Are we heading towards the doom of a democracy or the herald of a new dawn?

COVID Oxygen Shortage

Both the Supreme Court and several High courts have upheld the view, time and again, that getting a quality public health service facility is a basic human right of every citizen. Despite of it, during this pandemic, the number of deaths is hiking in major cities of the country due to the non-availability of Oxygen; owing to this, the crematoriums remain overtly occupied. The second wave of corona has wrecked a havoc. If the third wave onsets and spreads onto the small towns and villages of the country, there will be unending rallies of dead bodies all across. Are not the people in power in the country solely responsible for the mishandling of pandemic up to such a proportion? Isn’t the present flow of dead bodies compared to a genocide?

1. It is reported that the lndian strain B1.617 was first detected in October 20, 2020. (Source: Science Media Center) Accordingly, the government of India was informed in advance by few health agencies. (The Hindu/24th Oct 20) The Central Government has not only ignored the report but also has suppressed it with an ulterior motive. In fact, the BJP led government at the centre was waiting for the declaration of election by the election commission in five states. (The EC declared same on 25 February 2021) In a bid to being complacent and pave the way for full-fledged election rallies in those states, the Union Health Minister declared, “the game of corona has come to an end and we have triumphed over the pandemic”. (MEDICOM conference on 07 March 2021) The Prime Minister addressed the World Economic Forum at Davos on 28th January 2021 where he boasted of defeating COVID and also ridiculed the academics and scientists for alerting India of the possibility of being the epicentre of pandemic. Is it not the manifestation of their vested interest to win election? Why won’t the Union Health Minister as well as the entire government be made responsible for this genocide?

2. The Great Britain faced the second wave on December 2020. The British government debarred all the social functions and gatherings. The affected areas were declared containment zones. In comparison, the Union Government in Delhi opened everything within the month of January and February 2021 despite their advance knowledge of more dangerous B1.617 variety of strain. The Prime Minister along with the Union Home Minister addressed huge political rallies flouting all the existing pandemic guidelines in West Bengal, Assam etc. During the same time, the religious gatherings like Holi, Swarasati Puja, Siva Ratri, Nav Ratri and Ram Navami were allowed for celebration. Finally, the week-long “Kubha Mela” and a continuous road shows in election bound states inroad to flouting pandemic rules, reminding us that the pandemic is no longer raging the country. This led to a wide scale spread of B1.617 variety of strain throughout the country. Who is then to be made responsible for such irresponsible activities other than the Union government?

3. The Health ministry of both Union and State governments have the knowledge that the Supervising Authority or the designated officer appointed as per the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act 1991 and its amendment of 2010 along with Odisha Rules (2018), has the power to visit any registered private hospitals and nursing homes. As per section 6, s/he can enquire about the treatment facilities of the inpatients and if proper treatment is made to them or not. The officer can direct these clinical establishments to provide proper treatment/health service to the inpatients, otherwise can cancel its registration after shifting the admitted patients to other hospitals. As per the rule, all the hospitals and nursing homes shall provide every information in the public domain. Despite this, the Union government or any of the State governments are not using this power entrusted under the Act.

Now the question arises: why the government is taking a back foot to whipping a control over these medical institutions. The government instead of opening up of own temporary government medical establishments inside various stadiums, tourist centres at this hour have been funding the private institutions for purchasing Ventilators, ICU equipment, bed, oxygen cylinders etc. and is giving payment per head of the patient. Those temporary places could have been converted into a permanent government medicals in future. Is it not an ulterior motive of the government?

4. The reports from different parts of the country confirm that a large number of Corona patients are dying due to lack of oxygen or ICUs or ventilators. Why such deficit when the country has increased export of oxygen in January (2021) to 700% than previous month? (NDTV/21st April 21). The public sector companies of eastern India are the major producers of oxygen besides some private companies like Lende and Innox. The country’s total production is about one lakh ton yearly. Once the oxygen tanker is reached to the hospital, it takes another seven to ten days to reach at same point again. (Interview of Hangman Lal Bengami, former CEO, Linde India). In accordance to the existing population of a town/city, if there will be a lesser number of hospitals, beds, ICUs, inadequate oxygen stocks, acute shortage of healthcare staff like doctors and nurses, then won’t the situation be repeated? Isn’t it a failure of the government?

5. The privatization and commercialization of the public health service has created another golden opportunity for the capitalist class and black-marketers. As per report of F Y 2020-21, almost 43% of total patients are going to government hospitals whereas 55% patients are going to private hospitals (3% patients depend on charitable hospitals). The Ayusman Bharat Yajana of Union government has been strengthening the privatization of health service instead of the public health service (EPW/30th May20). The Corona vaccines which are supposed to be for the public good have been privatised. Consequently, won’t the better healthcare services, basic human right of the people, be prisoned in words?

6. The utmost failure of the treatment facilities in Uttar Pradesh is regularly popping in the social media, thus prompted by the fact, the UP government has issued a direction to the police administration to take action against the perpetrators. The infamous National Security Act is enforced against the people. Even the Government of Odisha has also issued a direction to the hospitals that they are not to disclose any information regarding the COVID Care Centers like beds, ICUs, ventilators etc; number of patients and number of deaths at any centre. It has been the age-old tradition of all governments to target the dissents. Isn’t it a way to debar people from enjoying basic rights like the freedom of speech?

Previously, we had published an update “Undermining Pandemic – a look back” regarding history of the World pandemics. During the first wave of corona in the country, the discussion was largely on its source and possible career targeting the neighbours and religious minorities. During this second wave new narrative of “system failure ” was invented. At the same time, some of the opposition led state governments were also accused. When the “Spanish flu” or the “swine flu” appeared after the World War I, many people lost their lives. We are witnessing the very similar thing in 21st century. It was also seen that after each and every pandemic, the common people went against the king or the head of authority. As a result, there was a change in the system. Can we expect any remarkable changes in the healthcare systems? Can the public health service be extended to every nook and corner of the country?

Prepared by: Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan, Odisha

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