Just about a month back, Delhi seemed to be staring at a COVID-19 crisis. There were more than 25,000 active cases, the city was adding about 2,200 new cases a day and hospital beds were in short supply.
Today, active cases are just over 17,000, the number of daily fresh cases is around 1,400 and there are adequate hospital beds, so much so that a 10,000-bed COVID care facility for institutional quarantine patients is almost empty.
Whether Delhi has flattened the COVID curve for good only time will tell. But there is no longer a crisis-like situation. So how has this turnaround happened?
It is worth recalling that in mid-June, the central government led by Union Home Minister Amit Shah stepped into the picture. Days earlier, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had projected bleak days ahead. He said the number of confirmed cases in Delhi would go up to 5.5 lakh by the end of July.
Shah called a series of meetings between the Centre and the Delhi government. Together they decided to ramp up testing and increase hospital and COVID care beds. Shah visited the Delhi government-run LNJP Hospital and ordered installation of CCTV cameras as there were widespread complaints from patients. Within days, the first signs of the seemingly runaway disease being brought under control were visible.
There is no doubt that both the Centre and the Delhi government have to be credited with the turnaround. Both have worked in tandem so far. But there can be no denying that the rising COVID graph was arrested only after Shah took charge. Until then, the scenario was scary and the Arvind Kejriwal government had clearly come up short.
What does the public think of how the disease was handled? If a survey were to be conducted today, they would still be happy with the Kejriwal government. In fact, they would perhaps give him full marks.
In a way, Kejriwal can be called a Teflon chief minister. No matter what his failings, the people of Delhi still rate him highly. But except education and health, his government does not have much to boast about. This was borne out on Sunday when the city witnessed this monsoon’s first heavy rainfall.
A man died of drowning and at least one house in a slum area collapsed. There was also widespread water logging. The Delhi government, perhaps preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic, had clearly not done any desilting. In many parts of the city, the roads are in a mess. There has hardly been any infrastructure spending.
Yet, Kejriwal will remain a popular figure. For this, the blame squarely lies with his opponents. Both the BJP and the Congress have such persons who are heading it currently that the people of Delhi cannot be blamed if they ask: Adesh Gupta who, or Anil Chaudhury who? Many are of the view that when they don’t have the capacity to carry along their own leaders, they can hardly be expected to lead the city and its denizens. Arvind Kejriwal, in the meantime, can smile and not have to look over his shoulders for any potential threat.
Khogen Singh is Resident Editor, New Delhi. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org