With everyday news of out-of-supply oxygen cylinders, black marketing of medicines, non-availability of hospital beds, hospitals refusing beds to critical patients, thousands of Indians dying every day, and the pictures of flames furiously erupting from 10, 20, or 30 bodies being burned at the same time in mass funerals in cities across the country, it would be an understatement to say that a common Indian is overwhelmed and scared. He is scared for himself, his family, and his future. The double whammy with governments across India enforcing lockdowns in varied forms and closing down sources where he earned his livelihoods, has ensured silent chaos across the country.
What happened? Just a few days back, we were celebrating our victory over corona-pandemic and had started living as if it was just another normal day. With the fear of corona a matter of the past, everything was back to normal, markets were brimming, and the stock market was scaling new highs. Things, however, suddenly appeared to have changed overnight. Today, it’s a situation where everyone is scared at the mere thought of developing corona infection and going to hospitals where death seems to be imminent.
Here is what happened: The typical ‘Mera kya’ (it doesn’t concern me) Syndrome of Indians, which has failed every institution in this country, had failed healthcare too long back. Just like you would never send your kid to a Sarkari school that mostly breeds everything except a quality education, healthcare too had completely become a corporate domain. Neither Government, nor your elected politicians, and not even your bureaucrats gave two hoots about your medical needs and building capacity in form of hospitals, medicines, or equipment to ensure you get respectable healthcare support when you need it. So, just like you send your kid to a private school gleefully paying hefty fees and take pride, you also got used to, proudly, using private hospitals and labs for your medical needs. Even those who could not afford the fee of these blood-sucking hospitals and labs had no option but to go there only because the Sarkari system was simply not equipped to treat cases other than cold or fever.
On the other hand, private hospitals were being run just like any typical business. Purely focused on making money, all they built was a facility that could fetch them regular and high revenues. Their priority was to ensure that their capacity remains completely utilized, and hence they never created excess capacity, be it the number of beds, rooms, ICUs, ventilators, or having integrated oxygen plants. You go to any private hospitals and you will always find them super-crowded. They can’t be faulted though. There was no compulsion, either voluntary or forced by government regulations, for these private hospitals to be ready for an emergency like the one we are facing. After all, being privately funded, their focus on profitability and creating shareholder wealth is only natural. They can’t be expected to run charity organizations while the government keeps using hospitals as third-grade shelter homes where an uninterested staff distributes generic pills whose quality can’t be attested, surgery rooms look more like pathogen-infested open-door butcher houses, and doctors who rather than attending their duties are more concerned about their private-practices. Mind you, this describes the pathetic state of tier-1 city hospitals. The situation gets more gloomy if one goes to tier-2 and tier-3 cities and towns.
While the situation worsened, you, the common men rarely raised your voices. When did you see people heckling politicians for the pathetic state of hospitals? When did you see people voting out a politician, or disgracefully impeaching a corrupt ghuskhor babu who siphoned off money meant for public health for buying swanky cars and properties? You obviously can’t depend on the police and judiciary as they are busy doing hafta-wasooli with targets as high as 100 crores.
So what will fix things now? That is a tough question. To be frank, politicians and babus have become so shameless that nothing affects them anymore. You will keep abusing them and they will calmly sip their tea watching Mirzapur on their smartphones, knowing very well that soon you will be out battling with life. Every day one can see multiple news of collapsing public infrastructure in leading newspapers. Such news no more shakes the conscience of any official; they no more raise any commotion in government offices; neither they cause any political storm as all politicians from different parties to know that they all have skeletons hanging in their backyard.
Get used to it. Things will stay like this and will only become worse with time. Government schools no more teaching, hospitals no more treating, police no more policing, municipal services rotting in the waste piles, judiciary delaying justice, and common men clueless, caught in the web of a decaying political and bureaucratic web, there is little hope for this country.