The second wave of COVID-19 pandemic has crumbled the healthcare system of our country. It is not only the acute shortage of oxygen but also the crisis in getting the medicines and basic amenities in our Government hospitals on which more than 95% of the population is depending upon. The elections also played a major role especially the multiple phases of elections held in West Bengal also played a major role in the rudeness of the second wave of COVID-19. The media was overloaded with news of shortage of oxygen, shortage of cremation grounds and so on. The health wokers became the target of all these unfortunate situations. Successive governments at the Centre, has started reducing the allocation of funds for creating and developing health infrastructure, and a country with more than 138 crores population is spending only 1.6% of the GDP on its healthcare. The WHO has recommended that healthcare should be given priority and atleast 5% of the GDP should be allotted for healthcare system in our country. The ultimate result of such willful negligence has only resulted in people dying on roads, platforms, under the trees, inside the ambulance vehicles and in some cases inside the autorikshaws etc., people cried out of helplessness and they remained as silent spectator when their kith and kin breathed their last in their presence.
If this is the fate of the common man the story of the doctors, nurses and other para medical staff who are now generally called as healthcare workers have become more miserable. They are not provided with what is required for treating a COVID-19 patient. The cruel part is that if they themselves become infected by COVID-19 then they also have to run pillar to post for getting a bed with oxygen in the hospitals. One of the reports of Indian Medical Association says that more than 800 doctors have succumbed to death to the COVID-19 virus infection. The hospitals are overcrowded, they have to work almost 24 hours, working condition are pathetic, they are subjected to administrative pressure and political pressure. No leave has been sanction to them. While this is the condition of the staff of the Government Hospitals the situation is further worse in private hospitals where they are not being paid their wages for a months together. This has resulted in serious mental depression amongst the health workers. There are reports that some of them have also committed suicide due to depression.
The COVID-19 pandemic has become another business for earning profit by black marketing the medicines and even manufacturing and supplying of fake drugs. The entire health system needs to be revamped. The present gap and mistrust between the Union Government and the State Governments should go away. Country is witnessing an open divide between the State Governments and the Union Government in the matter of COVID-19 management and healthcare delivery. The bureaucracy has also further worsened the situation without understanding the ground reality and advising the political bosses with regard to the matters of prevention of the COVID-19 spreading and treatment of the disease. I would like to quote here the historical words of Napoleon Bonaparte “ A leader is a dealer in hope”. People elect the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers with lot of hope . They believe the assurances given to them during the elections. Some of the state governments have already started acting in a positive manner. The Left Democratic Front Government of Kerala is an example where the state with its limited resources is struggling to save the people from the pandemic by taking the people into confidence. The newly elected Tamilnadu Government is also marching in that direction with various positive steps to curb the spreading of the COVID-19 virus.
The Prime Minister and Chief Ministers should have a trusted team who without praising them throughout day and night should act upon and should have the courage to point out the shortcomings in the system. Criticism by the opposition parties and other agencies or even individuals for that matter however sharp it may be, the same should not be neglected. There may be facts in their criticism. Just a year back India was the pharmacy for the world and many foreigners use to visit India for taking medical treatment. Today our country is begging vaccine from other foreign countries. Where our Atma Nirbar Bharath has gone? The people of the country feel diminished after all these unfortunate developments in our country. Why this situation has come? Patronizing the private sector and neglecting the public sector and Government sector is the reason for todays pathetic situation. The LDF Government of Kerala has revived almost all the State PSU’s and many have started performing and earning profit. Government sector and Public sector should be nurtured and patronized by the Government since they always raise to the occasion whenever the country is in need. During the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic when nothing was available in the country it was the Ordnance Factories which came to the rescue of the country by manufacturing more than 10 lakh medical mask , Personal Protective Equipments, sanitizer and even Extendable Medical Tents. During the second wave when the country was suffering due to shortage of oxygen the public sector companies have plunged into the production of oxygen and supplying the same to almost all the corners of the country in record time. The PSU banks are serving the people even in this odd situation.
The Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers should forget their political agenda and should listen to who ever is telling the truth and making criticisms with an open mind. They should not allow the so called supporters to indulge in abuses against the critics and also the sycophancy of the yes masters. Being elected to the power it is their responsibility to respond positively to the faith and the hope the people are having on them.
The Railways is playing a major role in this pandemic The DRDO also is playing it’s role in inventing medicines and other equipments to fight the Corona virus
Views expressed here are those of C. Srikumar, General Secretary of AIDEF and the NEC Member of AITUC.