Political drama over Covid-19

Article Publish Date : May 19, 2020

Politicization of Corona

A state with high GDP might have good healthcare facilities. But this fact is not always agreeable. At least, in India it is not at all true. The Covid-19 brought so many deep lying problems of society and governments. One of them is how a state with healthy economy doesn’t mean state with good healthcare infrastructure and facilities. It made us realize how only economic prosperity, is not enough to combat this pandemic properly.

Two Prime examples of case above are West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal both have 5th and 6th largest economy in India respectively. Also, Uttar Pradesh and west Bengal are 7th and 8th ranking states with covid-19 infected cases as of May 17, in which UP have 4464 and West Bengal have 2677 confirmed cases. But these numbers can be misleading because these two states have the lowest testing ratio per million people. With more testing this number could go upto 3-4 folds.

Testing ratio of per million people in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal in first month after having a confirmed case were 103.59 & 42.28 respectively. Although this number is somewhat improving, (UP-685.65 & WB-775.12 TPM as of 16 may) but it is very little compared to their populations and national testing ratio. Some of the stats has been provided below for detailed analysis.

State/UT Total cases Total Tests TPM (Tests per millions) Total Population
Maharashtra 30706 261815 2126.08 123144223
Gujarat 10989 138407 2166.92 63872399
Tamil Nadu 10585 313639 4029.21 77841267
Delhi 9333 130845 6992.97 18710922
Rajasthan 4960 221439 2732.71 81032689
Madhya Pradesh 4790 99677 1,167.74 85358965
Uttar Pradesh 4258 163105 685.65 237882725
West Bengal 2576 77288 775.91 99609303
Andhra Pradesh 2337 219490(a) 4071.91 53903393
Punjab 1946 50613 1679.18 30141373
Telangana 1509 23388(b) 5940.96 3936732
Karnataka 1092 140024 2072.50 67562686
Jammu & Kashmir 1121 76191 5599.67 13606320
Bihar 1178 44340 3552.90 12479926
Haryana 887 75097 2662.57 28204692
Odisha 737 86140 1858.21 46356334
Kerala 588 43669 1223.24 35699443
Chandigarh 191 2718 2346.19 1158473
Jharkhand 217 31025 803.88 38593948
Tripura 166 13178 3160.34 4169794
Assam 90 31267 878.11 35607039
Uttarakhand   91 12597 11196.48 1125085
Himachal Pradesh 78 16534 2218.74 7451955
Chhattisgarh 67 32678 1110.12 29436231
Ladakh 43 4067 145130.78 28023
Andaman & Nicobar Islands 33 6677 16010.60 417036
Meghalaya 15  2712(c) 805.53 3366710
Puducherry 17 5484 3879.61 1413542
Goa 20 8011 5050.27 1586250
Manipur 7 1706(d) 551.82 3091545
Mizoram 1 282 227.55 1239244
Arunachal Pradesh 1 3163 2014.06 1570458
Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu 1 382(e) 358.92 615724
Nagaland NA 917 407.61 2249695
Sikkim NA 840 1216.94 690251
Total in India 90649 2134277 1556.32 1371360350
* Data given as of 16 May, 2020 (a-15 May, b-16 May, c-15 May, d-13 May, e-16 April)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of USA, also a leading researcher AIDS epidemic during the 1980s and many other public healthcare experts emphasised on the importance of rigorous mass testing, having an effective local team of contact tracers to locate and stop further outbreak on its track, and isolation & quarantining of the infected. One of best examples of that is Kerala, with highest number of infections during initial outbreak in India, have flattened their curve of new cases by early detection, mass testing (walking kiosk), contact tracing from the start. While having almost half of Uttar Pradesh and two third of west Bengal’s GDP.

Kiosk set up
A prototype of South Korean walking kiosk(booth) set up in Kerala.

Both west Bengal and Uttar Pradesh are the most densely populated states in India only after Bihar. While Bihar also have high TPM than both of these states while almost having 1/3rd of Uttar Pradesh and ½ of West Bengal’s GDP. Bihar Kerala or any other Indian state are not on a par with international level, but in comparison to other Indian states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal they are doing better. In northern part of West Bengal healthcare services were already too much overburdened before this pandemic, now it had reach on the verge of breakdown. There is only a single testing centre for 4-5 districts which is North Bengal Medical College.

West bengal doctors along with ppe kits
Doctors with torn raincoat material protective kits in a west Bengal’s hospital.

Problems which were going unnoticed unattended in health care sector have started to come out, Like low number of ventilators, good salary to health care workers etc. In several states, healthcare workers too have complained about lack of infrastructure and protective gears, In Uttar Pradesh, interns of MBBS were protesting for low stipend. West Bengal, government-provided hazmat suit made up of raincoat material.

Spread of this virus could have been stopped or slowed down if proper action was taken by the state during initial stages of the pandemic, which would have helped in easing down the lockdown now.

Politics and Economy go hand in hand or we can say that they are intermingled in a state. It is a serious callousness from the part of government and administration in these two states to fight this pandemic. Headlines and advertisements about what this government has done in this pandemic, usually come in front of us through social media or TV. But do we go and check what has been done which was promised on paper? Certainly not. The same thing happened in West Bengal. The Chief Minister of Bengal had been holding several conferences regarding fighting this pandemic. When whole North Bengal have 2 testing centres (Malda MCH & NMBCH) in comparison to southern part having 15-16. Lack of investment in health sector of northern part is now abruptly visible.

Government of West Bengal also tried to manipulate the data by stating other reasons of deaths. Chief of Murshidabad medical college and hospital, Debdas Saha issued an official circular not to mention covid-19 positive in the death certificate. After much criticism of opposition and other political parties, he was transferred to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. West Bengal government have not provided the exact data of the affected in public forum. After only coming out of an central IMCT (Inter ministerial central team), real data was put out, only with discontent of West Bengal government. West Bengal government complained in media about having a central team during the pandemic. They claim that the central team was sent just because BJP government wanted to disrupt their work on covid-19. All happened right after a press conference by a team of government doctors, who put the number of COVID-19 related deaths in Bengal, at that point, at 7. The next bulletin, which was issued, had a different format from the previous ones. Astonishingly, the number of COVID-19 related deaths were decreasing day by day according to state Government reports. They were replaced by the number of active cases.

West Bengal government accuses the Centre of providing faulty kits which are throwing “inconclusive results” whereas the Centre led IMCT Committee are complaining about receiving lower samples each day. Bengal claimed, they are testing more than 200 people each day. There are reports of lockdown violation, reports of morbid work conditions and inadequate medical infrastructure.

The BJP IT Cell said that the CM was complaining about the kits provided by the Centre as those were yellow in colour which might not have pleased her as those were not blue in colour which was CM’s favourite. We might think this is a misinformation campaign, except the CM actually said this. Though, not as vociferously as the IT Cell is claiming it to be.

It is extremely sad to see that even in COVID-19, which is an extremely dangerous pandemic and even in a serious threat to the mankind, we have failed to bring unity among our leaders. It has successfully portrayed the flaws in a system or in simple terms brought out a clear picture of the incapability of a State (Nation). We didn’t expect that Politics will come into the picture even during this period when people need the support of our leaders and the state administration. Selfless service and mutual help from the government is needed during this pandemic. It is our duty as citizens to come together and help each other and appeal to the government to perform its due activities. Governments of different political parties should stop doing their petty politics and focus on a common goal of fighting this pandemic.

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