Contrarian view on Corona: A nation of hypocrites ignores public health and diseases affecting the poor 

A thousand Indians die of Tuberculosis daily. Public health facilities are abysmal. People have no access to water. But a fortune will be spent on fighting coronavirus.

Contrarian view on Corona: A nation of hypocrites ignores public health and diseases affecting the poor 

Soroor Ahmed

Are we all over-reacting to the coronavirus crisis ? With four deaths and 200 cases reported till the time of writing, the panic certainly appears unwarranted and a case of gross over-reaction, something which we Indians are prone to. Or is the over-reaction because most of the affected till now happen to belong to the affluent sections of the society, who go abroad on vacation and for honeymoons ?

After all, we have never shown as much concern to the thousand Indians who die every day of Tuberculosis. And if prevention is indeed better than cure, we could and indeed should have banned all two and four-wheelers, and locked down all industrial units manufacturing them––because every year 1.35 million people lose their lives in road accidents alone. In India 1.5 lakh people die of road mishaps annually––more than 400 every day.

Besides, while most of those who have died of Coronavirus are old people––in Italy the average age of those who died is above 80––an overwhelming number of those who die in road accidents are the young, between the age of five and 29.

While the experts are sanguine about developing a vaccine to tackle this pandemic, we are busy developing faster vehicles, trains and planes because everyone is in a tearing hurry. True, steps are being taken to minimise accidents yet the number of young fatalities is increasing–– mostly in two-wheeler crashes.

Battling a pandemic is one thing, but over-reacting is something quite different. Death is a part of life, a reality from which there is no escape. How long can we go on locking down one country after another in the name of precautions?

One cannot ignore medical advice issued by doctors across the world. But can one ask why much cleaner countries where more care of hygiene is taken are getting affected than backward ones in Asia, Africa and South America? Even when most of these less developed countries are much more densely populated and much less care is taken about hygiene.

Diseases like TB, diabetes, malaria, cancer etc continue to be a much bigger killer. As many as 1.4 million people die of TB every year––4.3 lakhs died in India alone in 2016.

Is it because coronavirus is affecting the relatively rich and the well-heeled while Tuberculosis and malaria affect the poor?

TV channels are busy showing deserted airports but do not bother to show the crowded railway stations. They are highlighting how passengers in AC coaches are being denied blankets and pillows because they are not washed every day and may spread COVID-19. But they have no time or inclination to show how post-Holi trains were running with people packed like sardines.

The media’s concern about coronavirus deaths is touching. But why is similar concern not shown over the deaths in wars that the United States and allies have been waging?

Both Indian media and social media have been irresponsible in fuelling rumours and publicising unscientific claims of the efficacy of cow’s urine and Yoga in treating the coronavirus. Equally touching is the concern shown by the Prime Minister and the media in lauding the devotion of doctors and paramedics while treating coronavirus patients.

Such concern is similar to calling the handicapped ‘Divyang’ and lauding the work of manual scavengers. We are indeed living up to our hypocritical self, ignoring the state of public health, pathetic conditions in overcrowded public hospitals and the abominable service conditions of public health workers.

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