March.

Both groups are in touch, on a minute-to-minute basis, with principal secretary to the PM P.K. Mishra, who briefs Modi about their decisions and recommendations.

“More often than not, it is through Mishra that the PM is apprised of what the team is up to,” said one of the sources.

“Typically, from the team of health experts, Dr. Paul as its chairman briefs Mishra about what should be done… Then Mishra communicates it to the PM, but sometimes the PM would directly get in touch with the team to get a sense of the situation,” said the source.

The team is crucial to India’s battle with the deadly virus that has so far killed 16 people in the country, and infected more than 600.


Also read: Old drugs, new trials — hopes pinned on HIV, malaria, ebola, TB vaccines to fight Covid-19


The group behind the lockdown

The health experts group, which is being referred to as the ‘corona task force’ under V.K. Paul, comprises Health Secretary Preeti Sudan, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria, Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) director general Balram Bhargava, and public health experts in microbiology and others, according to the sources.

Scientists and ICMR infectious disease experts Dr Raman Gangakhedkar and Dr Nivedita Gupta are also on the task force. Both of them have been seen at the forefront at government press briefings, discussing the technical aspects and criteria of Covid-19 testing.

The other members, rarely seen in public, are from ICMR’s Institute of Epidemiology, handling the mathematical modelling of the disease and determining the nature and spread of coronavirus.

This group has been key to moves like the imposition of a nationwide lockdown and its 21-day tenure. It is also assessing the effects of the virus if unchecked, the measures to mitigate its impact, data reviews, analysis of the impact on countries, among others.

For instance, while PM Modi was initially worried about the economic impact of a lockdown on the poor of the country, he was advised by this group that the move was imperative to contain the spread at this stage, the sources said.

Since it is a fluid group of 21 members, it mostly does not sit together, especially given the need for social distancing, said the sources.

“At a time, only 4-5 members needed for something sit together, and their suggestions are communicated to the PMO,” said the second official. “Sometimes, 3-4 members of this group are called to the PMO as well.”

While some of this group’s decisions — like the ICMR’s move to restrict testing to those with travel history and symptoms — faced criticism, the task force has been reviewing its position on almost a daily basis depending on the evolving situation.

The one deciding the science

The second group is an empowered committee constituted “to coordinate, amongst science agencies, scientists and regulatory bodies, and take speedy decisions on R&D to implementation related to the SARS-Cov-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease”, according to an official statement.

Led jointly by V.K. Paul and K. VijayRaghavan, it consists of ICMR researchers, and secretaries from the departments of science and technology, biotechnology, Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, Defence Research and Development Organisation, among others.

This group has been assisting PM Modi in deciding matters related to science, technology and research — for instance, the decision to allow all national laboratories to carry out clinical testing of Covid-19 in India.


Also read: Jayant Sinha: Coronavirus will change the world like 9/11 and 2008


 

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23 Comments Share Your Views

23 COMMENTS

  1. Dear All,
    We have a dwsign for a very inexpensive and workable ventilator.Please help us in the approval process.
    We do not know the produre nor do we have experience of getting such approval.

    We want to contribute in this dark hour.
    Please help.
    My e mail address is anir_gupta@rediffmail.com
    Yours
    Anirban Gupta

  2. With all due respect towards this team formed by Hon’ ble Prime Minister, I must say that one thing which is missing is an administrative team headed by security advisor to PM who can actually implement the decisions taken by other two teams after final decision of PM himself. I hope the mess which is created due to mass exodus of labourers could not happened if such administrative team was also there. Role of administrative team should be to coordinate with state agencies and direct them to implement national policy on COVID-19 across the entire country. But only one thing is needed in this situation of emergency that center should take over essential administrative powers in its hand from state government. Of course state government should be kept in loop. Then only centralized administrative team could have function effectively. For this to happen, ordinance power of centre could be utilised. Further coordination with industries is also needed and such coordination can also be left in the hand of administrative team. Hope, corrective is needed now.
    Adv. Shakil Akhtar
    Supreme Court of India
    ## 9717214471

  3. आदरणीय मोदीजी
    आपण कोरोना संबंधी घेतलेले निर्णय योग्य आणि निश्चितच देशहिताचे आहेत . मनःपूर्वक . धन्यवाद . आपण आहात म्हणूनच आम्ही निश्चिंत आहोत .

    ज्येष्ठ नागरिकांना काही योगदान देणे शक्य असेल तर कळावे ही अपेक्षा

  4. Dear Sirs
    We have to urgently ramp up our testing capacities. We are as of today capable of 15000 tests per day. The USA yesterday ran over 5 Lac tests!

    We need to test people with even one of the symptoms if we would like to isolate and treat.

    Also Hospitals are flooded with many patients with prescription existing resp conditions like Asthma and COPD where differentiation between them and the COVID is difficult without testing. They are referring patients to Govermment hospitals which will further strain the system and bring further distress to patients.

    The remote villages and Tribal regions will.suffer badly.

    Please invest heavily in Tests and Ventilators. Can we import from Japan and Korea who seem to have contained the disease and may be able to help us tell our Labs are up. We need testing centers urgently in every block for a start. Please.

  5. PM sir kindly arrange drs team at village level with help sarpanch as to investigate outside villager as precussion with immediately effect for there hospitalion use govt as well private schools nearby with immediate effects. Requesting u for this

  6. The ultimate objective of the lockdown and curfew was to reduce the mortality and deaths.
    The mortality stands at 0.007 persons per million.
    The entire exercise of lockdown was done with the apprehension that India could go the Italy and Spain way which has mortality rates of over 100 persons per million.

    Right now the mortality rate of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other asian countries is less than 0.05% of these western countries and the probability of these countries reaching the death rate of 100 persons per million is *Zero*.
    Why is this paranoia being created in the country?

    Why are the experts and statisticians hesitant to analyse the data from the asian perspective?

  7. It’s good that Niti Ayog and Govt have woken up less drama more action required protection to health care people more testing units so actual nos are known. Good to help the industrialists and rich the threat is from daily wagers,farmers. at least now. Address their problem and Don’t let Sycophants prevail.

  8. All the concern doctor who are advising modi ji have you not informed modi ji that 21 days set of cycle will not brake the chain the set of 1234 will continue and will eventually spread , during lockdown first to their own family members and then neighbours and the other people around . Have you doctor not advise this to modi ji , the spread of viruses can’t be stopped but only can be controlled .
    So pls it’s request to modi ji come up with necessary planning for long term that people stay causcious and protect them selves and lead their normal life or els after 21 days if lock down I fear you’ll be locking down the country for 1 year and still the virus won’t die the cycle won’t end until unless their is no vaccination for cure. So pls come up with proper planning for long run for our community and let people live a normal life .but I am really shocked how can such a drastic step was taken without proper planning for our country people and all the life of people are put on stake.
    I feel you have to come up with a long term planning and help people survive normally.

  9. Respected Team – A few thoughts, for the goal to achieve we need to make few things mobile to everyone.
    Daily needs delivered to societies, areas and from there an individual or group based distribution channel.
    Vanity Vans – For Testings and sample collection
    Railways – I think those AC coaches can be ready made hospital beds for positive found cases, especially living in high density population areas. For areas, where an opportunity of nearby vacant house is available.. put them there with basic amenities and precautions for rest. This will bring others to understand the situation and spread the word.
    Masks & Respiratory Items – Contact 3M for products and HP for 3D printers masks. We will need them for next 12 months to the least, when we are aiming for 100% containment.
    Stamp Ons – a) With Date who are normal and not infected – either self or under trusted government officers in nearby. B) Already in place – A flag may be republican that gets visible on ear or forehead for others to identify. This is amuch needed for several long term reasons.

    If inadvertently I hurt sentiments of any, pardon me in God grace. May all beings be happy. Metta

  10. Respected Modi Ji, we all are very thankful to you and the unseen team behind you who are working day n night to fight the deadly virus.
    Hope this nightmare vanishes soon.
    Lockdown is the best what u could sir, now we all being responsible citizens will follow your orders.

    Warm regards,
    Thank you sir

  11. Please aggressively order/ manufacture ventilators ,.. and please please find spaces for hospitals. Big marriage halls, eg Raja Garden Delhi acres and acres of marriage halls to be converted into makeshift hospitals with beds and oxygen supplies. Believe me its more than 5000-10000 bed capacity if converted …send in our most intelligent people in to amend the interior , other enclosed public spaces, we need them fast…..very fast..just do it sirs,

  12. as companies produce antibodies in horse for snake antigenic similarly why can’t we try to produce antibodies in horse/animals and collect and treat the infected patients

  13. during quarantine period why can’t the person should be provided with enough vitamins and mineral tablets as these plays an important role in enhancing immunity

  14. Modi ji why don’t we build a hospital for corona infected patients like china did…this will gather all the corona patients together from that we could control infection spreading to others especially the patient’s relative who take care them in hospital. Thankyou🙏

  15. Good team work would lead to good result. However Niti Ayog should keep their hands off this. Reason their work to bring black money stashed abroad, to unearth black money within the country , simplified GST regime with two or three reasonable rates, lowering petrol (energy) prices which is vital for a developing nation, finding alternate and cheaper sources to reduce our dependence on oil exporting countries , was a failure to say the least.

  16. Thank you everyone who is working hard ,day and night.so many persons whom we can not see them in news but they are standing between us Carina. Thank you all of you.

  17. Modi ji apko bohot dhanyvad
    Apne jo Knockdown Ka Faisla liya bohot achha kiya bas or ak request hai apse
    Apne jo Lathi charge ka permission diya hai usmein Police Wala galat fayda Utha rahe hain apse ak request hai modi ji please kuch kare thank you

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