Undermining the fight against the pandemic

The performance of the regimes of Delhi, Maharashtra, and West Bengal in fighting the current pandemic is at the bottom of the ladder. On the other hand, those like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have done relatively far better

The performance of the regimes of Delhi, Maharashtra, and West Bengal in fighting the current pandemic is at the bottom of the ladder. On the other hand, those like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have done relatively far better
The performance of the regimes of Delhi, Maharashtra, and West Bengal in fighting the current pandemic is at the bottom of the ladder. On the other hand, those like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have done relatively far better

The nation’s fight against the pandemic is getting undermined by the inefficient functioning of the governments of Delhi, West Bengal, and Maharashtra.

If a nationwide opinion poll is conducted to evaluate the performance of governments in fighting the current pandemic, the regimes of Delhi, Maharashtra and West Bengal will find themselves at the bottom of the ladder. On the other hand, those like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have done relatively far better.

This is amazing. Both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have traditionally had a poor public health infrastructure, which is a result of decades of neglect of the sector. Government hospitals have been ill-equipped; faced shortages of trained manpower, including doctors; and damaged by political interferences. Besides, they have had to cater to a huge population, large sections of which face issues of malnourishment and related health complications. And yet, faced with the pandemic, they scrambled to scale-up facilities, with the political leadership providing a firm direction and ensuring that every official, from the Secretary-level down to district medical officers, rose to the occasion.

When this was overturned by the Lt Governor, it warned against being ill-prepared to handle the rising cases of non-Delhiites and Delhiites taken together. But only weeks ago, the government had boasted of being prepared for any future eventuality.

By contrast, Delhi and Maharashtra have historically boasted of robust healthcare. Their health parameters have consistently been better than those of the Northern States, not just in the public sector but also in private healthcare. And yet, confronted with the pandemic, they have lost their bearing. This is largely due to the inadequate leadership that exists in both these places.

Ruled by non-BJP parties, the governments of Delhi, West Bengal and Maharashtra have been busier in passing the buck to the Centre than in taking effective measures to tackle the crisis. Initially, it appeared that the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi was sincere in rising to the occasion. It worked closely with the Centre to implement the central guidelines as well as those issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It welcomed the lockdown and took measures to contain the spread of the disease. However, as weeks passed by, it became apparent that the government was doing far lesser than it was claiming to. In order to wash its hands of its failure, it began to target private and Central Government-run hospitals. Cases were filed against some of them.

It boasted of the testing a higher number of people and said that the high testing was largely responsible for the greater number of cases being reported from Delhi. But recent data revealed that testing had actually gone down even as the active cases rose. The Kejriwal regime also passed a diktat that hospitals managed by it would admit patients only from Delhi. When this was overturned by the Lt Governor, it warned against being ill-prepared to handle the rising cases of non-Delhiites and Delhiites taken together. But only weeks ago, the government had boasted of being prepared for any future eventuality.

It had claimed that enough beds were available in government-run hospitals to meet future requirements. Besides, it had converted some private facilities into COVID care centres, equipped with ventilators etc. How is it, then, that healthcare which was robust enough to take care of the pandemic, suddenly crumble? How is it that family members carried patients from one hospital to another and were told that beds were not available? An app the Delhi government launched, which was supposed to give real-time information on beds available for COVID patients, turned out to be full of glitches.

The Supreme Court had strong words to say against the governments of Delhi, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. It said the manner in which the patients were managed in Delhi was “horrendous”, and demanded an explanation from these states.

In Maharashtra, the Udhav Thackeray government has lost the plot. There is no control over the alarming rise of cases, particularly in Mumbai. The condition of state-run hospitals is pathetic. The dead and the living are being accommodated in the same ward. An atmosphere of apathy and total lack of sensitivity prevails. If the government has any sensible plan of action, it must make it known.

The situation in West Bengal is as bad, perhaps worse. The Mamata Banerjee government has been seen as being lax over the implementation of central guidelines to contain the pandemic. There have been reports of the lockdown not been enforced in certain areas of the State. Enough testing is not being done, and accusations have been levelled against the regime of fudging mortality figures. But the Chief Minister is engaged in running down the Modi government and conducting a war of words with the Governor, almost on a daily basis. A recent survey showed very low levels of satisfaction among the people over the manner in which the State government has handled the crisis.

Recently the Supreme Court had strong words to say against the governments of Delhi, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. It said the manner in which the patients were managed in Delhi was “horrendous”, and demanded an explanation from these states.

The governments of Delhi and Maharashtra also have the dubious distinction of mishandling on a monumental scale the migrant crisis. Several thousands of migrants, eager to return home, had spilled on the streets and at railway stations and bus terminuses in the midst of the lockdown. How did that happen? Clearly, somebody had spread fake news about trains and buses running, when none were in operation. Neither of the regimes got to the bottom of the mischief.

Besides, both Delhi and Maharashtra had claimed that they were looking after the migrants — ensuring them shelter, food and other essentials. If that were indeed true, why would have these poor migrants risked their lives and tried to flee these places, packed in trucks and other means of transport like sardines, without food or water?

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the nation’s fight against the pandemic is getting undermined by the inefficient functioning of the governments of Delhi, West Bengal and Maharashtra.

Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Rajesh Singh

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