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“Government Failed, People Stopped Precautions”: How The COVID Situation Deteriorated

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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.

*Trigger Warning: Covid-19*

Recently, India became one of the countries globally with the highest rates of Covid infections, further shattering people’s hopes and proving the administration’s failure to ensure the safety of the masses. But is it prudent that we shall only and solely blame the government and the administration for the present deteriorating condition of India because of the pandemic?

The ghastly turn of events during the second wave of coronavirus reflects a two-sided picture. On the one hand, we have people who scream out their lungs to jeopardise the functioning and their faith in the government, but on the other hand, people themselves are responsible for digging their own graves by not adhering to the safety rules, which were drawn out. 

Kumbh Mela
Representative Image.

It is a really difficult task to create cooperation among a diversity of masses. When people have polarised opinions on various grounds, creating cooperation and coordination does not seem to seep in very deep in the soil. Organising the Kumbh Mela and carrying out election rallies were ill-fitted at that moment, which turned out to be the inception point for deteriorating the pre-existing Covid situation.

But the people who willingly attend these events were solely responsible for their own demise. In the age of television and IT, attending rallies and listening to the manifesto can be done safely at home. People in large numbers flaunted Covid rules like social distancing, not wearing masks, etc.

But the situation doesn’t suddenly deteriorate always. It was during the pre-lockdown months when people became numb to the virus. They gathered in processions, groups, stopped wearing a mask, violated social distancing norms, and cherished the priceless moments of seeing one another after months with hugs and kisses. 

The government made it mandatory for shops to keep sanitisers that were not seen and were given into obscurity. According to some, the reason for various people not wear a mask was due to suffocation. The question stands: are the doctors who sweat and clamp themselves in cryogenic spaces off PPE kits and masks doing it out of fun or the necessity to save those lives that turn to the hospital doors?

The statement stands futile for people to avoid masks due to suffocation, and hence, they add on as a piece of additional baggage to the shoulders of the doctors who are already sweating their blood and tears out (as it’s said, our safety is in our own hands).

People stepping in crowded places without safety precautions, considering themselves invincible or the virus to be fossilised, was another major mistake. The people who are the bread earners in the family were given choices with satiable conditions to either work from home or take their safety precautions seriously, which many did not. 

The government cannot be completely expelled from the sphere. It also played a crucial and cataclysmic role in aggravating the number of cases and the mortality rate in India. How did we go from the world exporters of drugs to the world importers of drugs, equipment, etc.? India was bestowed with the tag of the “pharmacy to the world”, to which the Indian administration laid dust themselves.

India’s UN permanent representative Shri T S Tirumurti, recently said that India had exported more covid vaccines than we had used ourselves in the UN assembly. Due to this act of distribution and contribution of vaccines globally, Indians fell short of vaccines themselves.

Many people didn’t receive their jabs and when they questioned PM Modi as to why he sent the vaccines abroad, they were arrested. In Delhi itself, 17 people were arrested overnight who questioned the PM via posters and other means regarding the exports of vaccines.

India was facing dubiousness before the third phase of vaccination was rolled out. According to a report, only 2–3% of people in the age group of 18–44 have been vaccinated until now. The normative statement about the lagging amid the government functionaries gave empirical evidence.

As had been said since 2014 by many people (quoted unquoted), “T(he) country should be run by visionaries and educated leaders and not sadhu’s and pandit’s as they shall sooner or later bring about a reversal to the wheel of progress and revolution.” The statement turned out to be true when the government was blindly carrying out rallies, debarring the processions to carry forward the Kumbh Mela and were ill-planned and prepared for the upcoming wave, which laid waste and disaster.

The government further jeopardised and depreciated the safety and security of the masses. The situation was slipping so hopelessly that the courts had to intervene and “order” the government to execute their duties and roles according to their pledge. 

Internationally many countries aided us with medical support and assistance. It was not very surprising to see that even the PM of Pakistan Imran Khan was willing to lend aid and help us out of our miseries, keeping aside the cutthroat politics between both nations. A sweet gesture was acknowledged from Italy, where people gathered, sang and prayed for us Indians.

Daily Life Amid Coronavirus Pandemic In India
Representative Image. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The cases and the mortality rate in India shot so high that the infection rates crossed 30% and the number of deaths per day crossed thousands. Various places of importance saw shortages, like beds in hospitals, woods and coffins at the crematory and medicines and oxygen cylinders at the apothecary. People literally had to wait for their chance to cremate and bid farewell to the demised.

Many hospitals saw over-flooding of patients who couldn’t be accommodated and were either lying as spasms on the floor or were choking at entrances. Many people resorted to vandalism and violence to get treated by doctors or vent their anger out for losing their loved ones. The last light of optimism dozed out when we saw dead bodies floating on the banks of the river Ganga

All these negative situations would not have rendered if the administration and the government were well planned and carried out the executions coherently, followed by people taking safety measures and precautions. The paroxysm of this ugly reality gives truth to the dystopian existence and oozing optimism which was doused with the fanning of panic, fear, suffering, and chaos.

Only if we had been better planned could we have been better prepared for the fight against the second wave of covid. 

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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.

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 native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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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
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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