TW: COVID Death
India is witnessing a collapse of the healthcare system. People are having to resort to social media to arrange life-saving resources for loved ones. Those volunteering to curate and share resources are receiving threats from the police, and in UP’s case, threats of seizure of property for highlighting oxygen shortage from the CM himself. What makes all of this hurt more is that this total collapse could have been avoided by preparing the healthcare system if the system (read Indian government) had actually improved the healthcare sector.
The BJP has made many statements regarding improving the healthcare sector, not just in the pandemic but during both its terms in power. However, most of those promises have remained unrealised and ignorant of the reality.
“I hope and pray that the poor don’t have to visit hospitals, but, if they do, the Ayushman cover will be at their service. The poor of my country must get all facilities that the rich enjoy,” – Narendra Modi On Ayushmann Bharat, September 23rd, 2018
“Health does not simply mean freedom from diseases. A healthy life is everyone persons’ right. The onus for this is on our government to make every possible effort to ensure this.- Narendra Modi at a UN Meet, September 23rd, 2019
“We are committed to leveraging all resources to ensure that the out-of-pocket expenditure on health is reduced and all citizens can avail necessary medical services.” – BJP manifesto
As for the first and second claim, the dire state of India’s faulty vaccination policy is a big contestation to this claim. The way the market has been opened to private enterprises highlights the harsh reality of the class divide in India. The high prices of Rs. 600 and Rs. 1200, by Serum and Bharat Biotech respectively, will only deter Indians from taking the vaccine.
Furthermore, the reality is that India has a total of 5 hospital beds for 10,000 people according to the Human Development Report in 2020. Our country’s rank in hospital bed availability is 155th out of 167.
India’s dependence on the private sector has only led to these limited beds going at a premium price or not being available at all. While some states like Delhi placed a price rate cap on private hospitals, the centre has not done the same throughout the country.
India spends a meagre 1% of its GDP on GDP on public health, ranking 170 out of 188 countries on this count. Rural India has it worse with even basic healthcare being a privilege a few can afford.
A Lancet study estimated that 4,300 Indians die every single day due to the poor quality of healthcare in non-pandemic times. India has the largest number of TB deaths in the world with more than 1200 people dying every day. Affordability and social exclusion due to various factors of caste, gender and geography worsen the discrimination in access to healthcare system.
According to Oomen Kurian, head of the health initiative at Observer Research Foundation in a 2019 article by The Wire on BJP’s manifesto promises, health has been severely neglected and the BJP has simply got the benefits of previous government’s health projects.
He said, “While health was largely neglected in the current government’s initial years, it has since been able to consolidate gains from the previous government’s work and make a creditable plan.” He also referred to BJP’s first term work on healthcare as the UPA-3 Act and the one from 2019 onward as the UPA-IV act.
Hence, the above-mentioned claims fall flat and paint a rosy picture of a system tainted with bad reforms and neglect.
“While Prime Minister @NarendraModi’s leadership in handling Covid-19 has outshined several developed nations, he has resolved to prepare India for any such pandemic in the future, by strengthening and revamping India’s health sector.” Amit Shah, May 17, 2020
“During the pandemic, India has made a quantum leap in the health sector and the health infrastructure and services will reach every village under the ‘Prime Minister Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana. “Our sensitive Prime Minister @narendramodi has announced ₹35,000 crore fund for vaccination against coronavirus. This shows Modi’s resolve to make India coronavirus free. I thank Modiji for this”- Amit Shah On The Budget, 1st February 2021
“The world has watched us closely and India has shown its strength during the pandemic. The country’s healthcare sector’s reputation and trust are at a new level all over the world. From medical equipment to medicines, from ventilators to vaccines, from scientific research to surveillance infrastructure, from doctors to epidemiologists, we have to focus on everything and all this is aimed at being better prepared for any health disaster in the future.” – Modi at a seminar, 23rd February 2021
“We don’t feel there is a lack of healthcare infrastructure even though COVID is spreading so fast. Oxygen will reach everywhere within 2 days” Amit Shah, 20th April 2021
The global media has come down heavily on the Modi government for their massive neglect of the pandemic and this is telling of the governance surrounding the pandemic.
Under the BJP, India’s vaccination program has been slow, vaccines soon might be unaffordable after Modi’s decision to liberalize it, and the lack of hospitals and beds can be seen in the desperate pleas on social media and the ever-burning crematoriums. What’s worse are the actions of putting up walls around crematoriums and online censorship of relief work happening on social media. It makes one wonder if the government wants to hide its failure.
As for every village getting healthcare, reports from UP state that people are dying before even getting a chance to get tested for the disease. With the numbers of COVID deaths increasing every day, so many of them unreported, we are reaching a point where stories are becoming a statistic. Numerous quotes and comments by multiple Ministers denying lack of oxygen, calling out hospitals and asking action to be taken against the ones who are telling the reality of lack of oxygen are considered attempts at shutting down the truth in such glaring times.
The current state where people are moving from pillar to post to avail themselves of the most basic necessities of beds and oxygen is a stinging glimpse of India’s broken healthcare system. The results of 7-year policy neglect towards healthcare are sadly visible today.
Some Tweets from the last two days:
#IndiaFightsCOVID19: “Every hospital is running out (of oxygen). We are running out,” Dr. Sudhanshu Bankata, executive director of Batra Hospital, a leading hospital in the capital, told New Delhi Television channel. https://t.co/imxbbPRfn4
— Terrence L. Blackwell (@TBlackwe85) April 25, 2021
🆘Still Pentamed Hospital in Delhi not yet received Oxygen since last night. 50 COVID19 patients may lost lives soon as they’re running out of oxygen. Provide urgent oxygen @h_pentamed. @raghav_chadha @LtGovDelhi @ArvindKejriwal
THIS IS REALLY URGENT. PLEASE SHARE THIS WIDELY.🙏🏻 https://t.co/aZuJwLiFGw
— Licypriya Kangujam (@LicypriyaK) April 25, 2021
Hospitals WILL run out of supply. Private oxygen providers are being arrested. Patients need DM or City Mgst's sign that take 2 hours to get over beurocratic hurdles. ALIGARH NEEDS OXYGEN CYLINDERS!@ReallySwara @svaradarajan @frankislam @DilliDurAst @SaketGokhale pic.twitter.com/S0aZfrJxCn
— Ansab Amir Khan (@ansab_amir) April 26, 2021
Being a resident of AGRA I know how big the hospital is. And seeing this today just breaks my heart.
I mean I can't even imagine what must be the condition of other hospitals in AGRA. pic.twitter.com/rfWr9o1RUm
— Harshita Saxena (@readandspread__) April 26, 2021