Covid tragedy unfolds in Jharkhand

COVID Jharkhand
Photo: PTI

Dumka, Jharkhand: ‘I am completely alone’, says Asha worker Jayshree Marandi sadly.  ‘He would have helped me in the care and education of the children, but Covid-19 snatched him from me.’

Jayshree Marandi is talking about her husband, whom the pandemic swallowed. Jayshree remembers how he used to take her from village-to-village while he carried out his work.

“ I had got the vaccine but he did not. Meanwhile, he got corona and he left us and went away.”

This story is from Dumka district of Jharkhand. Jayshree is a resident of Jeetpur village. She says that her husband did not get any medical support. She went to many private hospitals with her husband and also spent all her savings but could not save her husband. Jayshree says that families of Asha workers who are going out to work during this period of Covid are also at risk and all of them should get vaccinated or else they will always be in danger.

In Dumka, such stories will be found in every village, in every house. The entire population of Dumka is being trampled under by Covid-19, and a similar situation exists across  all of Jharkhand.

The figures of deaths of people in Jharkhand is so messed up that it is difficult for anyone to even imagine it. Social worker Alok Kumar, who works in Dumka, says that even after having full symptoms of Covid-19, the state health authorities are showing these deaths as being caused by some other disease. The person may have of course had other ailments too but the main cause of their deaths is Covid, says Alok. As a result where there are 50 deaths, the government is counting only 10 of them as due to corona.

COVID Response Watch LogoIn Dumka district alone, where the government is still showing only 34 deaths from Covid in its official figures, Alok says that in just 7 gram panchayats of Dumka, 84 people have died in the last month, most of them due to Covid. People who have died of other diseases also were in a good condition before Covid, but the infection caused sudden deterioration of their health. These figures show how the government is hiding the data during the second wave of Covid.

At the same time, Shikha, a social worker working in Chaibasa, West Singhbum district says that the situation is very bad there also. Even after having complete symptoms of Covid, the deaths of people are being shown as due to other diseases. The condition of hospitals is very bad. There are no concrete arrangements to fight Covid at the block level hospitals. From there people are sent to Chaibasa District Hospital, which is also in a situation of distress. Many patients are sent further to Jamshedpur and the delay in accessing treatment results in their dying.

Aparajita, who is working to help people in Covid in Ranchi, says – ‘There is a shortage of ventilators in Ranchi. People from all over the state are coming to hospitals here. There are no more than 50-60 ventilators in Ranchi, which represents almost all the ventilators available in Jharkhand. In such a situation, people from nearby and other districts of Jharkhand come to Ranchi but are very disappointed with the lack of health facilities.

Oxygen is kept in the hospitals, but the hospitals are not giving it to the patients, due to which people are dying. Hospitals are giving oxygen only to those who come with a lot of recommendations.

Aparajita tells how the figures of the deaths are being hidden from the fact that the father of a boy named Anshu died. His number was 53rd at the crematorium while only 19 deaths were recorded that day in Ranchi.

Ahsan Ahmed Khan, who is engaged in providing constant help among the people in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, says that there is no facility for the poor in Dhanbad. They do not even know whether testing is going on or not. Where is testing happening? People with money are getting taste somehow, but away from the city, the poor of the village are not even able to come to the city to access these facilities.

“I cannot tell the exact figure of deaths, but almost 500 people are dying every day in Dhanbad, but the record is being made only 50-100” he says.

Condition of Workers

The condition of migrant workers has been deteriorating ever since the lockdown. Last year, the government had taken a lot of steps to bring back the workers, but this time those steps are not visible. Workers are returning from different states and going to their house without any testing and without any quarantine center, due to which the risk of Covid has increased significantly among their families. Last year, five lakh labourers returned to Jharkhand. This time the government has no data of how many migrant workers came back.

Alok, who is working in Dumka, says that the condition of daily wage earners is getting worse every day. In tribal areas, people live only on the basis of daily wages, but since Covid has come, their condition is continuously deteriorating. They have not been able to pay their debt from the first lockdown and now this second lockdown has come.

Since the factories were not yet completely closed in this lockdown, some people have come and some have not yet come, but for those who are coming, there is neither a test nor a quarantine.

The people working in Dhanbad say nobody listens to the labourers. Those poor people are fighting the battle to save their lives. If you escape from Covid, you will die of hunger and if you escape from hunger you will die from Covid. In this country, only people with money are heard. The workers here do not even know where the testing for Covid-19 is taking place.


The condition of testing in Jharkhand is also not very good. One health official in Dumka said that the exact data is not known, but antigen tests in the district are around 2000 daily and on an average about 100-200 at the block level. On May 4, 35597 samples were taken across 24 districts of Jharkhand and 36209 samples were tested. On an average only one and half thousand samples are being taken in one district every day. Given the horrors of Covid, this testing is inadequate, but the government is not paying attention to this at all.

We tried to find out how much testing is happening daily in large cities like Ranchi and Dhanbad, but the authorities refused to give details.

What are the doctors saying?

A doctor from Dhanbad said on condition of anonymity that the condition in Covid is very bad. Lack of oxygen is killing many patients. Hospitals are not willing to take responsibility.

“At this time, the number of patients with Covid symptoms has also increased and it is not possible for us to see everyone” he said.

There is a lot of misinformation and rumours also floating around. A health officer in Dumka said people are scared that their kidneys and eyes will get stolen at the testing and vaccination centers.

“We are constantly running awareness campaigns, but people are still afraid to get vaccinated or tested”  he says.

The man from Chaibasa’s health department said that diseases like dengue, malaria, meningitis have been regular problems in their district but after the arrival of Covid, there is no attention towards those diseases. So there may be deaths  from those diseases also adding to the toll. When we tried to talk to district officials on these deaths, no officer could be contacted.

This is the story from some districts of Jharkhand, but the situation is more or less the same in all districts. What is the government doing in such a situation? What is the government machinery doing? Why has it  left people  to suffer in this condition?

This article was originally written in Hindi. Akash Pandey is a journalist based in Jharkhand and can be reached at [email protected]

This article is free to be reproduced. 



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