Nightmare for a Nation

As I write this sorry tale, at least four people must have died in the National Capital. Despair, death, desolation and destruction has become Delhi. In the wake of the gruesome second wave which skyrocketed after the debacle of the Kumbh Mela and West Bengal election campaign rallies, we, as a nation, are in a continued nightmare. In this reality, India and Indians having lost all hope, have turned to each other for help. The community is rising above caste, creed and colour and helping each other through the use of social media. My simple question is: where are the governments? If one knows the truth, one can easily determine the course of action and the truth is this – India’s medical infrastructure is broken. As of today, the citizens of our country are standing outside queues, begging for oxygen, ICU beds and medicines. The situation is so grim that now we are begging for a call from the crematorium for our number to come to cremate our loved ones who lost their lives to COVID. In a country like ours, obviously the blame game will erupt amongst political parties but the reality is, the buck stops with the Prime Minister. I was his supporter, I believed in his leadership and that he genuinely cared for Indians. Even if so, he still is morally accountable as the commander-in-chief of our nation. This is not a Modi bashing, blame game article. This is an attempt to highlight certain solutions, that as a country we can implement henceforth.

  1. As advised by many scientists, there is a need for a national lockdown to give the system a rest, minimise the spread of the disease which I believe is now in Stage 3 transmission.
  2. Except for foreign aid, we should suspend all incoming air traffic to India.
  3. India has a habit of being stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare; it is time for action, not letters. The NDMA should immediately implement a COVID task force which has representatives of all parties to take swift and cohesive decisions for the betterment of the crisis.
  4. In this national emergency, compulsory licensing and voluntary licensing is the need of the hour. As people helplessly run around looking for essential drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, the central government can generate supply by granting licenses to pharma manufacturers to make generic versions of the said drugs. A free flow will also eliminate the black market selling of these drugs, another problem that is sprouting up as a consequence of the COVID crisis.

We had the warning signs of oxygen shortages in front of our eyes, yet we ignored them and celebrated a premature victory from COVID. In order to manage the crisis it will take the community at large, the politicians, the policymakers, scientists and doctors to come to swift action and not wait for permissions. We ought to have had an oxygen plant in every major hospital. I live next to AIIMS in Delhi, whether it is 1AM or 1PM, I can only hear ambulances rushing in emergencies. Probably, as citizens we are at fault too for not behaving in COVID-appropriate terms. However, when the nation’s Prime Minister is campaigning for elections, we automatically feel that things are in order. This blame game between Center and State can wait; right now we need to mask up, provide oxygen to hospitals, vaccinate the country and help each other in these dire times.

When we get out of this, we will be scarred as a nation mentally. So much destruction has happened and people are desperately looking for answers. The man who can assure the nation, the man whom I voted for needs to answer. If I were him, I would take the moral responsibility of this COVID emergency that has shaken India. For now, the nightmare continues and all we can do is feel helpless and pray.

By Shabri Prasad

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