Till last month Indore had bragging rights for being the country’s cleanest city, awarded as such for three years in a row. It is still the business capital of Madhya Pradesh.
But rapidly in a matter of the last three weeks the city has been crowned the Corona capital of the state. As of April 16, Indore accounted for 650 of the 1000 plus people having officially tested positive in the state. Indore also accounts for 37 out of the 53 deaths in the state.
A day after BJP replaced the Congress government in MP, the Prime Minister announced the Janata Curfew to be observed on March 22. Thousands of BJP supporters that evening gathered at the iconic Rajwada to hail the PM by rattling thaalis and ringing bells. The empty-handed people clapped.
What was meant to be a token of thanks for healthcare, policing and sanitation staff ended up as Hallelujah for the prime minister who had shown a way out of a potential crisis.
The crowd was boisterous and unmindful of the very purpose of the curfew. People hugged each other and social distancing was given a go by. The government and the ruling party shrugged it off lightly. Could it have been the turning point for the city ?
BJP of course blames the Tablighi Jamaat for the spurt in COVID-19 cases. Not unexpectedly, Muslims as a group were demonised and held responsible for the spread of the virus and BJP spokespersons kept cursing the Mullahs and Maulvis. Their rant on TV channels was so poisonous that in a saner society and a stronger democracy, they would have been detained for spreading communal hatred, which was sought to be drilled into popular psyche. The witch-hunt and fake messages on social media instilled fear among members of the minority community. Instead of speaking out on the disease they just clammed up.
Tatpatti Bakhal, densely populated with minority community people, became a hotspot for the disease and a flashpoint for communal disharmony.
This is where stones were pelted at health officials who went to screen suspected coronavirus cases. “This was not our first visit to the place," said Dr Trupti Katdare, who was among those who had been attacked. The police came in the nick of time and rescued them. Another Doctor Zakia Khan who was also injured in stone pelting has been a regular visitor in the past. Troublemakers had charged the atmosphere in the area.
Even if belatedly, the minority community leaders have woken up to the situation. People have been told to shed fear and get tested and disclose their travel history and contacts. The community has been asked not to visit mosques for Namaaz and pray at home. Extra caution has been prescribed for the approaching month of Ramzan.
Two senior physicians of Indore died after contracting the virus in the last fortnight. The chief minister, while paying effusive homage to them, ignored how their clinics had offered an open invitation to spread the virus. The duo had treated patients without taking much precaution against the virus.
Till he tested positive for the virus on April 5 Dr Shatrughan Panjwwani had treated countless patients and not all of them could be traced. He died on April 9. He was also mingling with friends and family members of the patients.
On March 28, Dr Panjwani’s compounder, Santosh Shukla, was traced over 450 kms from Indore. He with his wife, two children and eight friends had left Indore on March 25, two weeks before the doctor’s death. Before reaching Tikamgarh on March 28 Santosh and his friends had hitched a ride on every available transport- from truck to auto rickshaw- and had halted at their friends' homes without realising their Corona positive status.
When his health started deteriorating Santosh was examined and he tested positive on April 14. In between he had visited many people between March 28 and April 10. He has handed the list of all those he came in contact with. The authorities are aware of the ticking bomb.
Back in Indore, as elsewhere in the state, crucial time was lost in tackling the outbreak because of the change in political dispensation. The earlier health minister Tulsiram Silwat was among 22 Congress MLAs who had switched to the new ruling party. He was hands on and was fending off all opposition charges of laxity on this front.
Before the lockdown Indore was a major transit point with around 70 flights touching down daily. This has added to the nightmare of health officials and health workers. They are unable to identify the source of the infection or trace everyone who disembarked at Indore in February and March.
Indore was also a major transit point for thousands of daily wage earners from Madhya Pradesh who travelled to Gujarat and returned after the lockdown in all modes of transport. Some travelled in auto rickshaws packed like sardines for hundreds of kilometres. But the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government refuses to acknowledge this as another possible cause for the spread of the virus.