India’s yellow journalists, political vultures, judicial tyrants and medical sinners
In a national crisis, it is natural to expect people forgetting their differences and joining hands together to confront the situation. But unfortunately it is not so in India. As the second wave of the Corona haunts us, our political parties are literally having a gala time in finding faults with their opponents. While the BJP lambasts the AAP-led Delhi government, the Congress and others do so in the BJP-ruled states. And what is worse, Chief Ministers of the opposition-ruled States have washed their hands off and transferred all the blames to the central government in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular.
The media, dominated by the Khan-Market gang , is not only hell bent on spreading rumours/disinformation and fears all over the country but also is systematically feeding the anti-India foreign media like the New York Times, Washington Post, the Economist and the Guardian to derive perverse pleasure out of India’s current misery. In fact, many of the commissioned writers of these foreign publications happen to be the leading members of the Khan Market gang.
As if these are not enough to put any government, whether at the state or central level, under unnecessary and totally avoidable pressure, even though it is overworking in the fight against the Corona and has done, as we will see, a commendable job, some Hon’ble justices in our High Courts and Supreme Court have arrogated themselves to the positions that are totally beyond the constitutional parameters of a democracy believing in separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
Having already usurped the power of appointing themselves, these members of the judiciary now dictate what the government or the executive should and should not do. Some of them, like the Chief Justice of a High Court, are now even threatening to take action against other constitutional bodies like the Election Commission. For these justices, election is avoidable and elected governments are not even desirable. They think that they are the only omniscient few to know how the country is to be run.
All this is not to suggest that India has managed the Covid- attacks well and there are no problems. In fact, lapses are in plenty. But to blame everything is on the shoulders of the Modi government alone is ridiculous. And what is more ridiculous is that these are the very people who , at the drop of a hat, point out the “federal” nature of the country and suggest that states are more important than the centre.
At the same time, one should also see their double standard in keeping mum on the fact, more than half the deaths in India because of Covid-19 over the last 16 months have occurred in just five states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Delhi and West Bengal – all ruled by non-BJP parties.
Before pointing out what are the major lapses in the fight against the Covid, let me point out some of the positive achievements for which every Indian should be happy and confident for our eventual victory over the pandemic. And in pointing out them, I am going to borrow the facts brought out by many of my responsible facebook friends, both in India and abroad, some of them occupying sensitive positions.
As on April 25(the data that is available before me), total number of positive cases (including deaths) in India so far have been 1, 69, 60,172 (deaths numbering 1, 92,311). This data includes the foreigners being detected or dying in India over the last one year. Given the total population of India that stands around 137 crore at the moment, the death ratio comes to about 135 deaths/1 million of population.
Just compare the corresponding figures of other countries. The USA has reported 1757 deaths per million (where governors have been found to be hiding the death figures; the New York governor deliberately hid some 6000 Covid deaths in nursing homes). Likewise are deaths per million in Hungary 2,719; Bulgaria 2,276;Belgium 2,056;Italy 1,960;UK 1,868;Brazil 1,795; Poland 1,711;Portugal 1,667;Spain 1,657;France 1,562;Romania 1,417;Sweden 1,368; and Switzerland 1,212.
The above numbers are despite the facts that compared to 0.5 hospital beds for 1000 in India, the developed countries have much more – Germany has 13 beds for its 1,000 people and it is also 13 for Japan, 6 for France, 4.6 for Switzerland, 3.5 for the US and 4 for the UK.
Similarly, the habitual naysayers point out how unlike “India under the pathetic Modi government”, Israel has vaccinated 100% of its population and the USA 45%. But these naysayers do not realise that the population of Israel is 90 lakhs, whereas that of the USA happens to be 35 crores. If you apply India’s rate of vaccination ( at the time of the writing, slightly over 8 percent of the population has received one dose of the vaccine and just 2 percent full two doses), 65% of US should have been vaccinated.
When Corona came last year, what was the medical infrastructure in India? And compare that with what we have today. And this is despite the fact that unlike in the West or the developed world, there is no social welfare system or a comprehensive national health system in India.
But instead of appreciating the way the nation has been fighting the Corona, our “yellow journalists”, shouting news anchors and lead writers highlight only gory images of dying patients, wailing attendants, and aerial drone shots of crematoriums. I have rarely seen TV reporters reporting directly live from the Covid wards in the USA or UK. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has always had a hostile press. But when last December the UK was under the worst attack of the Corona, everyone rallied behind him. The British politicians belonging to the Labour party did not demand his ouster. But poor Modi in India listens day in and day out the choicest abuses of the likes of Mamata Benerjee and Rahul Gandhi, not to speak of Arvind Kejriwal who telecasts live his interactions with the Prime Minister.
As I said at the outset, there have been serious lapses in the Covid management. Dismantling the temporary medical facilities that were set up last year under the belief that the Covid has gone, allowing people to forgo observing anti-Covid norms – maintaining social distance and wearing masks in public places, according approvals to religious congregations and holding physical election-rallies are all legitimate criticisms. But, all these could have been withheld and the hands of the state and central governments strengthened to fight the grave menace facing the country at this very juncture. But our media, politicians and what is the worse, the judiciary are dividing us each passing day.
In the process, what has happened is the grave overlooking of the sins committed by the vested interests associated with the healthcare industry, evident with the way the scarcity of the oxygen and some medicines are created and exploited.
As Dr Randeep Guleria, the Director of the All Institute of Medical Sciences rightly says, “hoarding of injections like remdesivir and oxygen in homes is creating a panic and this hoarding is causing a shortage of these medicines. COVID19 is mild infection and 85-90% people will only suffer from cold, fever, sore throat and bodyache. Only symptomatic treatment at home is enough to ride through these infections and there is no need for oxygen or remdesivir.” But an environment is created by some in the medical fraternity, mostly associated with the private hospitals, that no Covid patient can survive without oxygen, remdesivir or plasma etc. This, in turn, has created more demands of them than supply, leading to hoarding in admissions in the hospital and the availability of oxygen and medicine.
Incidentally, experts have now pointed out that India is not short of Oxygen production, but the problem is in the logistic of its supplies to the hospitals. They rightly say that industrial and medical oxygen are same product produced in same plant, stored in same tanks and filled in same cylinders(In fact, for industrial we need 99.5% pure oxygen where as for medical as per pharmocopea all over world is 93+\-3%.). But the problem has been that most of our oxygen plants are meant to produce oxygen for industrial plants, as less than 1% of oxygen production capacity is used for medical purposes( for treatment of Corona cases, oxygen for requirement can go at the most to 5 percent of the total production). And these plants are located mainly in the eastern, southern and western parts of the country. So supply for medical purposes to the northern states, including Delhi, all of a sudden, has become problematic.
It may be noted here that it is not a rocket science to set up oxygen plants exclusively for medical purposes. Its estimated cost varies, depending on the facilities, from Rs. 33 lakhs to Rs. 80 lakh each. And they do not occupy much space.
That being the case, why the scores of multi-special hospitals, which have got government lands at a token price of just one rupee( as is the case in Delhi), have not set up their own oxygen plants? Why has not it been made mandatory by the government as building one plant will be less than the price a private hospital in Delhi takes officially from just 10 Covid patients( two of my acquaintances paid Rs. 11 lakh each for 11-day stay in a private hospital for Covid treatment).
In fact, these hospitals with big brands should learn from a small but well-run Alshifa hospital in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar. Unlike the big brands, it is not asking Modi to contribute from Prime Minister’s Care Fund to build an oxygen plant in its premise. It is building from its own resources at an estimated cost of Rs. 80 lakh and the work is already on progress.
What a shame for the likes of Apollo, Max, and Fortis!
By Prakash Nanda