As the country battles unprecedented rise in Covid-19 cases, a report submitted by a parliamentary panel has pointed that absence of adequate beds in government hospitals and absence of specific guidelines for Covid treatment resulted in private hospitals charging exorbitant fees.
The panel, headed by senior parliamentarian Ram Gopal Yadav, has also asserted that a sustainable pricing model could have averted many deaths.
Now what’s a sustainable pricing model?
Taking example of Delhi, the nation’s capital and also considered microsome of the country, the hospitals made hay as patients died in hundreds.
Delhi in fact is third only to large states of Maharashtra and Karnataka in the number of dead Covid positive patients.
Its political leadership has repeatedly failed at rising to the challenge posed by the pandemic needing Central intervention for the second time within a period of six months.
The grim situation in the national Capital has been best summarized in the orders past by the Delhi High in the matter during the past week, which mentioned, “the crematoriums are overflowing and the funeral pyres are burning throughout the night.”
Why did such a situation arise?
The answer to this also lies in the High Court’s rap, which said, “While Delhi government Ministers were giving press statements to the effect that third wave of COVID-19 infections has reached its peak and the numbers are going down, the same is not reflected in the daily figures and the status report before the court.”
The difference in the submissions made before the court and the statements released by Ministers in public is for certain not inadvertent but a part of a well thought out media policy to cover up for its failings.
Now what are the failings?
The answer has been given in the report of the parliamentary committee mentioned above.
A publicity driven government, strategizing its electoral campaigns through subsidy on public utility bills like power, water and transport, will certain will be short on funds to add to social sector infrastructures like health and education.
Despite the tall claims made about its education model, it fell like a pack of cards during the pandemic with a large number of teachers, both school and college, made to go without salaries.
The much-vouched Mohallah Clinics of Delhi, instead of providing succour in the time of the pandemic, proved to be super-spreaders of the virus.
If the inadequacy of the government infrastructure needed any evidence, it was visible in the admission of city Health Minister and Deputy Chief Minister in a private hospital, which made a killing profiteering on the misery of the Covid-struck patients.
The duplicity of the government was also visible in a video message released by deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, where he claimed that he was under treatment at government-run LNJP hospital, and soon after shifted base to the corporate hospital in South Delhi.
Today Delhi finds itself in a too non-enviable situation. It would actually need great effort and some luck to overcome the crisis.
What can save the situation?
First and foremost, the Ministers in the Delhi government should send the several media and publicity teams employed by them, over and above sanctioned in the statues, on leave and focus on the demands of the situation.
Playing to gallery is proving to be catastrophic for the city, the need of hour is sincerity.
The government must realise that there is merit in what the High Court is saying, the Ministers should save themselves from committing perjury in public life.
The good work done by them would get reflected in the general upkeep of the city and good health of its citizens without the need for a media blitzkrieg.
And why worry about polls now; tax-payers money can squandered on power and water subsidies to buy votes all over again.
Sidharth Mishra, Author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice