By Gyan Pathak
As the second wave of COVID-19 in India is becoming grimmer, politics in the country is becoming uglier. The most objectionable was the attitude of the centre to treat the spread of the pandemic as godsend opportunity to implement whatever they want to, violating the very democratic and federal structure of the country. Their attention is divided considerably away from tackling the crisis in the right earnest to somewhere else. Now the centre has stooped too low and blamed the four worst affected states and their citizens for the unprecedented daily spike in corona cases and active case load which were about 1.27 lakh and 910,000 on April 7, 2021.
Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi, and Chhattisgarh, which happen to be the worst suffering states, are particularly targeted by the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, in his line of fire. It may also be noted that all these states are non-BJP ruled states. Being the Union Health Minister of the Country, a doctor, and the chief of the whole plan and implementation of COVID-19 containment measures in the country he must be knowing the real situation in each of the states. When majority of the states are recording higher number of infections and active caseloads, selectively criticizing these four opposition ruled states smacks politics.
It is just an effort of shifting the goalpost. No state blamed for the unprecedented spike of infection, mortality, and active case loads are entirely responsible. When the centre ordered the general lockdown, all the states were locked down. When the centre started unlocking, all the states started unlocking. Everything was done as per the guidelines of the government at the Centre. No state was allowed to take its own decision, out of the periphery of the central guideline. All the international traffic is under the central government. How the states are to blame for coming of COVID-19 virus last year, or new foreign strain this year along with double mutations, which have threatened even the immunity of the people induced even by vaccination?
If there are not sufficient data with the government of India and their research and testing facilities are much short of requirement, how the state governments are to blame? States were asked to take their decisions but were not provided all the required information to take right decision at right time. Moreover, centre has a supervisory role in this affair. What was the supervisor doing when the subordinate was faltering and the situation was becoming bad to worse in almost all the states which made the centre to comment “India was at risk”?
The blame came only after the states asked for more vaccines, and reported about the short supply. The centre has already admitted the ‘limited supply’ of the vaccine and therefore needed prioritization. However, the prioritization was done as per the categories based on age and co morbidity. Now telling the country that there is no short supply of vaccine is factually wrong. One of the logic on which the vaccination plan rested is that the government wanted to prevent “death”. It was clear that checking the spread was not the priority and the persons out of the age categories were not given vaccines because they were not eligible as per the Centre’s vaccination plan. That is why we could not check the spread, and also could not check the rate of mortality from rising to a disturbing level and also the active caseloads on the healthcare system which are overwhelmed again. How can we put blame on the states for such a faulty vaccination plan?
Let us take the question of availability of the vaccines. As per the agreement between Oxford and SII, the vaccines produced in India was to be distributed all over the world on no profit no loss basis. About 92 countries are totally dependent of SII. India can get its share from the production, but cannot legally take more than its share. SII has already said that it has limited capacity for production. Its chief has said in an interview that they don’t have money enough to invest in production to fulfil the expectation of the world. Why the government of India is not ready to invest in the production line? Centre says, it is doing everything what is needed to save life and livelihood. Does non-investment or not-helping in vaccine production is more effective to save lives and livelihoods? SII has said they can double the production if money is made available.
At one time government has said that all persons don’t need vaccination but only the ones whose lives are at risk. The issue of “vaccine hesitancy” are rooted also in the centre’s tags “emergency use approval” and “trial mode”. How the states are entirely responsible for low level of vaccination? The hesitancy is found across the country in all states? Why to select these four to criticize? States are not alone responsible for poor vaccination as the Union Health Minister has alleged.
Right from the beginning, coordination between the states have been an issue in the country, and there is not perfect coordination from the top to the ground level across the states – both in BJP ruled states and opposition ruled states. Since the success in the corona battle depends largely on coordination, the centre has no business to further strain the coordination by accusing the states of “politicizing” a public health issue and “spreading lies” and not doing enough in terms of testing, contact tracing, and ramping up the health infrastructure.
Wishing a lame to run a marathon is too much. Our state finances were in very bad shape even before the outbreak of the pandemic. The general lockdown of the economy announced and implemented by the centre in the country has almost ruined the financial position. Blaming the states is easy but where is the financial support for the states to accomplish all the tasks as “ramping up the health infrastructure”, testing, contact tracing etc. Moreover, these are strictly done under the centre’s guidelines. How the centre is not responsible for the lack of medical infrastructure in the country and only the states are responsible?
The centre has always been seen as diverting nation’s attention from real issues to emotive issues to cover up their failures. Irony is that the Union Health Minister has said “there have been deplorable attempts by some state governments to distract attention from their failures” and “spread panic among the people”.
The centre has also said violations of covid-appropriate behaviour during marriages, gatherings, agitation of farmers, and local bodies’ elections are major causes of the second wave. One can ask, under whose guidelines the country is run if not the centre’s? Why centre should not accept the blame that their guidelines and the orders had inherent faults? Let us not criticize but support the states and their people in their battle against corona. (IPA Service)