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Covid crisis? Govt of India brings in new alibi to 'woo' corporates: Systemic collapse

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

“The system has collapsed” – is a general cry these days as events unfolding everyday bring in more uncertainty and desperation. We were never so helpless as we are today. You can’t help anyone, you can’t go to meet your friends and relatives. Common people are alarmed. They wonder what would happen to them if the disease strikes them. People are dying of utter neglect.
Yet, we haven’t heard prominent journalists asking questions to top two or top three in this government as why this is happening. So many people died because of lack of oxygen in the country's prestigious hospitals, and yet no questions are being asked. Officially the death figure due to Covid-19 is nearing two lakh. The second wave has exposed India's unpreparedness to deal with it.
If one’s memory is not too short, one has only to remember what happened last year in April. The government used railway coaches as isolation centres. Many of the artificial structures were created. How fast these were 'dismantled', even when we knew that things are still in the air and no medical doctor has declared ultimate victory over corona, except the top ministers of this government.
Where have those makeshift hospitals or facilities gone? These were prepared to meet the challenge of hospitalisation posed by Covid-infected people. Will anyone ask how much money was invested in them and which were the companies and people who got the contract? Now we are hearing that the government will do the same. It is making artificial structures to deal with the rising number of corona infected people.
It is a fact that it is not corona that is killing people but lack of our preparedness and non-supply of oxygen. It is shameful and deeply disturbing to see many of the chiefs of these prestigious hospitals feeling desperate because of their inability to deal with the situation.
While reports continue to castigate the government’s inefficiency and insensitivity, the ruling party is attempting a 'multi-pronged strategy'. One side of this PR exercise is through 'favourite' channels and newspapers, which are ready to play for the government in lieu of big favours and money. On the other hand, on a more dangerous side is, some 'respected' journalists and editors are asking the government to 'control' the 'freedom of expression', in the 'national interest'.
Not to be outdone is a senior minister, handling information technology and law, asking social media platform Twitter to remove the tweets which speak of systematic failure. The minister has always been speaking in a threatening language. Already, journalists who are trying to give authentic information are being threatened.
At a time when North Indian states are suffering from mismanagement and crisis of oxygen, in south Indian states like Kerala and Tamil Nandu that have shown the way. Kerala's 10 medical colleges have two oxygen plants, each providing uninterrupted supply. The state increased its oxygen capability by 58% in the last one year. It planned meticulously by understanding the importance of the crisis.
Tamil Nadu has much more oxygen than it needs during the year. It has the capacity of producing 400 MT of oxygen per day while its demand for the hospitals so far is merely 240 MT.
In Delhi, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal used nearly Rs 150 crore on his publicity exercise during the first three month of 2021, while crying hoarse over lack of oxygen because most of the plants have moved out of Delhi. The issue is, did he not know that a crisis can happen and he has to deal with it, given the nature of the Central government, which has not been keen to allow him any freedom?
The problem is that after death of so many known journalists, activists, academics and common people, top media houses have woken up to show some concern about the situation and mismanagement at our hospitals. But rather than asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi questions, they have started paddling the new term -- 'systemic collapse'. They don’t explain as to what has collapsed and who is responsible.
When liberals like Shekhar Gupta and other 'experts' talk of 'systemic collapse', one must understand what narrative they are planting
India has never invested heavily on health and education. But whatever was being spent has been reduced by the Modi government, which is on a privatising spree. The government has only one agenda, and that is to privatise India's public sector as rapidly as possible, and they have found the corona period as the best opportunity to do so, when trade unions and people are busy or are engaged in their own survival and have no time to question those in power.
When liberals like Shekhar Gupta and other 'experts' talk of 'systemic collapse', one must understand what narrative they are planting. These are the people who benefited from their networking in business and political circles. The ‘systemic collapse’ talk only suggests that the government alone can’t handle the present crisis, so it is necessary to give 'freedom' to private companies.
It would be pertinent to find out which countries performed better in dealing with Covid and what is the role of the government in the health sector. The best performers have been Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore and Vietnam, while the worst include USA, Brazil, Mexico, India and UK.
It time to look into the healthcare system in these countries. The UK for sure failed because the government did not take timely action through the National Health Services ( NHS), which has proved to be its best bet. Yet, thanks to NFS, they have been able to reduce fatalities and are returning to normalcy. USA is the model of 'corporate' hegemony. Huge funds go to 'opinion makers', who utter hosannas on the great role of the 'corporates' in every field.
India needs to be careful. It needs to strengthen its healthcare system. If the Centre fails to do so, let the states come with their own state-owned healthcare systems. States can always do so whether in education or health by investing more money in these sectors by building big public institutions, and that would work as a wonder.
If states have vision they can be role models. Southern states in India are still far ahead of the northern ones because North Indian hospitals have become money-minting machines. It is time for the governments to strengthen health services at the district, block and town levels so that people can go there and get quality treatment.
‘Systemic collapse’ should mean strengthening our health infrastructure through public sector or government money, but not hand it over to the corporates, asking them to charge exorbitant rates as per their whims and fancies.
Look at the way the government has behaved: First it blamed Nehru for its failures, and now it is bringing in 'systemic failure' to protect its inefficiencies. But one wonders what is the use asking a government or a leader about its failure when it still is 'acceptable' to the people or when they are ready to listen to his 'Mann kee baat'.
A good joke roaming around various WhatsApp groups is: Why are people seeking good hospitals and oxygen cylinders when they voted for Ram Mandir? Modi is “fulfilling” the historic demand of the people to build a 'grand' Ram Temple, so they should be satisfied! Hospitals and schools can come later, or we can still do without them.
It is a wake up time. We have already lost a lot. Let us not give a chance to those who 'weave' new stories and make the 'systemic collapse' argument as a means to bring in private monopolies in health and other sectors.
---
*Human rights defender

Comments

Anonymous said…
what india needs is an adani bhai and other crony industrialist bhai group of hospitals to cater to the politician bhais and judge bhais and the CEC bhais and the CBI bhais and the ED bhais and the Delhi police bhais and last not least the IAS bhais and so on. then the modi bhai government bhai can continue winning elections without and hindrance from the dying public bhai.
Suresh Babu said…
Those who voted for this government should introspect. If they are again and again voting for the same government. Then do not complain.

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