A few days ago, several Covid-19 patients from Andhra Pradesh went through a living nightmare at the border with Telangana. Of them, two unfortunately died. Even though the patients were in a critical stage, the Telangana police did not allow them to continue their journey to Hyderabad for better medical treatment. The police relented only after the High Court, for the second time, rapped the government on its knuckles for its inhuman act. Earlier too, before the lockdown was imposed, the government tried a similar misadventure and burnt its fingers. The stopping of the ambulances throws up several questions of moral, ethical, legal and human dimensions. The High Court rightly asked the government as to who had given it the authority to deny permission to ambulances. The government gave the green signal only late in the night though the HC issued the direction to this effect in the afternoon itself.
But one has to look at the other side of the issue too. Telangana’s hospitals are filling up fast. Nearly 40% of the beds have been occupied by patients from other states. The government defended its decision, quoting restrictions imposed by Delhi and Maharashtra on the entry of patients into their respective state/UT. But the court rightfully differentiated between critically ill patients and Covid-19 positive people and insisted that the former should be allowed free passage, no matter which state they hail from. The government argued that they were allowing only those who had e-passes but this did not cut any ice with the court. If patients from Andhra are rushing to Hyderabad, it is because the latter is known for medical tourism. That is why even patients from as far as Tirupati rush to Hyderabad though Chennai is nearer. KCR keeps referring to Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb in Hyderabad, meaning the fusion of Hindu and Muslim cultural ethos in the cosmopolitan city. Though the state’s argument that it should take care of its subjects first has merit, yet in these days of national calamity, it should strike a delicate balance between attending to people in Telangana and extending a compassionate hand to patients from elsewhere.