Culpability for Covid19 deaths in India
After the second wave of Covid19 struck India with all its furies, there have been immense sufferings faced by the citizen and worst of all, ~2 lakh lives have been lost in this short time. Our vulnerabilities of the Health Services to meet this 2nd wave of the pandemic has been exposed. While the main focus of the government is presently on the ramping up the health care, everyone will have to answer in the coming days…” Who is culpable?”
The health care facilities in India has come under severe strain in the last few weeks following the second wave of Covid19. For reasons unknown, the State Health Administrations have not foreseen the spurt and ramp-up either Covid19 testing or hospital infrastructure. It is beyond logic why such long queues of patients numbering 100s, defying all Covid-norms should wait at the hospitals for the testing? Why additional counters for sample collection should not have been opened? Why the RAT could not be done promptly and efficiently in few minutes in all hospitals? Why the samples collection at multiple centers of all cities and rural areas sould not have started to ease out the long queues, waiting time and inconvenience to the already symptomatic patients?
The flexibility shown by the Union Govt Covid Task Force in the initial months of first wave, in multiplying the Covid beds and ICU facilities were exemplary but the same lesson was learnt by the State Health Institutions. It has been months since the second wave spike in Covid19 started. It is also clear that the second wave was almost entirely due to B.1.617.2 (called Indian, Maharashtra or chided #MahaVasooli) Variant (see graph), with epidemiological characteristics identical to those observed elsewhere later in the country. It must have caused havoc in the area where it started and the Maharashtra Health Administration surely would have been aware of it. They too would have struggled with the disease control measures… of rapidly mounting numbers… of cries for Oxygen…for hospital beds…for ICU & Ventilators with munting deaths. If this extreme virulence of the new variant in causing higher morbidity, Oxygen depletion and mortality was known to Maharashtra, why did they hide it from ICMR / MOHFW or from the rest of the country by not alerting them? Obviously, the rest of the nation had no clue of the impending dangers otherwise, they would have surely worked on war footing to ramp-up their facilities. Maharashtra Govt apparently suppressed the facts from the nation on the extreme pathogenicity caused by this variant. This culpability is huge. They have compromised with the lives of millions of people all over nation by hiding the hard facts of higher morbidity and mortality of the new variant of the virus.
It deserves a mention here that it was a criminal act by some of the opposition leaders having creating unwarranted controversy on DCGI’s EUA approval for Covid vaccines. It created an unnecessary doubt in many minds, causing vaccine-hesitancy. A very poor vaccination response in the initial weeks and months were the result. Many people lost lives in the second waves because they avoided vaccination. All those politicians…be it many of Congress, Samajwadi party or someone else, must hold their heads in shame for their heinous act that made their party workers and others doubt the vaccine. When the pace of vaccination did catch-up, some opposition ruled states unnecessarily put a demand to include 18+ age group under entitlement. The started creating fake narrative that Modi govt was putting their lives at stake by not authorising them. They surely would have known that such huge number of dosage (for nearly 90 Cr people) cannot be made available in many months, yet they said they will manage within 3 months...and the result is before us...the mass confusion and panic of non-availability. Many experts felt that Covid Task force should not have yielded to this opposition demand and should have continued with their well prioritized means of vaccination.
The surging numbers of the Covid cases are only the manifestation of a larger malaise…on the part of both govt and the public. Most of those having flouted the Covid norms were suffering the devastation. State Govt’s failure have already been elaborated above. However, it was a pity why some having followed all guidelines and norms, having no fault of their own had to suffer. They contracted the virus from others, be it their family members, friends, relatives or colleagues who disregarded the Covid norms. So who should be held accountable?
Madras High Court in their judgement to a PIL held their Election Commission guilty for the surge. They observed in a suo moto case that major violation of Covid protocols had already taken place in Tamilnadu by 04 Apr when the election rallies ended. However, some constitutional experts were quick to point out that HC observation was flawed. After the CEC announces the date on 26 Feb 21, the 2nd wave had not yet started. Once announced, even they couldn’t have cancelled it unless the concerned States make due representation through all major political parties. If cancelled, that State should be ready to go under Presidents rule the day that govt completed their tenure…unless of course, Supreme Court and the President of India as the Constitutional Head, grants permission. Once an election is announced, no political party usually comes forward to suggest cancellation lest they will be accused of running away from seeking mandate…something no major political party will ever wish. The Union Govt too could have approached the CEC to cancel the elections but would have faced the same consequences as that of the State…of undermining the federal structure and dictating the Constitutional bodies (CEC in this case). Hence, Election Commission alone cannot be held culpable as pronounced by Madras HC. These pretexts only relate to the flare-up of Covid owing to the flouting of Covid commensurate behaviors in various process of elections. However, the State Municipal and Zila Parishad Elections could have surely been postponed and there, all State Govts and the State Election Commissions may be held culpable.
The other cause of the surge in cases are flouting of the Covid appropriate behaviors by the public who took it for granted that the Pandemic is now of past. Each citizen, politicians and bureaucrats must be held responsible for it. This is the single most prominent factor which has caused surge in the infection. Further, almost all States failed to caution their health authorities to be proactive against the newer Corona variants that caused increased infection risk. The indifference by the State health authorities were so much that in spite of the Union Min of Health & ICMR warning of a possible new wave (by the new UK/African variant virus), they adopted no proactive measures…to prevent the spread of infections, to augment their testing, to increase the health infrastructures, to procure requisite drugs and other provisions and so on. The States red-flagging of their health Infra (beds) and provisions following the 2nd wave were unduly delayed when they actually failed…and then they raised their hands and started lumping it on to the Union Govt. The result is before us. The Union Govt too could have initiated a proactive measure to start dictating the States… but for the risk of political upheaval with elections going on in 5 states, they didn’t want to risk it..
It deserves a mention here that it was a criminal act by some of the opposition leaders having creating unwarranted controversy on DCGI’s EUA approval for Covid vaccines. It created an unnecessary doubt in many minds, causing vaccine-hesitancy. A very poor vaccination response in the initial weeks and months were the result. Many people lost lives in the second waves because they avoided vaccination. All those politicians…be it many of Congress, Samajwadi party or someone else, must hold their heads in shame for their heinous act that made their party workers and others doubt the vaccine. When the pace of vaccination did catch-up, some opposition ruled states unnecessarily put a demand to include 18+ age group under entitlement. The started creating fake narrative that Modi govt was putting their lives at stake by not authorising them. They knew that such huge number of dosage can not be made available, yet they said they will manage...and the result is before us...the mass confusion and panic of non-availability. Many experts felt that Covid Task force should not have yielded to opposition demand and should have continued with their well prioritized means of vaccination.
While trying to lookback, here comes an important issue of having a cursory glance at the timelines in the entire affairs of the Covid Pandemic and the obvious is before us as enumerated opposite. While dealing with the invisible enemy causing pandemic was not at all going to be easy esp in the massive populous country like India, there were some silver linings too. Govt setting up of Covid Task Force was a very noble thought that converted the pandemic in to opportunity as enumerated towards the end of this article. Many individuals and groups emerged as good Samaritans to help to those in needs. It was a mammoth task to feed free all families below poverty line for >6 months.
Here comes a legitimate question…who to hold accountable for the massive surge in the pandemic, the failure of the health related infrastructure…almost on the verge of collapse and the death & sufferings of the valuable lives. This time it is not only the elderly, even a significant number of young citizen have suffered and perished.
So, Who is Culpable?
Anyone whosoever tries to lookback and tries to fixate the culpability for some bad hppenings, it must be remembered that in all probabilities, one invariably tries to do good for own people. It is another matter that what seemed to be an apparently correct approach at that moment of time, seemed not an ideal decision at the hindsight. However, if there was an inimical / distructive content in question, it may be fair to form opinion even at the hindsight. In case of the Covid19, the following could be called a fare line of thought: -
- ‘The Bat Woman’ Miss ZhengLi, Director P-4 Virus Lab Wuhan, China who had been working on Corona Virus of bat origin and is known to have created this virus by modifying it.
- Chinese administration who failed in preventing the escape of nCoV2 from P-4 Wuhan Virus lab either intentionally (to study the bio warfare potency of this virus) or accidentally.
- Chinese Govt who permitted the nCoV2 get out of hand, assuming epidemic and later Pandemic.
- Dr Tedros, DG WHO failed in sending red-warning to Chinese Govt to close all exit point from Wuhan to rest of the world.
- Dr Tedros, DG WHO in not declaring the Pandemic at earlier stage when the Covid had already spread in some country.
- Dr Tedros, DG WHO in not seeking an early investigation in the source of the virus that caused Pandemic and in turn, permitted the Chinese administration to erase all possible evidences leading to P-4 Wuhan Lab. In this, Even Dr Harshvardhan, Chairman of the WHO Executive Board failed in his responsibility by not over-riding Dr Tedros’s reluctance to take on the Chinese.
- The rich and affluent people of the country who brought the virus to India and people like Ms Corona (Kanika) Kapur giving a slip-off to the Covid Screening party at the ports/airports (Corona in India…the gift of the affluent”, The Counterviews, Issue 2:07).
- Govt of India failed to award exemplary punishment to those who spread the virus to others.
- Govt of India and Delhi Govt were also culpable in the initial days in not withdrawing permission to Tabliqi Jamat that became a super-spreader gathering in Delhi.
- Tabliqi jamat and the radical Muslim groups of the nation obstructed the administration from nabbing the culprits and also attacking the frontline workers from tracing the contacts. Muslim clerics/leaders called to oppose Indian govt Arogya Setu and also mounted Covid Saliva Jihad (‘Muslim factors in spread of Corona in India’ The Counterviews, Issue 2:08).
- The traitors of India who pelted stones on the doctors and healthcare workers causing many grievous injuries (and one odd death too) deserve to be hanged in full public view under the authority of Indian legal system.
- After the lockdown was announced, many business bodies esp in the unorganised sectors, unceremoniously terminated their work force out of job, out on roads, overnight. They didn’t wait for the govt assistance to reach them. It was lack of empathy on their part.
- Some political figures and state Govts are believed to have spread dis-information and incited the migrant to leave under panic during Covd lockdown. They possibly didn’t want to feed the labourers as warranted by the Union Govt guidelines. Tens of thousands of the labourers set on panic journeys disregarding all Covid norms, facing huge health and environmental challenges. Many perished in their attempt to reach their homes.
- Indian Govt, Ministry of Surface Transport (esp the Railway) miserably failed in anticipating the labourer’s plights of mass movement. They are culpable for their sufferings before the (Shramik special) trains were started transporting them. This was criticised more so when ‘Vande Bharat’ was ferrying the people by air, the poor within the country didn’t get a fare deal.
- Some unimaginative and indifferent State Govts were unable to provide en-route reliefs to the migrants & families moving on foot. Some worst forms of ‘politics of suffering’ were on display by the opposition leaders in the form of ‘Bus-politics’.
- Election Commission was un-imaginative, indifferent in not putting the electoral process on hold or ensuring only virtual rallies after the second wave of the Covid19 became unmanageable towards the end of March 21. The constitutional body could have taken own decision in this regard (though at the risk of opposition political party criticism).
- All State Govts collectively failed in not making a timely arrangement for the second wave. They did not enforce Covid norms among their populace. Maharashtra govt failed India in not revealing the great sufferings that B.1.617.2 was causing on its land…enormous infectivity, increased Oxygen Requirements, higher morbidity and mortality as compared to the first wave. They brushed the issue under carpet that caught other states unguarded, unprepared. This made the other state govts take it lightly, not acting on war-footing with various preventive, therapeutic and promotive measures.
- So what if the State Govts did not react in time? Union govt should have advised, cooperated and assisted the state govts in their actions. These were no ordinary time. Ministry of Health, Covid task force and the PMO ought to have been proactive which they were surely not.
- Setting up of the make-shift hospitals, oxygen facilities, ensuring drugs, requisitioning doctors & nurses were delayed by both State and Union Govts, some busy in electioneering.
- All state govts failed in not controlling of the hoarding, black-marketing of Oxygen supplies and cylinders, essential Covid Drugs and other medical supplies. Health being the State Issue, all state govts are culpable for people who suffered or died.
- Most of the individuals who contracted Covid, lowered their guard for the much publicised Covid Appropriate Behaviours. They can not absolve themselves of their culpability for which nearly 2 lakhs of them paid with their lives. May the almighty rest their souls in peace.
- All those who created doubts and vaccine reluctance among the citizen following EUA clearance by the DCGI, must hold their heads in shame and be taken to task. They are culpable for the deaths of all unvaccinated persons falling prey to their attempt to the dis-information.
It must be confessed that putting the onus of culpability at the hindsight, is easy. It is always easy to point fingers at others and shift the onus of responsibility. Hence, the editor seeks pardon for the above attempts of blameworthiness and culpabilities apportioned on the various agencies and surely, there would have been reasons of their failures…their own version of their apparent failures. Surely there also would have been some mitigating factors that the entire system faulted…almost failing.
Having said the above, it was feared by many pundits of international repute that India will melt-down under 2nd phase…BUT…it did not. Looking at the massive population and their densities, it is a matter of some consolation that we could pull ourselves out of a sure decimation. The editor will be failing in his duty in not naming some of those people and their actions…both in the 1st and 2nd phases of the Covid19 that saved numerous lives, otherwise it could have been much worse.
- The Doctors and the Frontline Health workers deserve our greatest praise who are on their guard since the outbreak of the pandemic >1 yr back. Many of them on the months of uninterrupted duties…living away from their beloved families. Modiji acknowledged the doctors’ contributions through various means at national level…thru’ claps, lighting candles and so on.
- Our salutation to all those doctors and the frontline health workers who lost their precious lives in the performance of their duties. Any amount of praise, compensations will not mitigate the grief of their family. They all deserve to be labelled True ‘Martyrs’, the sons & daughters of mother India.
- Indian Govt showed their courage in bringing back every citizen stuck abroad.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the related ministries are praiseworthy in setting-up the ‘Covid Task Force’ with much foresight…to gear-up the nation having rudimentary means to combat the pandemic…to raise all possible services, facilities and infrastructures. It was praiseworthy that the Task Force achieved all objectives (The Counterviews, issue 2:10; pp-11). The Task Force made the Pandemic an opportunity. From being an importer, India became exporter of all Covid related services and supplies.
- A timely lockdown was a bold decision praised by all international bodies. Although it was meant to be 21 days, but had to be extended in the national interest…to save lives.
- Free rations and DBT cash was ensured to all poor families for almost 6 months. This was a huge call through ‘Gareeb Kalyan Yojna’ enacted well in time.
- A parallel ‘Covid Budget’ to kick-start halted economy and gradual Unlocks were appreciated.
- Under the panic created by some opposition politicians among the migrant workers and later under panic of 2nd wave, many Good Samaritans came forward to render help & assistance...be it providing them transportation to the migrant workers, food for needy, ambulance for patients, doctors for free teleconsultations and so on.
- Vaccine research was initiated by the Covid task force in very early stage that made it possible to roll out the indigenous vaccines in record time. Vaccination was well prioritised.
- Under the extreme contingencies of 2nd phase Covid, it was PM Modi’s stature that poured assistance of Oxygen, Drugs and Ventilators for the hospitals in a very short time. Indian Industries too came up to ramp-up additional Liquid Oxygen producing within a short time. This minimised the loss of lives of the Covid patients.
- Last but not the least, the international community small or large, must be lauded forextending humanitariansupport in the times of extreme grief of the 2ndwave for their much needed assistance in the various forms, The list of Oxygen Equipment and the essential drugsare shown in the table below.
Although this article was started from the perspectives of bringing out failures at different levels of government and other agencies as well, having analysed the most of them, it is found to be a mixed bag of many sorrows and some joys that the Pandemic has given us. In short, it can be said that China caused the Pandemic but escaped culpability owing to failures on part of WHO. India has fought the pandemic well but lethargy on part of the State Govts failed to perceive the intensity of the second wave and also failed to take appropriate actions to meet the challenges. Even Union Govt faltered in not cautioning / assisting the state Govts in the nick of time…the middle of March 21. Maharashtra Govt is extremely culpable in not informing the extreme virulence of the new variant. Election Commission of India too must hold their head in shame in not being proactive in applying curbs on electoral process. Having blamed everyone else, we the citizen too must hold our heads in shame in not observing Covid Appropriate Behaviour that enabled the mutated virus to wreak havoc on us. It was we who brought the virus to our homes…to either suffer ourselves or pass on to the hapless elders, the most vulnerable section of the population. If we could have overcome our urge to venture to the unsafe places, we would not have got our family members infected…making them struggle for lives. Hence, in all ernest, the editor of the magazine tends to agree with this article published on 30 Apr in Indian Express “We are all responsible for India’s devastating second wave of Covid19”. We must hang our heads in shame for our ommissions and commissions. May the departed soules rest in peace BUT if they could have a say, they would have told us that we as a nation failed collectively…irrespective of our belonging…whether State Govt, Union Govt, Ruling Politicians, Opposition politicians, the administrators or the greedy and ignorant/ indulgent citizens.