May 17, 2021
India is in its darkest days and there is every possibility that darker days to come stares in our face as a reality. As we look today it is difficult to grasp the true scope of the second wave of the pandemic. The struggle for humanity is the struggle to breathe, the most terrifying experience of life. The understanding that we as a nation are gasping for breath and death comes as relief from the terror of living itself. Even death it looks like has not ended our miseries. The smoke from countless funeral pyres is raising above our heads to remind us that our miseries is beyond death.
It is certain that a catastrophe has hit India and we as a nation have failed to deal with the ferocious second wave of the pandemic. While many of us know that we have little or no control over what happens to our health, we give it the least priority. However, when sickness strike us, we think of hospitals or medical professionals to bail us out. “The pandemic has proved that the public health service cannot deal with the catastrophe. Each one of us from the Government, to the Society, the family and the neighbourhood have to stand up to face the crisis. The individual and the family have to take charge of the situation and do what is possible to meet this unprecedented times that we are placed today.
The health care system is being stretched to its limits and has certainly cracked under the burden of the pandemic. There is sickness in the air and death is knocking on our doors. Every day the sick travel to find a hospital bed. Many of them die without reaching the hospital or waiting for admission. Inside the hospital there are complications, some have lost their life due to oxygen shortage, infections and related complications are there to add to our miseries. There are long queues outside hospitals and longer queues outside burial grounds and crematoriums. How did it come to this? There is no point pointing a figure at each other as it will not bring a solution to the mess we are in. The government will say that the disaster is due to an unexpected spike, The health care system will say that we are under severe strain and are unable to do anything without life support systems with is lacking. There is a mad scramble for hospital beds, oxygen and even space in burial and cremation grounds. The “unexpected spike” has spiralled into an unimaginable crisis.
We the people have been literally left to device our own means to survive. We need to seek each other’s help to care for the sick as never before. It is very much true that none of us will be safe until everyone is safe. It is therefore vital that public health authorities take an objective view of the realities and act in a statesmanlike manner to mitigate the sufferings of the common men and women.
How did it come to this in April 2021? Did we not learn our lessons in the first phase of 2020? Did we as a nation let down our guard too early? Were we confident that the worst is behind us? Where we so naive to believe that we will achieve heard immunity and the pandemic will come to an end by itself? Did we miss the bus when it came to building our infrastructure in the crucial one year that we had?
From hind sight we have to learn our lessons the hard way. Whatever happened in our country in the last one year cannot be seen in isolation. It looked that the virus was to an extent dormant and people became careless, we went back to the routine practice of leading our life. We lifted most of the restrictions, rallies whether it was political or religious was held as usual. If there is one thing that we have to learn from the pandemic and the needless tragedy that we have put ourselves in, it is that unless active measures are taken this deadly second wave will not stop here it will be followed by the third wave, the fourth wave or even more waves.
Waves across other nations of the world have taken place. We are not alone in this regard. One of the best learning experience is to learn from other countries who have gone through what we are going through now. The US had three distinct waves, the UK had a brief first wave followed by two explosive waves, which subsided after an aggressive vaccination drive. Bangladesh used masks enthusiastically. Can these measures be successfully implemented in India? We certainly need to learn from other nations and at the same time innovate and improve on the lessons already learned. India faces a huge challenge as it has the second largest population in the world. Our country is spread over an enormous large geographical area. We have sprawling hugely populated cities and remotely distanced rural areas spread over difficult terrain.
Coupled with these problems we have the viruses mutated constantly, double mutated strain which has become more potent. When these viruses are allowed to spread unchecked we are bound to be in trouble. The most important aspect is to contain the third wave. India has the capacity to do all it and can certainly win the war against the unseen virus. The country needs to be more proactive from the government, to the healthcare sector, to the general public. Given the crowded towns and cities, people have to be educated and empowered, major events irrespective of whether it is rallies, religious festivals, weddings, sports and other events need to be regulated. The government needs to provide leadership work with the manufacturers, the health care sector, the NGOs and educated people and make it a mass movement build upon communication, rejuvenate the public health system and above all not be overconfident when things look fine and take the credit prematurely. These solutions may look very simplistic but if the country is to reduce the impact of the third wave, it is essential to improve the health care sector. India can boost of a well-functioning network of health care units that we have built over the years since independence. It is necessary to make them robust, use the networks of health workers at the village and community levels as health campaigners and communicate at the level of the communities to get people to protect themselves by explaining the reasons for say wearing the mask in a correct way, vaccinate themselves and enforce voluntary social distancing. It is here that we must understand threat the basic change in human behaviour is usually slow while the viruses work at an exponentially fast rate. It is important to do the right thing now in a war footing without pointing fingers at other. This is the only way we can win the war against the pandemic and also future disasters which are bound to come.