Covid-19 is like any other crisis, it tests the whole system, says Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi. Often in the news for her run-ins with the Puducherry government, Bedi says she refuses to be an onlooker when people are suffering. She was in conversation with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express, and senior journalist and author Kaveree Bamzai in TNIE Expressions, a series of live webcasts with people who matter.
“I have refused to be an onlooker and played the role of an administrator. I only filled in the gaps as the representative of the government of India here. I have been playing a coordinating, collaborating, facilitating role but with very serious limitations as the Disaster Management Act excludes the Lt-Governor in a direct role. I played an indirect role, certainly, being very careful that things do not slip out of control,” said the retired IPS officer while speaking about the Covid-19 situation in Puducherry, which has the highest number of patients per one lakh population in the country.
Speaking about why it is so, Bedi pointed at certain gaps in handling the pandemic. “They (government) have heavily delayed equipping of the private medical colleges. We have seven of them, but they were not co-opted well in time to provide their beds. I saw a very big gap between people’s needs and facilities — they were not developing as per the challenges of Covid-19. That’s why I thought we have suffered. People’s suffering is common suffering and everyone is responsible for mitigation. We have not succeeded to an extent because of the delays.
I couldn’t fast forward until the Government of India stepped in. When I saw that we are running out of solutions, I sent an SOS message to the PM’s Office, the health minister, ICMR and the home secretary through a tweet... The Centre responded immediately. ICMR and JIPMER teams were put in position and people heaved a sigh of relief,” she said. On the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 crisis, Bedi said, “It is like any other crisis, it tests the whole system... If you had a good governance system in place, you can rise to the occasion and handle it better.
Prior to the crisis, you had broken down systems. People were also selectively law-abiding. Covid-19 has exposed the deficiencies of the system, particularly healthcare. It also revealed the ways people take instructions. It reveals your giving spirit, your patriotism, the character of people.”Asked how people could be convinced to maintain mask discipline and social distancing, the L-G responded that the answer lay in value based education.
Bedi concluded that we should learn from a crisis like the current pandemic. “It has left us to recalibrate, taught us all are equal and nobody is more or less. So, rather than lamenting, build on your health and skills. Learn to be law-abiding when you are young, it will help you later. Remain grateful, time is very precious, nothing is permanent. India needs proactive karmayogis to become Aatmanirbhar,” she said.