A new era of partnership in social innovations that can benefit all South Asians


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Cooperation among South Asian countries in dealing with pandemic

Pandemic know no borders. So, dealing with it has necessited global cooperation. The article introduce us to some of the cross-country collaborations in dealing with the pandemic, igniting the hope for new era social partnership to the advantage of South Asia.

Regionally-coordinated strategy against pandemic

  • Containing Covid pandemic has necessitated global cooperation.
  • The deadly pandemic surge in 2021 makes a regionally coordinated, evidence-driven strategy critical.
  • It is necessary to construct multi-stakeholder regional coalitions to devise new solutions and frugal innovations that can be applied across South Asia.
  • Given our shared and mostly similar social, economic and cultural contexts, local successes must be amplified across South Asia.
  • Despite wide variation in how nations have responded to the pandemic, the most successful strategies find commonality in their adherence to science and attention to local context.

How successful interventions could be applied across the subcontinent

  • Beliefs, priorities, traditions and aversions to behavioural change are more similar across South Asia.
  • This means that interventions that are successful in changing behaviour in one place are highly likely applicable in other parts of the subcontinent.
  • For example, Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) campaigns to solve the problem of open defecation, developed by Bangladeshi NGOs in partnership with an Indian consultant is now broadly applied across South Asia and beyond.
  • The Grameen Bank microcredit model was an indigenous South Asian innovation that spread rapidly.
  • India’s digitised social protection ecosystem with Aadhaar ids and Jan Dhan accounts serves as a model for the region.

Changing social norm around mask-wearing

  • The new pan-South Asian consortium in response to Covid-19 evolved out of an experiment conducted in Bangladesh around mask-wearing in rural communities termed as NORM.
  • It was observed that a combination of no-cost distribution, information, reinforcing the message, modeling and endorsement by community leaders (NORM) leads to large, sustained increases in mask usage.
  • NORM implementation teams based in Lahore, Ahmedabad, Peshawar, Hyderabad, Dhaka, Kathmandu and Delhi are learning from each other’s successes and failures.
  • The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) quickly implemented the model to reach over one million members in Gujarat.
  •  Additional 1.5 million masks were shipped from Bangladesh to support SEWA’s outreach to other states.
  • Lahore’s commissioner worked with the research team to adapt the NORM model to an urban setting.
  • To manage mild and moderate cases of Covid-19 in rural India, where institutional health care access is limited a host of physicians, scientists and community-based organisations created the Swasth Community Science Alliance.
  • The Masking-Treatment-Vaccine Preparation (MTV) approach offers a sensible strategy to mitigate the pandemic until universal vaccination is achieved.


We need to come together to solve problems that affect us all. Let the lasting legacy of this pandemic be a new era of partnership in social innovations that can benefit all South Asians.

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