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Firstpost recommends investment in biodefense

Could India be vulnerable to potential bioterrorist attacks? Firstpost believe so.

They cite an event that occurred in Cologne, Germany in June of 2018. German police raided a block of flats and arrested a man who was planning on committing an act of terror by releasing large quantities of a biological toxin called ricin. Their suggestion being to finance and step-up standards for biodefense in preparation for such an eventuality.

This event opened the public’s eyes to the potential for individuals to commit acts of terror using chemical, or biological means. With technology allowing for genetic editing becoming ever more advanced, highly contagious diseases such as the flu could be made far more lethal, and unleashed in a highly populated area.

Is India any more vulnerable to an attack of this kind than any other country? Quite likely.

Firstpost cite a number of reasons. Lack of hygiene standards, weak healthcare infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, highly dense population areas, all of these increase the potential for diseases to spread.

While these points are valid in the context of biodefense, such a criticism does more to expose a greater underlying issue rather than point out holes in national security. While these criticisms would make India more vulnerable to a man-made infection, they apply just as much to naturally occurring diseases.

India is ill-equipped to deal with its current dual burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases. Chronic understaffing has left India particularly vulnerable. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of cardiology. India needs 88,000 cardiologists to adequately provide cardiac care for its population. It has just 4,000. This is despite the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death in India.

India spends little more than one percent of its GDP on healthcare. Such underspending compared to most other nations has left severe shortages within healthcare infrastructure. This leaves considerable disparities between the poor and the rich, or those in rural and urban environments.

Rural environments sometimes do not have even the most basic medical necessities even where medical facilities are present. All of these things culminate in an environment in which diseases can run rampant. Adding in aspects such as antibiotic resistance only serves to paint a more grim picture of the prospects of a large scale epidemic.

Firstpost’s criticisms are valid. Addressing many of these issues would go a long way in reducing India’s vulnerability to naturally occurring diseases as well. However, doing so would require significant changes in political will towards healthcare, and a vast amount of financial backing.


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