Meerut grave-digger hasn’t been home in four months: Uttar Pradesh unable to cope with COVID

The death of the state’s Technical education Minister on Sunday morning and reports reaching from different parts of the state point to a grim situation in the state

Meerut grave-digger hasn’t been home in four months: Uttar Pradesh unable to cope with COVID

Aas Mohd Kaif

Khursheed (name changed) digs graves at a graveyard in Meerut; and he claims he has not been home for the past four months. He is not allowed to leave because of the steady stream of bodies turning up at the graveyard for burial.

“Don’t go by media reports”, he says with a smirk, adding with a shrug that the ground situation in western Uttar Pradesh is grim. Not just western Uttar Pradeh, the entire state appears to have spun out of control of the state government, which is unable to cope with COVID.

The death on Sunday morning of the Technical Education Minister Kamal Rani Varun at Lucknow’s SGPGI has shocked people in the corridors of power. The deceased minister’s husband is an influential RSS leader in the state and she was admitted to the SGPGI on July 18.

UP Technical Education Minister Kamal Rani Varun succumbed to COVID-19 on Sunday morning
UP Technical Education Minister Kamal Rani Varun succumbed to COVID-19 on Sunday morning

A statement released by SGPGI on Sunday claimed that the minister was already badly infected by the virus when she was brought to the hospital; that she succumbed despite the best efforts of the doctors. Not just the minister, several senior police officers and bureaucrats are said to be in self-isolation or in quarantine after testing positive. Reports say that the IG of Kanpur and the SP of Kanpur Dehat, Mohit Agarwal and Anurag Vats, too have tested positive.

While Lucknow, Kanpur and Meerut seem to be the worst affected, in other places also the hospitals do not seem equipped to cope with the surging number of cases. The AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Sunday alleged that test reports are being delivered after a week of collecting samples, adding to the woes of the people.

Uttar Pradesh Government of Yogi Adityanath has consistently patted its own back on managing the COVID crisis and has pointed to the low number of deaths, said to be less than 1,700 in official records, as evidence. But anecdotal evidence and the reports in the local media suggest otherwise.

Ventilators are clearly in short supply and getting COVID patients admitted in hospitals is becoming increasingly difficult. Jameel Malik recounts his own experience of trying to hospitalize his brother-in-law. Once he tested positive, he was referred to Subharti Medical College in Meerut but depite waiting for four hours, he was not admitted there. They were then advised to go to some other hospital but no ambulance was available. It took many more hours before he was transferred in the family’s vehicle to another hospital and admitted.

Inamul Huq from Saharanpur is a successful actor in films. He bitterly complains that despite his best efforts he could not save the life of his father-in-law. He alleges that his father-in-law was kept in the ambulance itself for one and a half hours and it took so long to get documents ready that he passed away in the ambulance itself. Similar complaints have been made by others.

Maulana Saad’s father-in-law Maulana Salman and Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind’s Maulana Osama Kanpuri have also succumbed to COVID. Reports from Bareli, Prayagraj and Gorakhpur too tell a grim tale. During the last 24 hours, as many as 3870 new cases have been reported in the state, according to a statemeny by the Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Amit Mohan Prasad.

Shortage of hospital beds has also been reported. In Lucknow itself at the KGMCH, doctor and para-medics had to hide when around a hundred patients arrived together for admission. The then CMO of Lucknow went into self-isolation, following which he was removed from the post.

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