Sunday, June 26

While India is desperate for oxygen, its politicians deny there is a problem | Mukul kesavan


In the capital of India, citizens die in their hospital beds because they cannot breathe. His lungs, clotted with Covid-induced pneumonia, need oxygen to function. Overwhelmed by India’s second tsunami-like wave and undermined by the presumed inertia of the state, hospitals are left without oxygen and patients drowned in front of their horrified families.

Sometimes hospitals discharge patients on oxygen support, casually giving family members a day or two to find rare air. They set off on frenzied odyssey through Delhi, searching for one of two sources of oxygen: a heavy cylinder that weighs 50 kg or more and looks like a dented relic from the Industrial Revolution, or a concentrator that draws oxygen from the air in the room and channels it to the patient. . Delhi is a kind of vendor’s market. Prices vary. The current fee for a hub this week is Rs 160,000, or just over £ 1,500. That is a month’s salary for a full professor at a public university.

There is a heartbreaking video of a traumatized and angry young woman standing in a hospital lobby in Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. She is staring at the camera and enraged. Your father’s oxygen levels are dangerously low. The hospital, he says, has run out of oxygen twice. Her father is being given hand-pumped oxygen for which she pays Rs 40,000 a day. The prime minister of Uttar Pradesh has threatened legal action against anyone who complains of oxygen shortages because he insists there is no such shortage. She calls him and challenges him to go to the hospital to carry out her threat.

Yogi Adityanath, the prime minister in question, is a Hindu monk with a vigilante past and a well-earned reputation as a dangerous man to cross. It has recently threatened to take over the property of people who complain of lack of oxygen because they are lying, spreading rumors and spreading panic. That a young woman dares to challenge an Adityanath-type politician to do his worst in Lucknow is a measure of her desperation, and of the general public.

A 26-year-old man from Amethi, a town in Uttar Pradesh, tweets an appeal for an oxygen cylinder for his ailing grandfather. His grandfather later dies of a heart attack. Police file criminal charges against him because his “false tweet” has discredited the government. During the month of April, newspaper headlines in India read like stage directions for a black sham.

The chief scientific adviser to the Indian government said In an interview that the government went to great lengths to improve hospital and healthcare infrastructure in response to the first wave, “but as that wave waned, perhaps so did the sense of urgency to complete this.” This distinguished scientist, a member of the Royal Society, clearly stands out as one of the world’s great ironists. The diminishing sense of urgency you refer to should describe, in its understated form, the government’s concerted efforts to get massive crowds to gather and mingle amid this pandemic.

The chief minister of the Bharatiya Janata party of Uttarakhand (the Himalayan state bordering Uttar Pradesh) allows the pilgrimage on the banks of the world’s largest river, the Kumbh Mela, to meet right in the middle of the second wave, because astrologers They dictate that you have to. spend a year before Of schedule. His decision has the prime minister’s blessing. Even as this mother of all super-spread events helps spread the virus among the more than a million pilgrims gathered in the city of Haridwar, the prime minister is shown marveled – unmasked – in the largest electoral crowd he claims to have ever seen, in West Bengal.

Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, cremation grounds run out of pyre spaces and anguished mourners begin to burn their dead on sidewalks and in public parks. As the virus spreads through the city, it becomes nearly impossible to get proof for Covid. If you are lucky enough to get one, it will take up to a week to get the result. Until you arrive, if you have a severe case of Covid and need hospitalization, you cannot be admitted to a hospital because you do not have the documentation to prove that you are positive.

The Delhi state government imposes a curfew to break the chain of transmission. Thirteen months after the imposition of the first confinement, it is clear that we have not returned to the starting point; we have been transported, inexplicably, to some strange circle of hell. The central view of the city looks like an unearthed lunar landscape. The pharaonic madness of Narendra Modi, an ugly, extravagant and unnecessary new parliament building, cannot be stopped even for a pandemic. It is designated as an “essential service” and is allowed to continue during curfew.

Something else has changed. The Indian Premier League is back after its sabbatical in the Gulf and Delhi is one of its venues. In this pyre-lit necropolis, the IPL spotlights signal the time of the show. Dedicated ambulances, on-demand Covid tests, oxygen on tap … only the best will do for the Roman circus of India’s cricket table. There is a genuinely nervous air to this show, with its great disregard for the smell of burning. Living in Delhi is hard to ignore; it is the unmistakable aroma of a failed state.


www.theguardian.com

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