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“Has Political Milage Become More Important Than Citizen’s Lives?”

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TW: COVID Trauma

Our country is going through a very sensitive and disastrous phase where the number of citizens infected by COVID-19 is only increasing and every day thousands of patients are dying. It is unfortunate that we’ve reached a stage where our healthcare system has seemingly collapsed.

Our COVID frontline workers are overwhelmed and helpless as they are forced to stop admission of patients in hospitals due to a shortage of beds and oxygen supplies, and they have to witness instances where even the most critical patients are waiting outside hospitals, and sometimes taking their last breath there.

Just seeing such instances on screen makes me terrified, so I can imagine the situation of relatives as well as the doctors who are present there. I got the opportunity to see the coverage by BBC on the situation in India, and once I heard what the interviewees had to say it really hit my consciousness, especially the line “The system is more dangerous than the pandemic.” 

I think that the ‘system’ here meant our Government as well as our political leaders. So, when I saw the BBC interview I looked at how the Government, at the central and state levels, have been handling the situation, I was saddened to see that even this pandemic is being used for political gains. This was especially observed in the capital, Delhi, as well as in West Bengal which is in the middle of its Vidhan-Sabha elections. In both cases, I feel political interests have gained an upper hand over tackling pandemic.

Just focusing on Delhi, the clash between the State Government and Central Government is nothing new due to their governing structure but it was expected that during a pandemic both governments will work together. But, according to news coming in, there has been no constructive cooperation between them, but tiff to gain political points. A blame game has started between the two levels of governments while common citizens are dying due to a shortage of beds, oxygen supplies, and medicines.

Prominent hospitals in the capital have been sending continuous SOS signals and the patients who have turned severe are moving from one place to another with their relatives in search of admission in hospitals. In case they are admitted, the patient’s relatives are expected to arrange for oxygen cylinders as the hospitals cite a limited supply. This is the situation that common citizens are going through, but both the Central and State Government of Delhi are engaged in a confrontation regarding whose duty it is to ensure that the supplies are provided to the citizens. The Central Government is of the opinion that the Delhi State Government has the duty to meet the demand whereas the Delhi State Government has cited their limited authorities as to the reason for a delay in handling the situation.

KOLKATA, WEST BENGAL, INDIA – 2021/04/24: Family members of Covid-19 infected patients are standing in front a oxygen refilling shop, and trying to collect oxygen cylinder during the oxygen crisis situation, amid the spread of Corona virus (Covid-19) in Kolkata. (Photo by Sudipta Das/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

As a citizen whose close friends, as well as family members, are affected by the virus, I am not in a position to engage in a blame game but can only request that who so ever is in the authority, or has the power, to please use it so that the current situation can be improved and lives can be saved. I am in no position to judge who is right or wrong given the fact that the information is delivered through media channels and everyone has a different way of presenting it.

Even on social media, we observe that there has been a blame game among citizens for the situation in Delhi where either of the both is criticized. Some blame the Delhi State Government as they are of the opinion that the elected State Government is not doing enough to handle the situation or making use of resources. The Central Government is criticized for not fulfilling obligations regarding the region of Delhi especially after the introduction of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act which gives primacy to the Lieutenant Governor (LG), as well as not providing enough resources to the State Government in practicality.

Now, irrespective of what my personal losses have been, one question always comes to my mind: why have we reached this point?

It was maybe our Governments failed to predict the extent to which the virus will evolve and the number of patients which the hospitals might suddenly experience. This scenario might have led to the unpreparedness of the situation. But, when it comes to accountability, while I may not be in a position to engage in a blame game, but I was expecting the Central Government or the LG to be more actively involved. But, the Delhi High Court, which is definitely in possession of more knowledge and evidence, had actually criticized Governments at both levels and most importantly the uncooperative nature of handling the situation.

Being from a field related to politics I know how even this situation will be eventually used by political parties for electoral gains. Where the party in the Central Government term the performance of opposition parties as a ‘failure’ and will come to power, and there are few instances that indicate this scenario.

A few days back, BJP MLA and former CM of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis was caught in a controversy when Maharashtra Police officers had seized a consignment of Remdesivir drugs being transported from Gujarat into Maharashtra. The MVP (Maha Vikas Agadi) Government which is the ruling Government in Maharashtra stated that they were not informed about this consignment. The second instance involves BJP MP Gautam Gambhir, where the Delhi HC questioned how he was in possession of prescription drugs for distribution.

Such instances, in my opinion, makes it seem like the BJP at the Central level is trying to help just its MLAs and MPs so that they come into power in States which are ruled by other opposition parties. The intention of this piece is that every Government at every level is responsible for this current situation and we as citizens have suffered enough. We cannot engage in any political blame game as at the end of the day we and our loved ones have fallen victims to the pandemic. All we can request is that our politicians and decision-makers stop taking political advantage of this disastrous situation where people are dying due to shortage of medical supplies.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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