By Gyan Pathak
Prime Minister chairing a high level meeting with Chief Ministers to review the COVID-19 status and preparedness of response and management in the country has a special significance especially when the ‘situation is going out of control’, an observation that was made by the Supreme Court of India a day before asking Gujarat, Delhi, Maharashtra, and Assam for a status report within two days. Obviously, we have somewhere gone wrong on our strategies in the past despite our several such high level meetings and assurances given therein. Thousands of patients are dying without medical care. Our medical facilities are overwhelmed.
It is why, people feel sandwiched between PM and CMs, especially patients, for whom getting medical care has been too difficult to have in times of need. Hope among the people is generated through such high level meetings, but they are soon frustrated as big promises are not followed by such high level performance on the ground. A considerable time of the high level meeting held on November 24 was spent on distribution strategy of non-existent vaccines, and the Prime Minister indicated even a road map for that. Modalities of non-existent COVID-19 vaccine delivery, distribution, and administration were discussed. “Just like the focus in the fight against COVID has been on saving each and every life, the priority will be to ensure that vaccine reaches everyone,” PM said. The language does aim at covering the failure of the government ‘saving each and every life’, and hence it’s merely political. Only sufficient level of medical care could have justified our PM’s statement which are not seen anywhere on the ground.
Though the virtual meeting of PM was organized for all the states, special emphasis was on eight states – Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and West Bengal – where situation on the ground has been worsening. Supreme Court of India had observed a day before in relation to Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Assam that situation seems to be going ‘out of control’. The CMs were reported to have provided detailed feedback on the ground situation in their respective states as usual in such meetings. However, what lacked in the meeting was any leak-proof strategy of ramping up health infrastructure of the states’ as well as of the Union Government to the required level.
PM knows how little India is spending on health, and also our CMs know how little they are investing in this sector. States are running short of funds and the Union government is also struggling with its revenue collection. Earlier in March and April, when there were only thousands of cases with only hundreds of deaths, government officials were more active than now, when over 1.35 lakh people were dead with over 9.22 million total cases. It is a common knowledge that even official do not care when you telephone them. The standard advice is – live at home and take care. Even people have become careless all over the country.
In this situation our PM’s remark has no value when he says, “our country has faced the pandemic through concerted efforts and in terms of both recovery rate and fatality, the situation in India is better than most other countries”. It may enthuse those who are yet to get infection, but ask those who are already infected and had experienced the callousness of the government machinery and failed to access any medical care whatsoever. Had PM compared our medical facilities to that of USA, Europe, Japan etc while getting credit for low fatality rate and recovery, he would have been exposed of his dismal performance. That is why he talked about ‘the expansion of the testing and treatment network, PM Cares fund, making ventilators available’ that too in vague terms. He said, “Efforts are on to make medical colleges and district hospitals self-sufficient in terms of oxygen generation.” He also informed that the process of establishing more than 160 new oxygen plants was underway. When our patients need immediate medical care, a high level meeting discussing future plans in the meeting held for dealing with the ‘present frightening scenario’ is simply out-focusing. Such political promising has also been resorted to by our CMs.
PM’s language included even public preaching while talking about four stages of people’s response and their carelessness. It is true that people are developing ‘a false notion of security from the virus with increasing recovery rate leading to rise in instances of negligence’. However, the question is who is responsible for that? Of course the government who is repeatedly harping on recovery rate and low fatality rate compared to developed countries in a misplaced comparison without pointing towards India’s advantages on account of demography and other natural reasons. The government propaganda is proving self-defeating.
PM’s emphasize on greater alacrity and caution by the administration, is an indirect acceptance of dismal performance of administration of our political leadership in the Centre and the States. He noted that it was important to increase tests, ensure better monitoring of patients especially those in home isolation, better equip health centres at village and community level and keeping running awareness campaigns for safety from the virus. All these have been told in all high level meetings with dismal performance.
A press release by the PM office after the high level virtual meeting said that Chief Ministers praised the leadership of the PM and thanked the Central Government for providing necessary assistance in improving health infrastructure in the states. If it is true, why our CMs have been alleging all along for not providing sufficient help in their fight with COVID for the last several months? Clearly, PM and CMs, have become political in covering their failures in serving people in right earnest, resulting in continuous rise in deaths and number of patients. They discussed how much they were working but did not discuss where their strategies went wrong, and how they were going to repair the damage it had done. Such meetings seem cosmetic in nature while people need deeply meditated concrete steps to tackle the worsening COVID situation at one hand and the post-COVID challenges on the other. (IPA Service)