Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said the future will be shaped by societies that invest in science and innovation. He said the benefits of science and innovation can be reaped at the right time by investing in it well in advance, instead of having a short sighted approach. He said the journey to these innovations must be shaped by collaboration and public participation. He added science will never prosper in silos and the Grand Challenges Programme has understood this ethos well. He commended the scale of this programme wherein several nations were engaged globally and addressed diverse issues such as Antimicrobial Resistance, Maternal and Child Health, Agriculture, Nutrition, WaSH – (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), and many others.
The Prime Minister said the global pandemic has made us realise the importance of teamwork. He said the diseases do not have geographic boundaries and do not discriminate on the grounds of faith, race, gender or colour. He added these diseases also include several communicable and non-communicable diseases that are impacting people. He said a strong & vibrant scientific community and good scientific institutions in India have been India’s greatest assets, especially during the last few months, while fighting COVID-19. He added they have achieved wonders from containment to capacity building.
The Prime Minister said COVID-19 death rate in India is very low in spite of the large population due to the people powered and people driven approach. He added today, there is a decline in the number of cases per day, decline in the growth rate of cases and has one of the highest recovery rates of 88 percent. He said this happened because India: was one of the first countries to adopt a flexible lockdown, was one of the first to encourage the usage of masks, actively began to work on effective contact-tracing and was one of the earliest to deploy the rapid antigen tests.
The Prime Minister remarked India is now at the forefront of vaccine development for COVID. He announced more than 30 indigenous vaccines are being developed in our country and three of them are in an advanced stage. He said India is already working on putting a well-established Vaccine delivery system in place and this digitised network along with digital health ID will be used to ensure immunisation of our citizens. He pointed that India is known for its proven capacity to produce quality medicines and vaccines at low cost. More than 60 percent of the Vaccines for Global Immunisation are being manufactured in India. He said with India’s experience and research talent, India will be at the centre of global healthcare efforts and desires to help other nations enhance their capacities in these sectors.
The Prime Minister listed many interventions made in the last 6 years like better sanitation, improved cleanliness, more toilet coverage which has contributed to a better healthcare system. He said this has helped the women, poor & under-privileged and led to a reduction in diseases. He further listed the efforts of the Government in ensuring disease reduction and bringing better healthcare to the villages like providing piped drinking water to every household, setting up medical colleges in rural areas and running the world’s largest health insurance scheme.
The Prime Minister urged to keep using the collaborative spirit for individual empowerment and collective well-being. He wished for fruitful and productive deliberations and hoped to see many exciting and encouraging new solutions coming out from this Grand Challenges platform.