Earlier articles : Who Is Leading Delhi Out of The Crisis? and
We got caught unprepared due to some plain incompetency, lack of teamwork, power greed at political and administrative levels. We are paying an inordinately heavy price for it. The death toll due to the Chinese Virus has been heavy. The Chinese and international media are having a field day mocking at our situation and grief. Many of us feel affronted at this turn of events. There is also a palpable sense of panic and trauma in the air. However it is not all gloom and doom. Things are OK in many places. India is on the mend. Make no mistake. It does not matter what noise others make.
At this juncture of our national crisis, look beyond Delhi to understand the fight back. Before analysis, I would like to put across a few fundamentals. I have realised that infections should not scare us unless they overwhelm our medical facilities and administrative support system. Two figures indicate if the situation is under control or not. Recoveries taking place seen in conjunction with the Active cases indicate the trendline and the current burden the system has to bear. The second and the most important figure is the number of deceased. The dead speak the truth and tell you the real story.
There is lot of talk in national and international circles that deaths in India go unreported. That is simply not true. Death due to the Chinese Virus can be hidden with other causes. Figures of death can be hidden temporarily. However, death cannot go unreported as it is being made out. There are issues of lineage, property and other legal issues involved. They cannot be wished away. Even if a body of a person is disposed of in rural areas, the death is eventually reported. If the number of deaths increase beyond a point, people will speak up as bodies show up. That has clearly been the case. What we need to look at is the overall death count. Even if we take into consideration, that the number of our dead is vastly underreported (say 50%), we are under control as compared to global standard. This is where Western hypocrisy kicks in. They have to look within their own graveyards and mortuaries. To hell with them. However, comparisons are irrelevant. For me, every death due to negligence is a death which India should not have had. The point of concern to me is that figures coming out of certain states at this point of time, seem unreliable. Some governments are under a mistaken impression that supressing figures will make them look good. They will eventually be made to look and feel lousy.
India is fighting back and real hard. The steep climb is being negotiated squarely by the people. See the all India figures and graphs above. There is a hint of flattening of curves, increased recoveries and reduction of active cases. Too early to look further ahead. Keep fingers crossed. Hope and pray for the best.
Delhi has not yet stabilised. It continues to be shaky. The death toll continues to rise. 448 deaths in 24 hours is too high. See graphic below. That is worrying. However, SOS calls have reduced on social media. The remarkable thing about India is that when the Government fails, people take over. People power is manifesting itself in Delhi as the Central and State governments have caved. Local communities have kicked in – oxygen langars, ambulances, admissions, food supply, medicines, and the rest of the works. Online medical consultation has continued. Over 200 hospitals, with all the support staff, are functioning 24×7. Over thousands have been treated and are doing well at home. The fear of self-preservation has instilled some sense of discipline. New cases seem to be dropping. However the clogged pipe line must clear with the toll it carries. We must see improvement shortly. The problematic issue is that Karnataka is following suit. That is terribly worrying. Delhi got caught due to lack of foresight and political indifferences and differences. Bangalore and Karnataka seem to be getting caught due to lack of Hindsight stemming from negligence of a very high order tantamount to criminality. I hope that is averted. The potential black hole is UP. The government data is totally at odds with itself. The next likely trouble spot is Bengal. The long election cycle could extend the horror show.
The proof that India is not only fighting back but doing OK lies outside Delhi. So let us look at four states – Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Kerala. The results induce confidence and reflect the innate strength of India.
The daily graph of Maharashtra and those over a 90 day period tell a story. When Mumbai was swamped, the rest of the state was dormant. Soon, Pune erupted followed by Nagpur, Vidarbha and other regions. It has been three to four mini waves serially. The state has fought them well with organisation and discipline. Iqbal Chahal’s interviews with NDTV and Print ( Off the Cuff) have highlighted concepts like ‘Chase the Virus’, ‘Ward war rooms’ ‘centralising resources’ ‘foresight and planning’ ‘creation of infrastructure’ etc which were put into effect successfully. Mumbai’s turn around is well documented. The overall effort has been remarkable for one major issue. Throughout the last two months, the national headlines were hogged by the soap opera of an explosive laden SUV parked near Ambanis house. The actors were Deshmukh, Parambir Singh, Vaze et al. Mumbai and Maharashtra were fighting a determined battle with Covid when the focus was on the soap opera! Contrast this with the Delhi mayhem. Just indicates how well organised the entire state of Maharashtra was. The state is well on its way to recovery.
Odisha’s story has been simply remarkable. Every parameter in Odisha is going in the right direction. It seems a state from a different planet. Imagine single digit deaths in the whole state when the deadly second wave is ravaging the rest of India! It is a poor state, known for its cyclones and poverty. Remember the Kalahandi hunger deaths? However, that is history. The seed of their success, lies in the value of ‘Organisation’ learnt from their experience of evading super cyclones like ‘Hudhud’, ‘Amphan’, ‘Fani’, and ‘Phailin’. Those experiences increased the faith of people in the government to follow instructions. Poor people tend to be more disciplined and community oriented. They know that their strength resides in following community norms. The Government has been able to communicate it to people that Covid appropriate behaviour was mandatory since the state had meagre resources. It also communicated that if people do catch the Virus despite that, they will be looked after. Hence there was no need to hoard or panic. It also enforced strict measures for covid offenders. It staggered market timing on commodity or area basis to avoid rush. It sequestered resources of corporate resources and guest houses, hotels, rural schools, large buildings etc to build infrastructure and a system of handling the covid affected. Of course, they had surplus oxygen to give to ‘Rich and Priveleged Delhites’. Irony of fate!
Last year, Kerala had taken early lead in the way it organised itself to fight covid. Despite increasing cases due to return of migrant population, the fundamentals were never abandoned. What the state does not have in resources , it more than made up through sense of purpose and organisation. The magnitude of the second wave is directly attributable to the poll activity and crowding due to the elections to the state assembly. However its testing, tracing and monitoring mechanism has enabled it to put in place a machinery which has fought covid effectively. The remarkable thing about Kerala has been the despite the huge number of cases, its recovery has been high and deaths have been low. The entire state, on any given day has had around 1/10th the number of deaths in Delhi while having more cases. Cases do not matter. Avoiding death does.
Tamil Nadu is on the edge. It was a poll bound state. Cases are slowly increasing. However, not alarmingly. The problem is that infections have increased in rural areas, unlike in the first wave. The state is pretty well organised but there is a change in Government. Hence some instability due to change is on the cards. Cadres of the victorious party celebrated unnecessarily throwing caution to winds, despite appeal from leaders. So a spike is expected. All this will push Chennai and Tamil Nadu to the edge. Parameters appear to suggest that things are stabilising. I hope so too. Presently, the state is not overwhelmed. Its step to sell Remdesivir at fair price and holding down racketeering is still working. Overall- Wait and watch.
Our vaccination drive is going in fits and starts. The graphic below clearly suggests so. Any analysis of this indicates that the overall effort was poorly planned by our administration. More confusion seems to be on the cards.
Use of Armed Forces to stem the tide without equipping them is like applying band aid on a gunshot wound. Use of Armed Forces medical resources in such a situation is fraught with risk. Their resources are limited and finite to cater for a very miniscule number. Expecting them to save a situation of this nature is like stretching a thin rubber band. It will stretch, but break at a point. We must also remember that they have a primary task of keeping soldiers fit. We can not trust the Chinese and Pakistanis to keep quiet and not take advantage of the situation.
Very clearly, India is fighting back. However, for all the good examples I have highlighted, there are potential catastrophes which are on the cards. They can be avoided – PROVIDED – our leadership faces the situation honestly and with sincerity. In my last article I had asked the question – Who Will Lead Delhi Out of The Crisis? I will end this article by asking – who is leading India out of this crisis? At this point, it is the indomitable Indian.
PS : WEAR A MASK AT ALL TIMES. IT IS OUR BEST DEFENSE.