If we look at the events of the past one and a half years, we realize that the misappropriation of the Covid crisis has shattered the very framework of our society. Fourteen months down the line, we are struggling for beds in hospitals, oxygen, medicines and ventilators. And that’s not all. Unaccounted for deaths, bodies mixed up in hospitals, mass cremations/burials – and the loss of hope. Though help is being rushed to us from all over the world, those who have lost their loved ones now fear losing more. Can it get any worse? The catch phrase “Atma Nirbhar” has become “Parmatma Nirbhar” (God dependent).
With the lockdown came, a migrant crisis was created with workers leaving cities and walking hundreds of miles to reach their villages. Where things were worse because of the absence of any sort of medical facilities. There were no trains for them and those that were subsequently introduced bled these migrants of their last pennies. It was made mandatory that tickets had to be bought. And the “blame game” started between the Railway Minister and states. We will not easily forget that while these trains were belatedly introduced, for the Kumbh Mela, trains were made easily available.
Organized presumably in keeping with the agenda of Hindutva, the Kumbh Mela turned out to be a giant wrong, held a year ahead of schedule and with crores in attendance. Last year, it was the Tablighi Jamaat that was attacked by sections of people for being super-spreaders, when that congregation collected a fraction of the people allowed to convene for the Kumbh Mela. Is this what we believe to be a balanced society with acceptable stastistics? In the same vein, the government explored the possibility of allowing the Amarnath Yatra with thousands of people, while there was bullheaded and mortifying opposition to allowing more than 50 people per mosque to offer daily iftaar during the period of Ramadan.
In parallel, BJP’s “Mission 200” for Bengal became a greater objective than controlling the pandemic. War of egos, words and all else in between. All the energies of the political stalwarts were directed at defeating Mamata, and they were spectacularly unsuccessful, in part because of the mishandling of the pandemic.
Next year, we will have more state elections including UP, and the target will be “Mission 300” while people will struggle for beds and oxygen, and the dying will not get a dignified send-off. This is what we have become.
There are other huge mistakes. The Covid vaccination story is the biggest collapse of the government. The world over, people have realized that vaccination is the only game-changer. India watched, pondered and deliberated, while other countries bought vaccines in large orders. And so, while we prided ourselves on being one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, we were out of the race. Now we are begging foreign manufacturers to send vaccines to India. It was elementary and uncomplicated arithmetic, we knew that we have to vaccinate more than a billion people. And yet, we bungled it up. When the government realized that there was going to be an acute shortage, they postponed the administering of the second shot and announced that everybody above 18 would be vaccinated. The universal vaccination program is, however, a mirage in a desert. The Health Minister recently said that there was no shortage of vaccines, however, it is clear that there is no truth in that statement since no slots are available on the much-touted Cowin site paraded as the registering platform. Many states have also made fervent requests to the government citing shortages of vaccines, but to no avail. Those with the first shot need continuity and the others are praying fervently for God’s grace till they are vaccinated.
The Urban Development Minister in his tweet said that we are spending two times the cost of the Central Vista on health. If he were to be believed, then we would not have people dying from a lack of oxygen and ventilators. We would not have patients dying under trees and inside ambulances. No one answers who is responsible.
The Ayushman Bharat Scheme, launched in 2018, envisaged hospitals being set up in Tier Two and Tier Three cities. Someone should answer how many hospitals have actually come up. If metros, including the capital, are witnessing such a shortage of medical facilities, one shudders to think of the situation in smaller towns and villages. At this time of colossal calamity, when a National Medical Emergency should be declared, is anyone even listening?!
Even assuming that the rippling effect of the pandemic was not envisaged, is it not the duty of the Prime Minister to come forward to explain what went wrong and take ownership of the collateral damage? We all clapped with him, and switched off the lights when he asked us to last year, but did he do as was needed to be done without asking? Instead of answers, we get press releases from the BJP explaining that nothing went wrong. The scientific adviser to the government told us that the third wave is inevitable and recanted the next day, saying that a third wave could be prevented. The flip flops must stop so that stock is taken of our readiness for a possible next wave.
My father, the late Kuldip Nayar, crossed the Wagah Border during Partition. He is undeniably looking at us from the heavens with moist eyes and would be profoundly aggrieved and agonized looking at what we have done to ourselves. Regretfully, I say that this is no one’s India, not your’s, not mine and certainly not our children’s.
(The writer is Senior Advocate at the Delhi High Court.)
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