Dead bodies waiting to be cremated outside crematoriums and makeshift crematoriums. From people queuing up to get cash from ATMs after demonetisation to lining up outside hospitals is a spectacle to behold for those who have reduced them to mere vote bank. The apocalypse has not befallen overnight. It’s a result of misgovernance and politics of hatred that reigns over this country. All hell breaking loose being attributed to the deadly nature of coronavirus won’t be a fair conclusion to make. The havoc wreaked by the disaster has more to it than what meets the eye.
Earlier, at the outset of coronavirus in 2020, the Central Government was so prompt in imposing lockdown that the world’s strictest and perhaps largest lockdown was imposed with a short notice of only 4 hours. This decision, in the times of uncertainty, left thousands of migrant workers stranded in places hundreds of miles away from their home. The government, not even after the plight of these workers was highlighted by social media and some part of mainstream media, deemed it binding upon them to provide transport facility to the poor workers. Hundreds of them died on the way. Had it not been for people like Sonu Sood, the number would have been much higher. It did not stop there. The decision set the snowball rolling by triggering a chain of similar decisions which were bereft of insight.
In view of tackling the unfolding pandemic, the government came up with PM CARES Fund (Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund) and asked common people to contribute, who responded quite generously. The fund was aimed at strengthening health infrastructure, improving the quality of treatment, and furthering research to fight against Covid-19. The PM CARES fund apart from being controversial on account of its lack of transparency and accountability, has not lived up to the its purpose. The stories of central and state governments being at loggerheads over the improper utilisation of PM CARES Fund have not failed to hit headlines even in the state of deep crisis we live in. In the midst of pandemic, it took the Central Government 8 long months to allocate contracts for setting up 164 medical oxygen plants funded by PM CARES. In the first place, squandering crucial months was criminal. And in the second place, had even half of these oxygen plants been functional, many lives could have been saved.
After the first wave of coronavirus swept across the world, when rest of the world was preparing to combat the virus, India was thumping its chest for its victory over the virus. When China was building a Covid specific thousand-bed hospital in a record time of 10 days, India was lost in the din of banging thalis. When Germany and South Korea were on fastrack to get their testing and tracing system operational on a large scale, India, on the other hand, was engaged in large-scale election rallies. When Australia and Spain responded with targeted lockdowns effectively, India, in oblivion of coronavirus, was busy celebrating Kumbh Mela, where lakhs of devotees (not wearing clothes, leave alone masks) took a dip in a Covid Tsunami of sorts. When Germany tested everyone returning from summer holidays and Spain sealed some of its famous tourist destinations, India was inviting tourists to visit the gardens thrown open san any protocol. When South Africa and Brazil worked to have a robust system of quarantine centres, India, in the worst crisis of second wave, has almost done away with whatever little quarantine centres were established previously.
The Government of India has failed to prevent the virus from penetrating deep into the unprotected population. In an attempt to obfuscate its failure, the Indian government cracks down on its hospitals and citizens reporting shortage of oxygen on social media. Politicians threaten to invoke the stringent National Security Act against anyone trying to spread fear and panic during the pandemic. In other words, seeking oxygen on social media was criminalised during times when people were gasping for breath.
The pandemic, for us, has been a journey from bad to worse. Last year hospitals were running out of ventilators; this year they are running out of beds. Last year patients were reported of dipping oxygen levels; this year they are literally gasping for breath. Last year there was surge in cases; this year crematoriums run out of space and wood. Last year we initially suspended, then shifted the IPL to UAE; this year the callous hullabaloo of the lucrative league continues despite people dying on footpaths.
Apart from self praise, unscientific dictations and mere rhetoric, what did we do when we had all the time to brace up against coronavirus. Those in power must take the blame of turning this pandemic into a catastrophe.