A week back, my uncle’s blood oxygen saturation level fell to a 70, he had not been tested positive yet. After 2 days of continued high body temperature, it was assumed that he ought to have been infected by the covid-19 virus. But his family was yet to see the worse. For about four to five hours after having a low oxygen level no help could be provided to him as there were no hospital beds available. Not only was there a shortage of hospital beds, even an oxygen cylinder could not be provided to stabilize his condition while at home, as there were none available. However, my uncle did not fall a victim to the uncountable tragic incidences which have scarred this nation following the second wave of the pandemic, because someone in our family had a connection.
While I am sincerely grateful for my uncle’s recovering health, it is even scary to think about would could have happened if that call was not made. Or if my mother did not know one of the senior doctors in that hospital. I would not deny the derived sense of privilege in my previous statement but that does not deter me from addressing the actual issue and keep me from narrating the horrors of the situation on ground. People are dropping like flies. Those around you, relatives, neighbours, people you knew in person, people who seemed to be at the prime of their lives. However the worst is not even the ones who failed to recover despite the treatment. There are huge chunk who were denied treatment due to the shortage of supplies. People dying outside hospitals waiting for their turn. Those are the incidences that haunt you.
The Fractured Health Infrastructure
India is still a “developing” country, despite the abundant resources and immense man power. It still fails to develop a well prepared medical conglomerate, despite knowing that there is always an impending doom of second wave lurking around with viral epidemics. Maybe that is because our national leaders prioritise communal bigotry over civil health. The ruling government that invested millions of dollars in building a temple to further penetrate its religious propaganda, or seeks to build a new parliament building amidst an ongoing pandemic claims to fall short of funds for Covid relief?
The medical community is working day in and day out to help rigorously straining their physical and more importantly their mental health, considering their inability to help a major section due to the lack of resources. Medical practitioners breaking down on social media in the face of the desperation and helplessness is only partially representative of the growing despair amongst the medical community. The situation is so dire that there have been reports of doctors committing suicide out of this helplessness, loosing mental peace over seeing patients having to die in front of them because there is no oxygen, knowing had there been, they could have perfectly been able to help them onto recovery.
The irony is that India does produce its fair share of oxygen and does have the means to manufacture the required amount of oxygen, but severely lacks in being able to provide means through which this liquid could be transferred from the cryogenic plants that produce them onto the desired location. But while the federal structure of our country has paved way for the centre and state governments to engage in a childish banter over who is responsible for this severe crisis, the ordinary citizens die on the streets simply waiting for their turn.
A Ray of Hope
I am aware that the international media has intensively reported the various super spreaders that took place that lead to the surge of the covid-19 cases, namely, then “Kumbh Mela Celebrations” the various state elections, etc. All of this is verifiably true, but the saga of an angry middle class Indian complaining about the corrupt government could actually never end. Yes, our cremation and burial grounds have run out of capacity, to the extent that public spaces such as parks and parking lots are being used for cremation. But there is a renewed sense in humanity, as common individuals take it upon themselves to help those in need. Regular people with no obligation but merely out of goodwill are trying to connect patients to the required resources, via social media and also making actual phone calls and trying to connect the dots. It is beautiful to see how, when the elected people who were given the responsibility of governing our nation fails, the citizens stand united.