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Current crisis situation with the 2nd wave of COVID is clearly a result of government negligence. Could this have been avoided with more effective planning and governance?
The country has been reeling under a medical crisis situation. News portals and social media are filled with harrowing tales of apathy and suffering the patients of COVID and their family are being subjected to. The sight of cremation grounds with lines of funeral pyres burning has been scarring and heart-breaking at the same time.
The Government of India announced COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘disaster’ in March 2020, and a few days later the nation went into a hurried lockdown. But a year later, hardly have any lessons been learnt, and sadly we are back to square one.
Where is the planning, which was put forth as a reason for imposing the lockdown last year?
What steps does the Govt propose to control the spread of the second wave of the pandemic?
In addition to this several states have imposed night curfews, restrictions on movement, compulsory production of negative RTPCR reports for those arriving from other states. The worst-hit state in the second wave with the highest number of cases as reported here, Maharashtra has imposed strict measures to curb the movement of the public.
India’s Union health minister Mr. Harsh Vardhan had declared in early March that the country was in the ‘end game’ of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the current situation has proved that the celebrations happened a little too soon. While the general public became lax at following protocols after months of being bogged down by restrictions, the enforcements also became lax. The election rallies at the states where elections to the Legislative assembly were conducted saw a gross violation of COVID protocols by the common man as well as by those in power.
One could argue almost criminal negligence here. According to one report here, since the Kumbh takes place every 12 years, and the last one was in 2010, this one was supposed to be in 2022, which would have given the Govt some more time to plan how to hold it safely. However, apparently, “It was ‘advanced’ by a year, to 2021, because the ‘astrological configurations’ of the ‘Sun entering Aries’ and ‘Jupiter entering Aquarius’ were available for 2021 this time.”
Whatever that means, or whether it is a valid thing or not, if the Kumbh mela was deliberately shifted to this year, it has been criminal.
Then there was the obvious state support for the event.
Though the guidelines set out mentioned that people above 65 years of age, pregnant women, and those with a high risk of contracting the virus were to be discouraged, anything but that happened. Special trains were introduced for the ease of people traveling to Kumbh Mela. The event was publicized on social media even by the Govt, and the crowds gathered hardly followed any social distancing protocol.
Negative RTPCR tests were made compulsory for all pilgrims attending the Kumbh Mela, but over 2000 of the attendees tested positive for the Corona virus of which at least 30 of them were sadhus. This raises serious questions about the genuineness of the negative RTPCR reports.
All these visitors to the Kumbh Mela would be returning home, carrying the virus back with them. This report reveals over 50 attendees of Kumbh mela who returned to Gujarat tested positive for the virus on return. This is just one state and one batch of people. The thought of the aftermath as more attendees head back home from Kumbh mela is frightening. The former king and queen of Nepal have tested positive after attending Kumbh Mela; this shows how the event has helped in spreading the virus beyond the borders of the country.
Under such circumstances it becomes essential to ask the Govt what measures they have planned to curb the super spreader effect? Is there a plan in place or is it only going to be about passing the buck like always?
The news channels and newspapers since the past few days have been filled with harrowing stories of patients and their family members struggling for oxygen cylinders and hospitals desperately trying to provide services in the crisis.
The Central Government plans to import medical oxygen but as an immediate measure, the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes has been banned except in 9 specified industries. This ban will become effective from 22nd April 2021.
This acute shortage of oxygen could have been clearly avoided had the Government at the centre not delayed the floating of tenders. This call was made online in October 2020 despite the pandemic being declared a ‘disaster’ in March 2020 as reported here. The report further suggests that despite the passage of more than 6 months there is no clarity on the status of the 162 oxygen plants for which contracts were given in October 2020.
In contrast to the acute shortage of oxygen plaguing the rest of the country, Kerala has reported a surplus of oxygen– the state has not only covered its own needs but has also been suppling to neighbouring states. This is all the more reason to question the inability of the centre and other states in this regard.
The Supreme Court of India has asked to see a ‘national plan’ on oxygen supply, essential drugs and method of vaccination and issued notice to the Centre today. This has come in the wake of the petitions being heard across six High Courts in the country with regard to the shortage of oxygen, hospital beds and essential drug Remdesivir.
Today as the India sees the highest surge in the world in Covid cases with 3.14 lakh cases and over 2,104 deaths in a day, a strong plan to wade through the crisis is what the country urgently needs.
The third phase of COVID vaccination aims at making the vaccine accessible to all. But this has come at a cost to the citizens of India. The manufacturers have the liberty of fixing the rates for the stock they would be supplying to the open market. This is sure to pinch the pocket of the common citizen. Added to it will be the divide that will be created once again putting the economically privileged citizens in a more accessible and convenient position.
The decision to segregate citizens solely on the basis of age for administering vaccines is already a myopic move which has subjected those below 45 with serious medical conditions to peril and has also cost lives.
I wish the Prime Minister’s advice to “observe the Kumbh Mela symbolically” had come when there was a dire requirement, at the start. I wish when the campaigning for elections began the campaigners and the voters had acted prudently and refrained from having crowded rallies. I wish the celebrations for defeating the virus hadn’t happened too soon and safety protocols were not thrown to the wind. But my wishes haven’t come true and hope is what we all have. Hope that with the current slew of measures, the situation gets controlled. Until then stay safe and act prudently.
Image source: Youtube here and here
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