India’s Covid mismanagement: Thousands die for want of ventilators, medicines

Stumbling from one misstep to the next, the Modi government is lost in a labyrinth of its own making. Only now it’s dawning on the electorate that their priorities were wrong

India’s Covid mismanagement: Thousands die for want of ventilators, medicines

Sushil Kutty

In Lucknow, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath could, if he wants, smell the stench of death. For the last several days, the city’s crematoriums have been inundated with Covid corpses. So much so, with people taking a morbid interest in the goings on at the city’s largest cremation ground, the authorities had to put up an “opaque” fence all around it! Out of sight, out of mind?

Hardly. Governments, both central and those of the states, seem to have lost the plot to the coronavirus, fumbling along in bumbling disarray. And it doesn’t matter which party is in power where. If Gujarat’s Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray have no clue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks no less lost. Surprisingly unaware of responsibility. Stumbling from one misstep to the next. Lost in a labyrinth of their own making.

In its second coming, Covid-19 is treating India like it treated Italy and Brazil (and Spain) with the first wave. And it’s not just in Lucknow, cremation grounds across India are witness to unseemly hurry thwarted by pile-ups of Covid dead. The dead are being burned well past dusk, right up to and beyond the midnight hour. Similarly, burial grounds can’t locate space to bury the Covid-dead. Besides, consigning the dead now costs a packet, at crematorium as well as at the graveyard.

Chances are if you are rich, if you’re “connected”, with “jugaad” written into your pedigree, you would be able to survive Covid-19, nary a worry. For instance, Bollywood actors, who post their Covid-19 statuses on Twitter and Instagram, move into the best of hospitals without a hitch. Not the common man, even the middle-class Twitterati. Only the lucky few among these lesser mortals are able to find a hospital bed and oxygen to beat the coronavirus.

The other day a “national award-winning cyclist” died after two private hospitals in Pune refused to admit him, and the third, a government installation, admitted him only to allegedly “neglect” him. This guy got his features plastered all over the media because his was a known face, but the common guy, the Aam Aadmi, will pass away, vanish into a black-hole the other side of the Invisible Line, no questions asked!

And, now with the Government putting the brakes on the over-the-counter availability of Remdesivir, there’s a roaring black market in the drug all across the country. In Karnal, Haryana, a vial of Remdesivir with MRP Rs. 250 is selling at Rs 15,000-Rs18,000 in the black market. That said, the shortage of ventilators is the biggest killer in the realm. Nobody’s sure whether Remdesivir is effective or not, but hundreds are suffocating for want of ventilators in hospitals.

In Ahmedabad, where cremation grounds are crowded with the Covid-dead, the standstill caravan of ambulances outside hospitals tell another story – of acute shortage of hospital beds, prompting people to cynically retort, “But, then, when did we vote for hospitals, we voted for Ram Mandir, didn’t we?” Like they say, the sting is in the tail: Only now it’s dawning on the electorate that their priorities were wrong.

That said, it took countless dead to bring home the basic truth. Social media is awash with posts and comments, tweets and Instagram stories, of people who have woken up to the realization that temple domes and masjid minarets do not count if there isn’t Remdesivir, the ventilator and the oxygen. That in today’s Covid world, death is cheap.

Entire families are getting infected and nobody knows for sure whether it’s the old who are succumbing more, or are the young too collapsing lifeless in big numbers. All you get to hear and see (on TV and newspapers) are cold lifeless statistics. And, then, you’re told of Covid-appropriate behaviour while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah and politicians of all hues address Covid-inappropriate public rallies without a care in the world.

The question: Do politicians only care for elections, to win them at any cost? Unlike SARS, Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. The severity of the second wave is proof that the novel coronavirus has quietly adapted to earth conditions and is mutating to spread across geographies. A mahamandaleshwar of a Jabalpur temple who took a dip at the Kumbh in Haridwar died of Covid-19 the other day and it’s reported that he had taken both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine before he took the ‘shahi snaan!’

The point is, everything about the novel coronavirus, including the vaccines, is sort of fluid at this point in time. If the Government of the day does not understand this, then we as a nation might as well do a Padmavati. Just for reminders, India reported its highest number of Covid cases for the eighth time in nine days on April 17. This, when China reported record economic growth as it rebounded from the pandemic slump. Should Narendra Modi take some Covid lessons from Xi Jinping?

Maybe yes. India’s total Covid cases had raced to 14,074,564 and Covid deaths to 174,308. Nobody lives forever, but to die from Covid is such a waste. A novel coronavirus comes out of nowhere and takes away life in hundreds of thousands. For millions of Indians who sat through the first Covid wave, the second Covid wave is unnerving. And, for all we know, there's a massive vaccine crisis in the making even as helpless and hopeless people despair.

(IPA Service)

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