By Atul Chandra
The Covid-19 situation in Uttar Pradesh and Lucknow couldn’t be scarier. The number of positive cases and deaths are rising with frightening rapidity as the State appeared to play catch up with other worse-hit States like Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The government struggled to cope with the situation arising out of high number of patients, limited number of doctors and paramedical staff, hospital beds and over-stretched health facilities.
Then there were usual issues of slow testing and delayed reports leaving the common man feel uncared for and fighting for survival. The second wave indeed caught us all, especially the famous Team 11 of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, napping. People thought that the virus had vanished and they lowered their masks and mingled freely. In the government’s assessment the war had been won and it devoted itself to celebrating Yogi’s four years in power.
How naive they all were. The situation has now turned grim. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav have gone into self-isolation after testing positive. Yadav obviously chose an inopportune time to meet Mahant Narendra Giri in Haridwar and seek his apology for a past administrative mistake. While the mahant may have forgiven him, he is believed to have inadvertently passed on the contagion to Yadav. Besides top politicians, nearly a dozen bureaucrats and scores of doctors and paramedics have been laid low by the virus.
Lucknow’s health infrastructure’s weaknesses have been exposed like never before. There are no beds in hospitals and the Integrated Covid Control Command Centre has gone unresponsive with many patients not even getting routine calls, the office of Chief Medical Officer is also facing flak for not taking calls from ordinary patients seeking hospitalization, probably because of the deluge of help-seekers. With cases rising in the state capital, the administration’s constraints are understandable but for the people the situation is one of dismay.
State’s law minister Brijesh Pathak’s confidential letter to the additional chief secretary, department of medical and health, UP, which recently went viral, is a strong indictment of the state of affairs. He pointed to the forced stoppage of RT-PCR tests at private pathology labs, curtailed supply of testing kits and patients being informed five-six days after the tests.
The government, nevertheless, took two notable decisions including the order to deploy 4th and 5th year MBBS students in the care of Covid patients and getting 25,000 Remdesivir injections from Ahmedabad to meet the shortage. Nobody knows if MBBS students have joined the frontline work force but what one does know is that 25K vials of Remdesivir may fall woefully short. Still, one hopes these steps will help a few lucky ones as hospitalisation is a privilege available only to a few. Lucknow MP Rajnath Singh’s decision to set up DRDO hospitals is perhaps the most laudable development during the present crisis but they are so distantly located that reaching them may not be easy.
Undaunted by the Covid crisis, the government went ahead with panchayat elections even as 22 officials in the State Election Commissioner’s office reportedly tested positive. Voting for the first phase of panchayat elections in 18 districts of Uttar Pradesh was held on Thursday.
Panchayat elections, it is feared, could add to the Covid crisis like the Kumbh has done in Uttarakhand. It was only after Kapil Dev, the Mahamandaleshwar of Nirvani Akhada, succumbed to Covid-19 on Thursday and several seers tested positive that Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the head of the Juna Akhada Swami Avdheshanand Giri who then announced that the Kumbh had concluded. But the damage was already done.
As the ferocity of the second wave has had a staggering effect, it is for us to behave responsibly and not force the government to conceal the actual number of Covid deaths or putting up a wall of tins to prevent the media from filming the long rows of burning pyres at Baikunth Dham in Lucknow.