Coronavirus Diary (24): Peace Trains

A lot of the news about India’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been demoralizing, and justifiably so, but I haven’t seen much coverage in the American press of one of India’s more ingenious success stories. Apparently, the Indian government has decided to re-purpose railway cars as medical facilities. This particular idea seems to be the successor to an earlier one, described in a recent paper in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

I encountered the Indian railways story on the Twitter feed of my cousin Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Pakistan’s former Minister of Railways, who’s made the train-repurposing suggestion to the current Pakistani government–namely, the government of Imran Khan, which arrested and imprisoned Saad on “corruption” charges more than a year ago. (Saad was just recently released on bail a few weeks ago.)

Unfortunately, the suggestion seems so far to have fallen on deaf ears. As per usual, Imran Khan’s own ideas for handling COVID-19 run the gamut from the banal to the embarrassing to the simply ineffective. Meanwhile, Saad, less than two weeks out of jail, is offering his services to the government of his hapless persecutors.

I have no technical knowledge of what top-notch railroad-based medical facilities are supposed to look like, but these look pretty impressive to me. And the Indo-Pak synergy involved seems a nice bonus.    

I half-wonder whether Andy Byford might have been able to pull something similar off in New York City, but of course, Andrew Cuomo fired Byford back in January, and COVID-19 struck before New Jersey Transit had the chance to hire him, as it was rumored to do. I see a theme here.

Meanwhile, I’m in a race with Saad with my own proposal to repurpose college dorms as quarantine facilities. Don’t want to lose the race, but not sure I want to win, either.

Thanks to Faisal Jilani, Yousuf Shabbir, and Fawad Zakariya for convincing me to spare a thought for Pakistan. 

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