India’s end is near, if one believes the “mathematical model” of economist Ramanan Laxminarayan. He recently claimed before several news channels that 200 million Indians, which he raised to half-a-billion in the next couple of days will be infected by COVID-19, tens of millions will be in severe condition and few million will die over a period of time. The anti-Modi lobby was elated by these predictions. First time after the 2019 Lok Sabha election, they got something to smile about. They think if Laxminarayan’s predictions come true, it would certainly lead to the end of Modi era.
Even if we ignore the dubious past of Laxminarayan, which I have tweeted about in detail, there are several relevant questions that no one asked him. Any such model is built on certain assumptions. No one, except him, knows what those assumptions are. But I am certain about the presence of one underlying assumption in his hypothesis: the Narendra Modi government, the state governments, and local bodies will do nothing to prevent the spread of the disease, will not take care of infected people and let them die.
Due to several assumptions, any such model creates several scenarios. If any one of assumption falls apart, based on its weightage (how important it is in any scenario), the prediction can vary significantly. That creates various scenarios. In this case, no one knows if the numbers the economist is throwing are the best-case scenario or the worst case, or somewhere in between. Another important question no one bothered to ask him.
Laxminarayan’s voodoo mathematical model
Why is no one asking him about his involvement in an intellectual property breach? The reasons: his claims are sensational, make good headlines and bring high TRP ratings; he is speaking from the US in an American accent; and most importantly what he says brings Modi government into bad light. The poor WHO expert who has praised the Modi government can’t be correct, the anti-Modi lobby presumed.
Those who expressed blind faith in Laxminarayan’s voodoo mathematical model without questioning it, are now hounding spiritual gurus for their advice to pray, reduce stress by yoga and meditation, and indulging in breathing exercises like Pranayama to keep their lungs healthy and free of toxins.
I am not arguing here to believe that a single dose of gaumutra will cure those infected with coronavirus or any infection for that matter. But between paranoia based on certain mathematical model and false claim that Indians are somehow immune to such infections, there is a band of actions/activities and some of them are based on solid scientific evidence, such as washing hands or social distancing. Some on not so conclusive data but having good indicators and clinical insights such as ICMR’s recommendation that hydroxychloroquine drug can be used for prophylaxis. Or Our traditional knowledge system that shows that turmeric, garlic, etc boost immune system, and ashwagandha helps in prevention of lung fibrosis in animals.
Will they be beneficial in COVID-19? I have no answer to this question. I will never argue that the government should substitute evidence-based treatment regimen with something that remains unproven. But at the same time, they should not be discarded just because they are referred to in our traditional knowledge system.
Role of traditional medicine
China is generating massive data on effect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on COVID-19 infection. A recently published research paper claims that more than 60,000 patients were treated with TCM. Among improvement of other clinical endpoints, the paper claims that the use of TCM increased clinical cure rate by 33 per cent.
In India, we need to deploy our traditional knowledge as a complementary to the modern medicine, test it with the same rigour as any other hypothesis, ensure that it does not aggravate the existing condition, and not make unsubstantiated claims. At the same time, we should stop ridiculing traditional knowledge system, only on the ground that it did not originate in the West.
In the meantime, voodoo mathematical modeling too will continue in media along with unsubstantiated claims of cure and that’s an unfortunate reality.
Vijay Chauthaiwale is in-charge, foreign affairs department, Bharatiya Janata party. Views are personal.