This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Mayank Mishra. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Curious Case Of Coronavirus And Capitalism

More from Mayank Mishra

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

It seems pathogens, let alone humans, are more than enough to expose the fragility of capitalism; other than fake news, racism and a plethora of conspiracy theories. The macroeconomic impact of COVID-19 (also known as the Corona Virus) has transcended the national and international boundaries. The global supply chain has been significantly impacted, as China (the epicentre of the virus’ outbreak) is the biggest manufacturing hub. The crashing of the stock market, and the falling demand are few of the many symptomatic non-physiological implications of the pandemic.

Furthermore, as Slavoj Zizek points out, the pandemic has led to the return of ‘capitalist animism’, where social phenomena like markets are treated as living entities. Apart from thousands of human fatalities, the media is now focusing on how the markets are ‘getting more nervous’, which signifies how we are enslaved by the market mechanism where everything seems to fall like a pack of cards amidst the virus outbreak. Moreover, it has also brought questions pertaining to public health once again to the forefront.

Paul Verhaeghe talks about how a doctor replaced psychiatry beds with cardiology beds in his hospital because the latter bring him more profit.

Are We Still Headed Towards The Privatisation Of Healthcare?

The rampant privatisation of healthcare has put forth serious questions in combating public health crises such as the coronavirus pandemic. The primary purpose of economic activity pertains to production, distribution, and consumption of commodities. As public health is attributed as a commodity subjected to a competitive market place, there is a necessity now to protect universal programs and rights that can challenge the non-uniform effects of the market.

Furthermore, when markets seep into non-material aspects such as public health, it manifests the very idea of buying and selling as problematic. Thus, it subsequently becomes more and more intricate to bifurcate economics with moral questions.

When public health is treated as a good, it becomes problematic; when a good is ‘purchased’ or ‘sold’, its predominant motive is to seek profit from it. Markets are now seeking new avenues other than material possessions and have subsequently commoditised activities as well. It is pertinent to note that before allowing the market to value a good by means like need or merit, it becomes crucial to decide what kind of good it is and how its value is decided.

Commodification is an indispensable adjunct of neoliberal policies within a capitalist structure, where a society’s economy precedes the society itself; governments use neoliberal crises both as a pretense and a prospect to privatise public services such as health and education, thereby loosening its social safety net. This subsequently leads to deregulation of markets and re-regulation of citizens. However, in the interest of ‘the good’, citizens are subjected to ethical and public concern when scarcity threatens the society’s well being.

The United States, the torchbearer of capitalism, stands testimony to the failure of the public health system. There are instances where citizens are not able to get the coronavirus tests done, and one of the patients was charged $3,100 just for the test. Moreover, the optimum number of test facilities are not available to tackle the outbreak. When healthcare is privatised, the barometer for prioritisation of resources relies on what kind of allocation maximises profits, especially in the case of private property.

The crisis of COVID-19 does not limit to individuals; it is fundamentally a public concern.

Paul Verhaeghe, in his book What About Me?, points to an instance when a doctor replaced psychiatry beds with cardiology beds in his hospital. The beds allotted for cardiology are not by need or the number of patients, but according to the profit they generate, since cardiology beds are more profitable than psychiatry beds. The profit in the stated case is a determining factor rather than the disease profile.

A New Model Of Global Healthcare

In its 2016 report ‘Neoliberalism: Oversold?’, the IMF admitted that some liberal policies, despite delivering growth, have led to an increase in inequality. The apparent intervention of the market to allocate public health, education, natural resources and other social goods reflects that market values are sluggishly seeping into conventionally governed non-market norms — the transfer of public sector enterprises to private leads to the conversion of social rights as marketable objects. The conventional economic perceptions are unable to acknowledge that there is more to life, more to an economy than the market and the progression of the market might mean the diminution of something else.

The idea of public health is attached to ‘publicness’, thereby meaning that the rationale of privatisation of public health cannot be more oxymoronic as the crisis of COVID-19 does not limit to individuals; it is fundamentally a public concern. The notion that pathogens attack devoid of their intrinsic geographical and territorial biases calls for better national public health systems, as well as a global healthcare network.

Such a network can have a centralised development of medicine and vaccines, with a pool of funds contributed by all the countries. These medicines and vaccines should be publicly available either for free or at subsidised rates. Such a setup shall make medical facilities available to all, irrespective of ones’ ability to pay. The COVID-19 in 2020 should serve as a reminder that such new outbreaks can only be contained through efficient and inclusive public health systems that are not commodified.

You must be to comment.
  1. Abhinav Sekhri

    Waah Mishra Ji waah! ✌️

More from Mayank Mishra

Similar Posts

By khabar khand

By Krishna Kant Tripathi

By Prabhanu Kumar Das

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below