Though, it might be surprising for some, but the fact remains that the Indian Govt is presently battling, not just one, but two epidemics together. The first one is the Coronavirus, which can be felt, heard of and seen all around us while the second one is the epidemic of vicious propaganda and sensation.
The second wave of corona infections shook up the whole country and all our preparations proved insufficient in front of its onslaught. In the last wave, the demand for medical oxygen barely reached 2,400 TPD whereas this time, it reached a record high of 9,200 TPD.
Due to the availability of testing kits and medicines and the standardization of treatment methods, it was hoped that it would be easy to take on the second wave of infections but the severity and the sweeping expanse of COVID-19 put paid to all preparations and arrangements.
Despite a large increase in the number of beds and ventilators in nearly every hospital, patients can be seen running from pillar to post. As if this was not enough, a part of media and poisonous politics, with their promotion of fear-mongering and consternation, completed the frightening scenario. While the appalling and fearsome portrayal of the calamity and sensational journalism incited even healthy people to unnecessarily hoard medicines and oxygen, political discourses and reactions filled with bitter acrimony, animosity and bitterness are trying to weaken collective morale.
Today, everyone is aware of the severity of coronavirus’ second wave and has an idea about hospital admissions, lack of oxygen and abnormal death rate. In such a scenario, the continuous broadcasting of heart-rending scenes is demoralizing and dispiriting people rather than providing them with a new perspective.
The hideous and ghastly form of corona pandemic that is being witnessed by India today, many Western countries have already gone down that road. Developed countries of the likes of U.S.A., Britain, Italy and Spain became helpless at the onslaught of coronavirus. Long waiting lists were compiled due to the non-availability of enough oxygen and beds for the patients in the hospitals. The only difference was that instead of crowding the hospitals, the patients were made to stay at their homes.
In Italy and Spain, as the hospitals were overwhelmed, the doctors even took harsh decisions of prioritizing the young and otherwise healthy patients over the elderly and frail people who were less likely to recover. There, the number of people dying at home, without any recourse to treatment, was also huge.
It’s not that these problem were limited to the first wave of infection but the conditions remained the same, more or less, even during the second wave. Sure, the government’s lockdown policies were questioned but the lack of medical facilities was not politicized. Despite the frightening condition, the ruling dispensation and the opposition, both faced it with equanimity and all seriousness. There was no display of the scenes of frenetic and fierce family members of the patients, nor were rows of coffins displayed. All the sections of society faced the epidemic’s challenge with patience and maturity.
Unfortunately, the situation in India is entirely different. A senior has set up her studio inside a crematorium only. A foreign correspondent of Washington Post described a picture of burning pyres as “stunning”.
In the name of media reporting, fear and gruesomeness are being served. Such coverage lacks, not only prudence, but sensitivity and responsibility. The foreign media which displayed restraint and moderation in covering the corona scourge in their own countries are actively searching for a perverse and morbid satisfaction in the deaths taking place in India.
Though it is a fact that there was a blunder in gauging the severity and expanse of the tragedy, it was a failure not of one level of the government but of every level. For this, everyone at the centre, state and local level is responsible.
Along with this, however it must also be pondered whether it was possible to forecast this kind of Covid tsunami? But even such questions are not for the present.
The need of the hour is to comfort and console the public struggling with a gruelling mental calamity. One can easily guess the impact of this despair and hopelessness on patients and their attendants. At times of a disaster, it becomes the responsibility of each institution to display and demonstrate solemnity and fortitude. Malafide intent, jealousy and negativity have helped the pandemic to reach where it is today.
The falsehood and confusion about corona spread by political parties, some intellectuals and vested interests created mistrust in the minds of the public as India began its mass inoculation. As a result, on an average, nearly five lakh vaccine shots were simply wasted every day in the first stage itself.
According to data shared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), India wasted 4.6 million doses since the drive to vaccinate the population kicked off in January. Tamil Nadu had the highest vaccine waste rate of 12% followed by Haryana (9.74%), Punjab (8.12%), Manipur (7.8%) and Telangana (7.55%).
Today, when the authenticity of the vaccine and its efficacy has been vindicated, one needs to ponder as to how many lives could have been saved had those vaccine shots not been wasted?
The mobilization of the unholy nexus of vested parties too did not leave any stone unturned in politicizing the pandemic. On the one hand, the undisputed leader of the Grand Old Party of India displayed irresponsibility while accusing the vaccine makers of governmental patronage and profiteering. On the other, he declared the whole Indian government machinery to be a failure. The said leader, in his blind dislike for the ruling dispensation, did not even realize that the government machinery does not only mean the ruling party but a large part of the executive, which is battling the pandemic with all its might, day in and day out.
Besides, in a section of both Indian and foreign journalists, rather than any empathy or sensitivity at the loss of life due to the pandemic, one can witness a palpable sense of satisfaction and victory. Despite health being a state subject, these elements are completely silent on Maharashtra, the biggest source of the second wave of corona infection, and busy in cornering the central government just because it is helmed by Narendra Modi.
In the last few years, the partner media of bitter politics has poisoned the Indian society, setup and polity. Practising restraint and moderation at times of a pandemic would be a service to humanity. Once the situation improves and gets better, the cycle of accusations and counter-accusations may pick up once again. Today, when coronavirus is wreaking havoc on us, then this pandemic of fear, poisonous tirade and vicious propaganda is our creation. The conditions can become slightly easy if a full stop is put to this all.