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Opinion: These Mistakes Of The Government Have Worsened The Covid Catastrophe

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Writer’s Note: This post is part of a series surrounding the mistakes of Governments that led to the catastrophic 2nd wave. The first and second parts are available here.

PRIORITY OF CASH FLOW

A lot of what I have pointed out in this article series centres around the lack of government funding. The lack of funds for vaccine production, Remdesivir, Beds and Equipment, etc. My main argument here continues to be that any amount the government spends on Covid, will most definitely be less than the economic destruction as a consequence of lockdowns. In a pandemic like this one, funds shouldn’t be a problem for any task involving fighting it.

Exorbitant' coronavirus treatment prices slashed as state govts step up | Business Standard News
Representative image only.

Yes, the Covid outbreak has hit government revenues and private funds and the economy at large but doesn’t that simply underline the fact that we must do whatever we can to stop it from continuing its economic rampage? Government’s have never had a problem funding electoral sops and freebies and useless poll schemes to buy votes, so why the misery in funding anti-pandemic measures?

Even right now with the 5 states elections in mind, state, as well as central governments, continued with their poll sops. TMC hastened to hike the wages under the West Bengal Urban Employment Scheme. AIADMK-BJP in Tamil Nadu announced waivers on gold loans and farmer waivers. At the central level, Finance Minister in the February budget session focused big on the 5 poll-bound states wooing them with questionably prioritised funding. Where the money is, there the priority is. And the money is in buying votes.

REMDESIVIR

The reason for a shortage of Remdesivir is thought to be the stoppage or slow down of manufacturing in January and February by the pharma industry due to low demand. Since Remdesivir has a shelf life of 6 – 8 months, no company wanted to risk wasting away the drug. But I would like to question this. The company’s stand is understandable. They are simply looking after their profits and losses. But the government? Shouldn’t the government have intervened and pledged to foot the bill of any wastage? International situations show us that waves can hit fast and hard, so wouldn’t it have been better to be prepared even at the cost of some wastage? As I have said before, any spending in stopping Covid is by far outweighed by the destruction caused by lockdowns and restrictions.

BEDS AND EQUIPMENT

Vaccine and Remdesivir are not the only shortages India faces in the 2nd wave. The list of shortages also includes hospital beds, medical oxygen, ventilators and such equipment. Medical oxygen was found to be in surplus during the 1st wave due to Industrial oxygen being diverted to it in the 1st lockdown. But since then it has started going down due to the resurgence of industrial oxygen. So the question is, why allow industrial oxygen when medical oxygen literally is saving lives?

Shortage of Hospital Beds, Plasma Donors in Delhi Triggers Flurry of SOS Messages on Twitter
Shortage of Hospital Beds, Plasma Donors, Drugs. Represnetative image only.

As I have noted multiple times, the government does have emergency powers to divert resources from private industries to any emergency situation. Why wasn’t this done? The Delhi HC too tore into the central government on 21st April, for not diverting industrial oxygen to medical use and overall doing nothing to stop this shortage. Ventilators and beds are also in shortage due to an absence of pre-planning. The government, state and central are working on converting banquet halls, trains, other open spaces to makeshift hospitals. The same question arises again. Why wasn’t there any pre-planning?

FALSE RHETORICS

One big reason for a lot of currently faced problems is complacency on the part of the union government. Since the start of the pandemic in the 1st wave to right now in the 2nd wave, the government rhetoric has continued to be absurdly optimistic and has denied basic facts. And at some point, I think the Modi government itself has started believing their false rhetoric. The health minister is living in a different world altogether. A world in which there are no shortages of anything.

 

Indians are fighting against coronavirus and BJP IT cell is fighting against Indians
Spread of misinformation and false rhetorics

He has repeatedly denied the shortage of everything and anything in his Covid fantasy. No shortage of vaccines. No shortage of medical oxygen. No shortage of ventilators. No shortage of beds. No shortage of Remdesivir. He, I believe may have found a gateway to an imaginary parallel world judging by his outright ignorance and arrogance on the ground situation. Not just him, leaders like Piyush Goyal also have carried on with this false rhetoric with no signs that they may acknowledge the crisis filled situation in India. On the ground, people are dying due to shortages. State governments are repeatedly saying they face severe shortages. Journalists have almost in consensus reported the crisis and shortages.

High Courts – Gujarat, Delhi, UP, Madras and Mumbai and the Supreme Court had pulled up the BJP government on their false rhetorics about everything being in control many times.  Medical bodies have too raised questions and spoken on shortages faced. Literally, every major international newspaper is printing articles on the ‘world’s pharmacy facing vaccine shortages and its failures in vaccinating its own people. Yet, it’s like the Modi led BJP has cut off all ties with reality. And how can you work to ensure no shortages are there if you won’t even acknowledge the reality of their existence?

Be unscientific quackery by scientist bodies large and far. Not the first time it happened either. BJP leader was also criticised for saying that Ganga would prevent Covid at Mahakumbha. While every party has failed the public on Covid, the BJP is living in a dangerous state of total denial and complacency.

Not just shortages, the health minister had declared several times before the 2nd wave, the latest being Jan 2021, that India had “defeated” corona and the situation was in control in India. Not only this he has taken to calling all criticism plus advice on his government’s Covid management including one letter from former PM Manmohan Singh to be as false propaganda and selfish politics. And let’s not forget the quackery being promoted by BJP leaders.

The Indian Medical Association blasted Harsh Vardhan furiously for promoting alternative medicine considered to

PM’s PRIORITIES

There’s that saying that goes something like, “It’s not that you don’t have time, it’s that you don’t have priority”. The Prime Minister is a busy man. He’s got literally the entire country on his plate. So his beliefs and the value of things in his opinion can be discerned by taking a look at how he spends his time. And if you’ve been reading the news regularly you’ll know what he is focused on doing. rallies.

The PM has 24 hours just like the rest of us. And for some reason, he decided that his time was spent better, in the middle of the 2nd wave, on political rallies and speeches in poll-bound states rather than tackling the pandemic. Time shows a person’s priorities, and Modi’s priorities are pretty obvious right now.

AAP flays BJP for 'massive' poll rallies in West Bengal, Assam | Hindustan Times
BJP For Bengal, Rally. Reprsentative image only.

No mask, huge crowds and no social distancing. He has not only left behind his job to lead the nation during a pandemic, he is actually making it worse and breaking his own rules. And it’s not like there is nothing to do. There are pleas from SII and other vaccine producers for funds that need signing off, there is the raw material export ban in the US that needs engaging on, there’s the shortage of literally everything needed to be brainstorming on, but he has decided that that is not the most important and urgent issue. That place is occupied by the elections in five states. He is not reachable by CMs as demonstrated when Uddhav Thackeray was denied speaking with the Prime Minister due to being busy with campaigning.

Yes, even CMs like Mamta Banerjee are at fault over here, but the central government has a lot, a lot more important role in fighting the pandemic and the PM is literally the leader supreme in India. But he has abandoned any pretence for caring for the people beyond getting their votes. For the right-wing BJP supporters, criticism,  mockery, differing opinions, refusing the choice of patriotism and abuse can easily bring about the label of anti-national. So what exactly do we now call a person who has pledged to serve and lead the nation but is abandoning that duty for power?

Writer’s Note: Hey Readers, I just wanted to appeal to you to support my writing of you enjoyed this article, by upvoting it, sharing it on social media like WhatsApp and Instagram and following my Youth Ki Awaaz profile. I would love to hear from you in the comments section or at darshilsh125@gmail.com or darshilsh125 username on Instagram. Your feedback is invaluable.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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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.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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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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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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