Corona Quagmire: No politics please

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It is strange that Police is pressed to control Corona instead of equipping hospitals with urgent facilities and the Doctors and paramedics with necessary gears.

I am citing here an empirical account of how grave is the lack of treatment facilities in the political mecca of our two consecutive Prime Ministers, the US of America. The situation of blatantly inadequate medical facilities to face the Corona challenge in New York City, as reported in this account of personal experience, has forced President Donald Trump to rush a Navy Hospital Ship “to provide extra space and support to medical workers in fight against the Coronavirus outbreak.” The capitalist system of health care that has almost ruined the affected people in USA is also the cause of irreparable debacle we in India stand face to face with.

Governments at the Center as well as in Orissa have started saying that we shall have to adjust ourselves for treatment outside hospitals when the catastrophe takes a turn towards the worse. This is because, there shall be no medical space for accommodation of the patients that may get afflicted. Will the same spaces outside the hospitals, like the USA Navy Hospital Ship, offer life-saving service to our people?

Unseen threat from the Doctors

When most of our working hospitals have no convincing capability to handle the cases, the Government(s) have blatantly failed to find that our Doctors and Paramedics engaged in attending indoor and outdoor patients of different categories with different ailments are the ones that shall unknowingly carry the virus to non-corona patients, attend as they the patients of all categories.

They are not adequately provided with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). And, thus , they themselves are dangerously vulnerable.

Nurses the most vulnerable

More than the Doctors, our nurses and persons engaged in medical cleaning etc will suffer the worst possible threat to their lives. Unlike the Doctors, they shall have to be in the nearest proximity of the Corona patients in the hospitals. The Governments, both at the Centre and the States, must reveal to us, and urgently, what sort of PPE and personal gears of what standard, these most unavoidable, yet the most vulnerable, real care providers are going to be provided with.

The present situation looks blatantly bleak. Adequate and appropriate PPE is a far cry. Recoverable advance of salary to these inadequately paid medical care workers is like salt on the bleeding injury.

Bonanza to Insurance Companies

Under the cover of official concern for the nurses and other paramedics, the Insurance companies are now going to get great bonanzas in shape of premiums proposed to be paid by our government against insurance worth Rs.50 lakhs per head to be operational only when any of them succumbs to the dreaded virus while serving the patients. This is proposed reward for death of whosoever sincerely tries to save us. This is nonsense. Give them the reward when they should be performing their duties. We demand a prompt response from the Central as well as the State Governments, as they have no right to play with our lives.

A separate cadre essential

As said supra, the same Doctors and paramedics treating and caring Corona patients along with all sorts of patients under the same roof of a hospital are potential spreaders of the virus from the affected to the non-affected. Hence the government, both at the Center and at the State, should, sans any delay, build up a separate cadre of Doctors and Paramedics to stay exclusively addressed to the Corona Cases with sufficiently heavy amount of compensation over and above their normal pay.

Unless a separate and distinguished cadre of Doctors and Paramedics exclusively addressed to Corona cases is immediately created with most efficient PPE, India will fail to overcome the pernicious threat to her breath as a nation.

The new cadre could be the only alternative to the present chaos and if instantly formed and properly strengthened with appropriate PPE, can help us survive.

The people have the right to know the ruling politicians’ views on this proposal immediately, as, otherwise, their lives may not have sure assurance of safety.

No Politics Please

In his address to the nation while shepherding the people into what he said “Janata Curfew” on March 22, which, to him, was the key to ward off Corona virus, the PM had informed that, for last two months, lakhs of Doctors and Paramedics had been working as “protectors of the nation” standing “between the virus and the people”.

“Curfew” is the word our Prime Minister had preferred to use in asking our people to stay in isolation for the day in order to stop the spread of the pernicious virus.

But, they were also asked to come out at 5 PM to express their gratitude to the medical community of India by clapping of palms, beating of salvers, jingling of bells etc. (Tali Bajakar ke, Thali Bajakar ke, Ghanti Bajakar ke).

All these actions that concussed the country at 5 pm on March 22 were the soft threads of a design so dear to the Indian right-wingers, which, in fact, rendered the call for social distancing a farce.

Had the so-called Janata Curfew, described as the vehicle for social distancing , been really meant for the pronounced purpose, it should not have been vitiated with a break for Tali Bajakar ke, Thali Bajakar ke, Ghanti Bajakar ke lauding the medical community that works without any hankering for this sort of farcical thanks-getting.

Was it designed to test to what extent the general public is susceptible to political tricks even in the times of disaster? Probably.

Curfew! Was there no other word?

The Prime Minister could have used any other word to call upon the people to stay home for a day on March 22. But he deliberately used the word “curfew”, which is a word used in a climate of apprehended unrest to curb its spread by using the menacing force of the State that makes Section 188 of IPC readily available to the Police to use against anybody it feels to have not completely surrendered to even an whimsical orders of an officer. This is a menacing instrument devised to deny people their fundamental right to resent against any instance of objectionable State action.

Our people, pushed into fear over Corona, accepted the word “curfew”, misled by its being suffixed to the word “Janata”. This having clicked, and our people’s readiness to comply with government orders sans any resentment assessed, Mr. Modi proceeded to clamp a nationwide lockdown, which, to him, would ensure social distancing so essential to stop spread of the virus.

What is a lockdown?

Lockdown means, the confining of prisoners to their cells, as following a riot or other disturbances. I am really shocked with use of this word to entice people to fight coronavirus pandemic. Why should a Prime Minister consider us criminals to be tackled by lockdown? Have we no love for our lives? Had we resorted to “riots” on March 22? Or any earlier in Corona context? Why must we be insulted with words like curfew and lockdown, that encourage the police to subject the citizens to Lathicharge when everybody is deeply disturbed due to the ruining pandemic? Lockdown has given the police unquestionable power to send any citizen to prison under the pretense of disobedience to orders of any officer. For what fault of the general public this instrument of State Terror is promulgated when we need absolute peace and tranquility to have our physical and mental strength to fight the pandemic?

What contribution this lockdown has made to arrest/elimination of Corona virus? In reality, it invites the worst disaster ever imaginable by eliminating the distancing purpose, as migrant workers hit with sudden closure of their workplaces and others under anxiety to reach their families in permanent places find no means to travel.

Bereft of funds, of food and water, hundreds of them in groups are daring hundreds of miles to reach their homes, oblivious of the need of social distancing.

Horrific pictures of thousands of helpless people eager of rush back to their homes in Anand Vihar Bus Terminus, Delhi show how mindlessly the lockdown has been clamped and how the instant danger of hunger has outweighed the devastation that is yet to come.

Distancing thus gone astray, could the PM or any CM stop spreading of the virus through lockdown?

How is it that our most intelligent Prime Minister could not foresee this mass exodus, which was unavoidable after the sudden lockdown ejected the people out of their workplaces? In his speech cited supra he had said that the medical community and other officials were busy in detecting and quarantining Corona carriers since January 2020 in various entry points. Why he / his government did not ask the migrant workers, students and other visitors in different towns and localities to go back to their respective permanent places sufficient ahead of the 22nd March? Was it deliberate to test to what extent our people have become dependent on fate to accept whatever misfortune befalls, even if by way of misrule?

Sans any botheration about how to stop the spread of the virus in this government induced state of mass exodus, Mr. Modi’s government has started since yesterday the telecasting of Ramayan that would strengthen the fate syndrome under the pretense of theatrical performances of SriRam, so dear to the heart of BJP who’s who.

It cannot be described as technically illegal. But it cannot be said that, there is no political agenda in it.

The political economy of our health should have no politics in overcoming the Corona quagmire.

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