Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Why Supreme Court had to crack the whip against LNJP hospital in Delhi?

akb2910The Supreme Court, on Friday, took suo motu cognizance of ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ report on what it called “deplorable” conditions in Delhi’s LNJP hospital and issued notices to both the Delhi government and LNJP hospital to respond. The apex court said: “India TV on June 10 highlighted a report on a video where patients have been in pathetic conditions. Dead bodies in the lobby, waiting area, wards. This is the state of a government hospital.”

On Wednesday night, I had shown in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ how dead bodies are lying inside wards near COVID patients gasping for breath in LNJP hospital. The medical superintendent of LNJP hospital has given surprising justifications for the horrifying visuals shown on India TV.

Dr Suresh Kumar, the medical superintendent, claimed that he was in the hospital the whole night on Wednesday and could not sleep. Like millions of other viewers, I could not also sleep on Wednesday night properly as images of unclothed dead bodies lying on the floor surfaced in my mind. I had a troubled sleep that night thinking about images of patients vomiting in the corridors.

The medical superintendent claimed that he was in LNJP hospital the whole night but did not find anything wrong. I was surprised when he said this live on India TV. I know a large number of doctors and I fully understand under what pressures most of the doctors work, but for a medical superintendent to say that people who are in a critical stage and very weak come to this hospital and they are lying unclothed because of hot weather, was really surprising.

For a medical superintendent to say that he finds nothing wrong in the videos showing near-dead patients with parts of their body dangling from beds, and dead bodies lying on adjacent beds, is, to say the least, puzzling.

A team from National Human Rights Commission visited LNJP hospital on Thursday to check the conditions of patients in the wards. Delhi government has suspended two staff including the head of nursing, in LNJP hospital, and this seems to be the only thing that the state government could do.

The question is not about what action has been taken against the staff. The question is about restoring confidence in the minds of patients and relatives about this hospital. Whatever the medical superintendent Dr Suresh Kumar has said will surely break people’s confidence. Let us first read what the MS said.

India TV anchor Sushant Sinha spoke live on India TV with LNJP medical superintendent on Thursday morning.

On bodies lying on stretchers in the open, he said these had been brought downstairs and kept outside lifts. On patients lying on beds without clothes, his explanation was a classic one. He said, because of COVID infection risk, the central AC cooling system had been switched off, and there was nothing wrong if patients took off their clothes in 40 degree Celsius weather. He gave another excuse saying that clothes of some of the patients were taken off because they had either been given CPR or their urine catheter tubes had been changed.

Clearly, these were lame excuses given by the medical superintendent to shield gross negligence on part of his doctors, nurses and attendants. Not one of the doctors or nurses was seen when the video was made.

To highlight the entire issue in contrast, we sent our reporter Pawan Nara to Delhi’s Sir Gangaram Hospital, which has recently been converted into a COVID dedicated hospital. He visited the wards where COVID patients were being treated. Our reporter was wearing PPE kit, face mask and gloves, and he kept a distance while speaking to doctors.

In this private hospital, a COVID patient once admitted is given a clean bed with sanitized linen, and each bed has an oxygen level monitoring system. Each COVID patient is attended to by doctors and nurses meticulously and they take extra care to ensure that the patient’s condition does not deteriorate.

There lies the basic difference. I find a greater sense of sincerity of purpose among health care workers in private hospitals as compared to government-run hospitals. In LNJP hospital, the COVID patients had been left to the mercy of God, while in Gangaram hospital, there are doctors, nurses, attendants and facilities like oxygen monitors, drips, etc. to take care of patients.

On one hand, we have hospitals where patients get round-the-clock care and monitoring, and on the other hand, we have patients lying on beds, resigned to their fate, in the midst of dead bodies. On one hand, a hospital modifies its central air conditioning to ensure that patients are not inconvenienced, and on the other, we have a medical superintendent justifying why patients lie on beds without clothes in 40 deg C weather.

On one hand, we have the camera showing doctors, nurses or attendants wearing PPE kits moving around among COVID patients, and on the other, we have the camera roving around the wards for 15 minutes and not finding a single doctor or nurse.

Watching these two videos in contrast, one can easily gauge why people prefer private hospitals to government run hospitals. No lame justifications are required when you find a dead body without clothes kept beneath a patient’s bed and why there are bodies in almost every COVID ward of a hospital.

I felt sad when I saw the MS of LNJP hospital saying that he was present inside the hospital the whole night on Wednesday. Yet he did not know that there were bodies lying around in the wards and his patients were gasping for breath, unattended. He promised that he would get this matter probed and let us know by Wednesday evening, but there was no reply forthcoming. We are still waiting for his reply.

I know that COVID has no standard treatment protocol and there are no medicines to cure patients. I also agree that better treatment does not come only through better facilities, nor does it require better air conditioning.

I also agree that better treatment does not require each doctor or nurse to stand near a COVID patient for hours. But I know this much that if you want your patient to recover, the least thing that he or she requires is sympathy and courage.

If the patient is confident that those treating him or her do really care, if a patient understands that he or she would not be left to die unattended, if the doctor gives courage to the patient that he or she would recover soon, then I can very well say that I have seen people on their death beds winning their battle for life.

The only thing that a patient battling COVID requires is courage, and some sympathy in the heart of the doctor. But how can you expect a patient to muster courage when one finds surrounded with dead bodies inside a ward? That patient will surely die even before he or she embraces death.

Those viewers who watched the LNJP MS Dr Suresh Kumar speak on India TV, may have clearly surmised by now that he has not an iota of sympathy in his heart for patients.

After watching the LNJP hospital videos and the frivolous explanations given by the MS, I can say without any doubt that those working in that hospital have lost all sense of sympathy. They are merely trying to hunt for justifications to save their own skins. For them, a dead or a half-dead man can fall off the bed on to the floor. For them, a patient is unconscious because he or she must be having a sound sleep.

Each one of these justifications is nothing but an atrocity, an injustice, towards those patients who opted to get themselves treated in government hospitals. These patients went to hospitals, built with your and our money, in the hope that they would get back their lives.

I had forward the LNJP videos to people who matter in Delhi government. I had wanted that action should be taken. The action they took was: two nurses were suspended. If this is not whitewashing, what else is it?

I never wanted a doctor or a nurse or an attendant be dismissed. This not the solution. These are outdated knee-jerk reactions. Nobody nowadays is afraid of suspension or dismissal.

What all of us want is that the 700-plus COVID patients still being treated in LNJP hospital, must at least get better care. Let a plan be formulated as to how to remove the dead bodies from the wards, how doctors and nurses should attend to each patient, how to protect patients from 40 deg C heat, and lastly, how to ensure that they are not left to die, unattended. If the hospital takes action on these points, I will feel satisfied with the action taken. Whatever has happened, has happened. Now let us move on, and improve our health care system. The sooner, the better.

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Horrific visuals of patients lying among dead bodies in Delhi hospital, who should be held accountable?

AKB2610In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Wednesday night, we showed visuals of COVID-19 patients lying on beds with dead bodies kept either below the bed or on nearby beds in Delhi’s LNJP hospital, supposed to be Delhi’s biggest COVID dedicated hospital.
We also showed visuals of four bodies kept on stretchers in the visiting area of the hospital earmarked for relatives of COVID patients. There were also visuals of COVID patients gasping for breath, one of them half lying on bed and the remaining part of his body dangling from the bed. Another patient, also struggling for breath, had fallen on the floor. Not a single doctor, nurse or attendant was present.
I had been getting videos about COVID patients struggling for life in Delhi hospitals daily. I decided to send our reporter Pawan Nara to check out the authenticity of these videos. What he reported was horrifying.
The visuals that I mentioned above were not from one single ward, but was the general pattern in at least ten wards of LNJP hospital, which boasts of having more than 2,000 beds. These visuals can give you a clear picture as to why people avoid going to government hospitals, and prefer privately run hospitals. Why beds are lying vacant in government run hospitals, and most of the beds in private hospitals are full.
Looking at the grisly videos (in one of them, a patient was lying on bed without any clothes), it appears as if these patients had been brought to the hospital to die. These were COVID patients brought by their relatives for treatment, and they have been left lying among the dead, to die a painful death.
India TV camera also panned around passages, where patients were lying on the floor, vomiting, but there was no health worker to take care of them. The 15-minute-long visuals did not reveal a single nurse or a doctor or a ward boy moving around.
Just imagine the conditions of the hospital’s mortuary. Before telecasting these visuals, we had to edit out portions not meant for public viewing. While watching these, one can easily understand why most of the 2,500 beds in Delhi’s government hospitals are lying vacant. These videos are damning evidences of gross negligence on part of the hospital authorities.
While watching these visuals carefully, one can easily notice most of the COVID patients, struggling for life, had no saline drips, nor was there any sort of monitoring on part of the doctors. One patient, almost unconscious, was lying below a bed, on which a lady patient was lying. An elderly patient was lying on a nearby bed, without any body movement, probably taking his last breath. It appears as if the hospital was leaving patients to die, in the name of treatment.

On Wednesday, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had asked people to point out if there are deficiencies in health care. He had promised that his government would work on people’s suggestions. It is now time that those who wield power in his government must sit up and take notice of these videos. Delhi government must find out why bodies were left lying on stretchers in the waiting area of LNJP hospital, meant for relatives.

Till last week, when I used to watch videos of patients lying with dead bodies around in Mumbai’s KEM, Sion or Cooper hospitals, I was under the impression that health care in Delhi hospitals was better. But these visuals are enough to strike fear in the minds of people.

COVID wards in LNJP hospital are meant for treating critically ill patients, but the videos clearly show that practically no treatment is being provided to them. Once critical patients are admitted to this hospital, their relatives are not allowed to meet the patients. The patients are left to die, as their oxygen levels drop, and once the patient dies, the ward boy comes and picks up the body on a stretcher, to take it to the mortuary. Since mortuaries are packed, bodies are left lying on stretchers in the open.
Delhi government’s statistics show 771 out of a total of 2,000 beds in LNJP hospital are occupied and more than 1,200 beds are vacant. Clearly, the word has gone outside that patients are not being provided proper care, and hence, people avoid bringing critically ill patients to this hospital. If this is the situation in Delhi’s biggest COVID dedicated hospital, then it is better that COVID patients stay at home, where they can at least get proper care from their family members.
India TV reporter Deeksha Pandey spoke to relatives waiting outside LNJP hospital. They had come to find out the condition of their patients. A young lady said, her father told him on phone that he was lying among dead bodies in his ward and there was nobody to take care. Her father was imploring her to take him out of this hell. Seven days later, she was informed that her father was dead.
Can anybody in his or her sense want to go to this hospital after watching these shocking visuals? Think about the trauma that relatives must be facing about their patients after watching these visuals. I remember the words of one hospital official, who after watching the videos, said, “I am speechless”.

If this is the condition of the biggest COVID dedicated hospital in the nation’s capital, think about the conditions in other hospitals. I have forwarded all these videos to Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain. He told our reporter that he would take action and thanked us for sending the videos.

The government must take action, but my question is a bit different. If this was the sordid condition in Delhi government’s largest hospital, if there was total mismanagement and negligence, how come the Health Minister of Delhi failed to get any clues? Was he being misled by his officials? Who must be held accountable?

Delhi government must surely take action, but it must immediately take urgent steps to improve the health care conditions in this hospital. At least save those 751 COVID patients who are still struggling for life in this hospital. At least give some sort of assurance and courage to their family members. If the government fails, people will stop sending their patients to government run hospitals, because they are fast losing trust in the health care system.

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Will Delhi face COVID community spread? Will the number of cases in Delhi rise to 5.5 lakhs?

akb (1)On Tuesday, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia told the state disaster management authority that if the present trend continues, Delhi could reach 5.5 lakh COVID-19 cases by July-end and there would be need for 80,000 hospital beds. Delhi Heath Minister said, the capital has entered the community transmission stage, but it was for the Centre to declare if it is so.

The question is: why is Delhi government saying that community spread has begun, though the Centre and WHO are unwilling to accept this? I smell some amount of politics behind this.

Since the COVID situation is deteriorating in Delhi, nobody wants to own responsibility, and that is why statements are being made at random, in advance, to save one’s skin. Throughout the COVID crisis, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal did not utter a single word against the Centre, accepted whatever the Centre directed, and did not raise his voice when the Centre gave a lesser package to Delhi.

Kejriwal himself said, he had told his party leaders to ignore criticisms by local BJP leaders, but when the Lt. Governor on Monday turned down the state government’s proposal not to allow outside patients for treatment in Delhi hospitals, Kejriwal looked worried. He could not gauge why this happened. Kejriwal and his team suspect that the Lt. Gov. took this decision at the instance of BJP. Some of the AAP leaders are on record having said that state BJP leaders want to gain political advantage by projecting that the Delhi government has failed to tackle COVID crisis.

The question is: will COVID spread faster in Delhi as Sisodia has projected? If it is so, can outsiders be allowed to be treated in Delhi hospitals? The Lt. Governor has to answer this question. And, if COVID situation is under control in Delhi, will influx of patients from outside make any difference here? Kejriwal has to answer this question.

I spoke to several doctors and experts. None was able to clearly predict the rate at which COVID cases will grow in Delhi in the next two months. None of the experts were willing to say that the number of cases would go up to 5.5 lakh in Delhi by July-end. None could predict the exact peak time, nor could anybody say clearly whether Delhi has entered community transmission stage.

The reason: COVID-19 is a new type of virus, has no past history, has behaved differently in different countries and different cities. Hence, nobody can predict anything with confidence. However, preparations have to be made: stadiums will have to be converted into hospitals to boost capacity, but if community spread has begun right now, there must be urgency in preparedness. Nobody knows when there will be a big spurt in the number of cases. Let all the parties leave politicking behind till this crisis is over.

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Is Delhi health system on the verge of collapse? Shortage of beds ? No Testing? Queues at burial grounds and crematoriums ?

akb2910With the number of cases and fatalities rising, numerous messages have started circulating on social media which say that patients are dying in Delhi because of want of beds. Questions have also been raised about testing, treatment and the credibility of the health system. India TV reporters went to major hospitals around the capital and reported that the situation is not so worse as is being made out to be.

There are more than 8,000 hospital beds in Delhi for COVID patients, out of which 4,500 beds are in government hospitals and nearly 3,500 beds are in private hospitals. Nearly 2,500 beds are lying vacant in government hospitals because patients are preferring private hospitals. Most of the beds in private hospitals are full and the demand is rising day by day. In the midst of all these, fake messages are being circulated on social media to say that nearly one lakh people have died in Delhi and that hospitals are hiding actual figures on fatalities.

Messages are also being circulated about hospitals refusing to treat patients citing different reasons. Delhi government’s appeal to people with mild symptoms to stay at home and opt for self-treatment, is being misinterpreted on social media to say that Delhi hospitals are now unable to manage the pandemic. People are now asking questions whether our hospitals are really short of beds, oxygen and ventilators. They are also asking why refrigerated trucks have been deployed outside hospitals leading to rumors that the mortuaries are full. People are also asking, based on fake messages on social media, whether there are queues outside crematoriums and graveyards.

In the midst of this, the Lt. Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal on Friday junked the state government’s decision to allow treatment of Delhi residents only in the capital’s hospitals. Exercising his power as chair of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, he issued order that no patient shall be denied treatment for not being a Delhi resident.

I feel, with the spurt in COVID cases in Delhi and neighbouring states, there could be shortage of beds and proper treatment in hospitals outside Delhi, and patients prefer to come to Delhi for treatment. This will definitely create a big burden on Delhi hospitals, and the health infrastructure may not be able to withstand such pressure. If people from other states are admitted to Delhi hospitals, residents of Delhi will surely find it difficult to get treatment.

I could not understand the logic behind the Lt. Governor’s decision. Who will benefit if Delhi’s health system collapses? Instead of scoring brownie points, all of us should think about providing treatment to Delhi patients. Both the Centre and Delhi governments must work together to tackle the pandemic. This is an extraordinary situation and it requires extraordinary decisions. There should be no scope for politics on such issues.

India TV reporters visited different hospitals for a ground reality check. At Gangaram Hospital, officials said very few patients have been turned away because of lack of beds. The hospital superintendent said, people having mild flu symptoms are being directed to the flu ward inside the hospital for preliminary checks and then sent home. At the Corona ward in AIIMS Trauma Care Centre, the AIIMS medical superintendent Dr D K Sharma said that only serious or critical patients are being treated there, and the rest are sent to another COVID dedicated hospital at National Cancer Institute, Jhajjar, Haryana. At the Trauma Centre, out of 250 beds, 105 beds are full and 145 beds are vacant.

In LNJP Hospital, more than 1,200 out of 2,000 beds are vacant, while 1,400 out of 1,500 beds in GTB Hospital are vacant. These are data furnished by Delhi government on their app. In Safadarjang hospital, almost all beds are occupied, while there are 289 out of 500 beds vacant in Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital. Overall, 4,400 out of 8,500 beds in Delhi hospitals are occupied and more than 4,150 beds are vacant.

As far as ventilators are concerned, LNJP hospital has 54 out of 64 ventilators occupied, GTB Hospital has only seven out of 53 ventilators occupied, 46 ventilators are unused in Safdarjang hospital, and all the 29 ventilators in Rajiv Gandhi Hospital are not in use. Overall, out of 512 ventilators in Delhi, only 248 are in use and the remaining unused.

Former MP Shahid Siddiqui had pointed out how his niece was denied treatment at several hospitals in Delhi after which she died. We checked the hospitals who refused treatment. Max hospital, Saket had all 200 beds full, Max hospital, Patparganj had all 80 beds full, Max hospital, Shalimar Bagh had all 56 beds full, Apollo hospital, Delhi, had all 137 beds occupied, Holy Family hospital had 55 out of 69 beds full and Moolchand Hospital had 25 out of 28 beds full. There should be a probe into why the last two hospitals denied treatment to Shahid Siddiqui’s niece.

I have narrated the statistics in different Delhi hospitals to give you an idea of the current COVID situation in the capital. The overall picture is: most of the beds in private hospitals are full while several thousand beds are lying vacant in government run hospitals. People in general believe patients do not get proper care in government hospitals. They do not have trust in the system, and there lies the problem.
Already, the situation in Delhi is turning grim. Total number of COVID cases (29,943) in the capital is set to cross 30,000 and so far, 874 patients have died. The positivity rate of COVID-19 cases in Delhi is as high as 27 per cent. Out of 5,042 people tested in last 24 hours, 1,282 tested positive. This is a worrisome trend as one out of every four Delhiite appears to be infected with the virus. In the last one week, 9,092 COVID patients came to hospitals. From March 14 till May 31, a total of 470 patients died, while from June 1 till 7, this figure went up to 812. This means, 342 COVID patients died in Delhi last week.
There is confusion over glaring difference in death figures in Delhi government and Municipal Corporation statistics. I do not think any government can fudge statistics and hide the number of fatalities in this technological age. The difference in statistics needs to be reconciled.
On one hand, Delhi government says 874 people died, but Corporation records show more than 1,700 COVID patients were either cremated or buried. There appears to be some communication gap, or technical error. This needs to be fixed at the earliest, otherwise baseless rumours will circulate on social media to say that there is no space for burial or cremation in Delhi. Such mischievous messages must be nipped in the bud.

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Patients being turned away from Delhi hospitals, COVID situation in both Mumbai, Delhi grim

AKB0410Not too long ago, we were watching visuals of large number of COVID patients going to hospitals in New York, Italy and Spain, where there were no beds available, and the number of deaths was continuing to rise daily.

Right now, hospitals in Delhi and Mumbai are on the verge of such a grim situation. The overall picture across India is worrying. With 295 deaths, the highest in a single day, the death toll in India has reached 6,643. There were 9,377 new cases reported on Friday, and at 2,36,117, India is now in sixth place, pushing Italy behind.

There have been many cases in Delhi and Mumbai where hospitals have refused to admit critically ill COVID patients. Patients are dying because hospitals refused to admit them.

Let me give some examples. Delhi’s Gangaram Hospital refused to admit a nine-month pregnant lady because she was found COVID positive. Her family alleged that the hospital demanded Rs 5 lakhs for her admission. Since the family was poor, it managed to collect only Rs two lakhs. The private hospital told the family to take her away to some government hospital which provide free treatment. Later, the private hospital administration admitted its error and promised to bear the entire costs of treating the lady.

In Mumbai, a 69-year-old diabetic patient was to undergo gall bladder surgery, but was found COVID positive. On Saturday, the patient’s oxygen level fell by 50 per cent. The patient’s engineer son phoned BMC helpline, but was told no hospital was available. He contacted nearly a dozen hospitals and all of them refused. At around 9.30 pm a private hospital agreed to take the patient. The son contacted an ambulance driver, who demanded Rs 8000 for transporting the patient to a distance of merely 300 metres. The driver claimed that his owner had told him to ferry each patient for Rs 8000. Finally, the lady passed away in her home in Kurla.

Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar told India TV that during normal times, nearly 3,000 ambulance used to be available in the city, but now the number has dwindled to only one hundred. The mayor said, this was because most of the ambulance drivers are unwilling to work fearing COVID. This is the situation in a metro which has more than 45,000 COVID patients.

In Mumbai’s Jogeshwari, a 55-year-old patient died on a wheel chair after seven hospitals refused to admit him. In Delhi, 75-year-old Moti Ram Goyal, a resident of Nand Nagri, moved Delhi high court seeking direction for providing him a bed in a government hospital, as he was a COVID patient. Goyal died on June 3, two hours after the appeal was filed before the high court.

Another Delhi resident Lakhjit Singh was taken to LNJP hospital at 7.30 am. Doctors asked where the COVID test was done, when his son said the test was done at Gangaram hospital, he was told to take his father to Gangaram hospital. The son begged doctors for assistance, the patient was forcibly taken inside the hospital on a stretcher, an oxygen cylinder was somehow procured, but by that time, the old man had died, gasping for breath. LNJP hospital authorities later claimed that the patient was ‘brought dead’. A plain, white lie.

The corporation-run Bara Hindurao hospital has stopped taking COVID swab tests. Nearly 50 people, including some doctors, who had gone there for tests were turned away. The hospital used to send samples to NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control), which used to send reports. NCDC said, its backlog has increased in recent days, and they were unable to take samples. A lab in Noida was contacted by the hospital, but the lab too declined to take samples.

In Thane, near Mumbai, a private lab was found taking COVID swab samples by appointing a dancer, an artiste and a clean-up marshal, all of them having no technical knowledge. This path lab had got approval to carry out COVID tests from Indian Council of Medical Research. Out of the 10 persons hired by the lab, most of them are non-technical persons. The lab owner told India TV reporter that when his lab got ICMR approval in April, he had 8 to 10 technical persons working, but all of them left fearing Coronavirus.

There is this video of a patient lying on a stretcher outside GTB Hospital, Delhi, gasping for breath, but not a single nurse, doctor or attendant was available. The hospital refused to admit the patient, Ravi Agrawal, saying that now since it was a COVID dedicated hospital, no patient can be admitted without a COVID positive test report. Ravi Agrawal’s relatives had taken him to several hospitals, but all of them refused to admit.

While India TV reporter was speaking to a GTB hospital doctor Dr Rajesh Kalra, another lady with breathing trouble was brought to the hospital, but the lady was shooed off from the emergency ward without any checks. The neighbour who had brought the lady patient, told India TV reporter that they had gone to several hospitals, and all of them refused to admit her. There is another video of Max hospital, Patparganj, refusing to admit even non-COVID patients, though the hospital administration has later issued a clarification.

Delhi government says there is no dearth of doctors, nurses and hospital videos, but the ground reality seems to be harsher. People are now making videos and circulating them, when they find that their relatives are not being admitted to hospitals. Every day, I received scores of videos, and I get them checked with our reporters.

Doctors say, patients who have mild symptoms of COVID need not panic. They can stay at home for 14 days and take full precautions to recover. Doctors point out that hospitals are places where oxygen and ventilators are provided to critically ill patients, and those who have COVID symptoms should not worry.

This is easier said than done. People do not trust when government and doctors tell them to stay at home if found to be COVID positive. There is need to build trust in the minds of people.

Already, the COVID figures are worrying. Delhi recorded 44 deaths in a span of three days from June 1 to 3, and the death toll has now reached 708. There were 1,330 new cases on Friday, and the total number of COVID cases in the capital has gone up to 26,334. Out of this, 11,870 cases were reported in a span of last ten days. The situation is worse in Mumbai. There were 54 deaths on Friday taking the total death toll to 1,158. There were 1,150 new cases taking the total number to over 45,000.

If this is the situation in metros like Delhi and Mumbai, think about rural areas.

In Araria, Bihar, a lady auxiliary midwife nurse (ANM) begged doctors to treat her husband, but they refused. Her husband, Jayaprakash Singh, had returned from Delhi on May 28. He was kept in quarantine and then sent to a hospital in Forbesganj. The hospital sent him to Araria district hospital. Since he was a suspected COVID patient, the doctors in Araria hospital refused to treat him. The man ultimately died.

There is this video from Dhanbad, Jharkhand, where bodies of two dead patients from PMCH hospital were being taken in a cycle cart, due to lack of ambulance. The medical infrastructure in both Bihar and Jharkhand is already weak. There are three patients sleeping on a single bed and now this video of two bodies being carried on a cycle cart. Such visuals are disturbing and people may not forget them for a long time.

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How Delhi Police foiled secret plan to revive Shaheen Bagh movement

akb0210For the last few days I had been getting news about attempts being made to revive the Shaheen Bagh movement in Delhi. Viewers may remember, this movement by groups of Muslim women was launched in south-east Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality from December 11 last year and ended abruptly on March 24 this year when the nationwide lockdown began.

The round-the-clock sit-in by women at Shaheen Bagh led to closure of the main arterial road connecting south-east Delhi with Noida causing woes to thousands of commuters for more than three months. The protesters were demanding withdrawal of Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register.

There were reports that women and children were being persuaded to sit on indefinite dharna inside tents again at Shaheen Bagh. There were also reports of students of Jamia Milla Islamia preparing to sit on dharna outside the university’s main gate.

India TV reporters went out to investigate and confirmed that a major attempt was made to revive the movement on June 3. The plan was carried out secretly and the aim was to mislead several thousand people to gather at the site all of a sudden, without giving any clue to the police. Messages were being circulated in WhatsApp groups asking people to congregate at Shaheen Bagh on June 3 to join the protest. The hashtag was #SabYaadRakhaJayega .

The activists, in order to give police a slip, refrained from using old WhatsApp groups and known Twitter handles. To conceal the real intention, it was named as a nationwide protest, but in reality, it was not so. There were also reports of secret meetings going on inside houses in Jamia and Shaheen Bagh localities. The purpose was to chalk out a plan for women and children to reach the site suddenly.

Delhi Police however got to know about this and erected its own tents at the particular site to forestall the game plan of the activists. Police was also deployed outside Jamia Millia Islamia to prevent gatherings of students.

This time, the agitators had decided to make an issue about the arrests of JNU activists Sharjeel Imam, Ishrat Jahan, Khalid Saifi and Sheikhaur Rahman, and Jamia activists Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider and Asif Iqbal.

The WhatsApp messages claimed that nearly 200 organisations had given the call for a nationwide protest. While sifting through the names, India TV reporters found most of the outfits belonged to Communists with CPI and CPI(M) leanings. These were the groups which had been waging protests over CAA and NRC issues. Muslim students and women were kept in the forefront, while the Left outfits were providing backup support.

Due to alertness of Delhi Police, the plan to revive Shaheen Bagh movement from June 3 was foiled, and police have been deployed at the trouble spots.

Political forces, which are unable to digest the landslide victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in last year’s Lok Sabha elections, were happy when the Shaheen Bagh movement began. They though they have gained the support of Muslim voters on CAA and NRC issues. With the spread of Coronavirus, these outfits were completely stumped.

Had the virus not originated from China and spread to the West, they could have easily blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for creating this virus scare in order to deflect people’s attention from Shaheen Bagh movement.

With the onset of the pandemic, these agitators stood no chance. They knew that their own lives and the lives of women and children were at stake. They were unwilling to take such a big risk. With the nationwide lockdown in force, their movement was bound to fizzle out.

After the unlocking process began and restrictions were relaxed, these forces again joined hands and decided to revive the Shaheen Bagh movement. But times have changed. The police had its informers ready and the plan was nixed in the bud. Thus, another form of ‘virus’ that was to affect our body politic, was put to an end.

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Danger is far from over as COVID cases increase, Do not let your guard down

AKB2610In the midst of worldwide gloom over COVID-19 pandemic comes a good news from New Zealand, which is set to declare itself virtually free from Coronavirus and will be lifting all restrictions on physical distancing and mass gatherings.

This small country in the Pacific rim has only one active case remaining and no fresh case for the last 11 days. However, border controls will continue to prevent any fresh infections arriving from outside. This country achieved this feat through early imposition of strict lockdown norms for seven weeks.

We cannot compare India’s case with that of New Zealand, which has a population of only 4.8 million while India’s population is bursting at the seams with 135 billion. Delhi’s population alone is nearly 20 million and that of Mumbai is 24 million.

The COVID-19 pandemic in India may take several months more to come to a subdued level. On Wednesday, the Indian Council of Medical Research said that India is still far away from the “peak” right now, obliquely meaning that the months of June and July could see a rise in number of cases and fatalities.

India’s total number of COVID-19 cases shot up to 2,09,468 on Wednesday, out of which more than one lakh, that is 49.6 per cent have recovered. In terms of daily fresh cases being reported, India stands in fourth position after USA, Brazil and Russia.

Nearly 50,000 fresh cases were reported in India within a span of six days, while it took 110 days to reach the one lakh figure. It took only 15 days for India to jump from one lakh to two lakh. Nearly 75 per cent COVID positive cases and 83 per cent COVID-related deaths are confined to only six states in India.

The death toll reported on Wednesday in India was 254, as it crossed the 6,000-mark at 6,079. This was India’s second highest single day death toll, the highest was 270 on May 29. For the sixth consecutive day, the death toll crossed the daily 200-mark. Maharashtra alone accounted for 122 (48 per cent) deaths, followed by Delhi, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

Fresh COVID-19 cases also reached a new high on Wednesday with 8,723 people tested positive. Delhi led from the front with 1,513 cases, followed by Tamil Nadu (1,286).

With rising number of cases, Delhi government on Wednesday declared three private hospitals, Moolchand, Ganga Ram and Saroj Super Speciality Hospital as COVID hospitals. Two of these hospitals will have to give 100 per cent of their beds for COVID-19 patients, while Ganga Ram hospital will have to give 80 per cent beds for Corona cases.

The people of India, particularly those living in hot spots, need to be extra vigilant. Now that Unlock-1 has begun after four phases of lockdown, most of the people have lowered their guards and are crowding market places as before.

Remember, social distancing is the key to fight this pandemic. Everybody must follow social distancing norms, and wearing of masks and gloves is a must, when people step outside their homes. India TV reporters have sent videos of hundreds of people disregarding these norms when going to market places in the heavily populated localities of cities like Jaipur, Meerut, Aligarh, Delhi.

The danger is far from over. On the contrary, a bigger danger in the form of spike in number of COVID cases is lurking. We must not let our guard down under any circumstances.

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The world must hold China accountable for hiding crucial details about Coronavirus

akb0210As the world struggles in its battle against COVID-19 pandemic, and the number of Coronavirus cases in India crossed two lakhs on Tuesday, more evidences have now come to light which clearly show that the Chinese government deliberately “sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information”.

According to Associated Press news agency, whose reporters carried out investigation about the origin of the virus in China, “tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents.”

The AP report says, “Chinese government labs only released the genome after another lab published it ahead of authorities on a virologist website on January 11. Even then, China stalled for at least two weeks more on providing WHO with detailed data on patients and cases, according to recordings of internal meetings held by the UN health agency through January.”

The news agency reported, “Between the day the full genome was first decoded by a government lab on January 2, and the day WHO declared a global emergency on January 30, the outbreak spread by a factor of 100 to 200 times, according to data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”

There have been speculations for the last four months over the actual origin of the Coronavirus. While the US and other Western countries wanted an independent probe to be carried out inside China, the Chinese government obstructed the move at the UN Security Council.

The AP news agency has carried detailed investigative report about the initial days when the COVID virus spread in Wuhan. It clearly exposes how the Chinese government deliberately withheld from the world genome of the virus prepared by their own scientists.

The report says, a Chinese private lab, Vision Medicals, had given detailed info about the new virus to the authorities on December 27 last year. The lab had studied first samples sent from Chinese hospitals, and had informed authorities the same day about the discovery of the new virus. The lab had pointed out that the genome of the new virus looked similar to that of the SARS virus.

On December 30, Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology also discovered the new virus and her team decoded the genome of the virus by January 2. When these scientists sought sharing this crucial info with the world, the Chinese National Health Commission in confidential memos to these labs asked them not to share the details with the public.

On January 5, two government labs also prepared the genome of the virus, while a Shanghai lab got full details, but the Chinese government firmly told them to keep them under wraps.

It was only on January 7 that the Chinese government admitted that it was a new virus. However, by that time, the virus had spread to Thailand and Japan. The first COVID death was reported on January 11 in China, and till then, the Chinese authorities sought to downplay the spread of the new virus with the World Health Organization.

China had, on December 31, 2019 first told the world that a new type of fever having symptoms of pneumonia has surfaced, and the nature of the virus was not known. In reality, the Chinese government was lying. It had the detailed genome of the new virus, but it deliberately decided to keep it under wraps.

The AP report says China had the genetic mapping sequence of the new virus ready on January 2, and scientists had warned that the new virus was deadly. The genome mapping was done in three Chinese labs and yet the Chinese authorities expressly forbade the scientists to reveal the truth to the rest of the world.

China deliberately withheld these info from the WHO for two weeks and allowed the virus to spread to different countries. It was only when people started dying in other countries, the Chinese authorities shared the crucial info with the WHO.

The agency report says, WHO experts had a detailed meeting with Chinese authorities on January 6, but no details about the virus and data about the patients were shared. The Chinese officials had the genome of the new virus with them, but they deliberately did not share.

It was only on January 11, when a private Chinese lab made the genome sequence public that the Chinese government released details about the new virus.

Had China shared the details in time, other countries could have put travel restrictions and contained the spread of the virus, and the process for developing tests, anti-dote and vaccine could have started earlier.

Now I understand why Donald Trump was right when he deliberately named it the ‘Chinese virus’. Had the Chinese shared the information in time, the world would not have seen more than 64 lakh COVID positive cases, and the lives of 3.78 lakh people could have been saved. The Chinese doctors who tried to tell the world about the new virus were disgraced, reprimanded and ultimately some of them died.

The world must now demand answers from China. One, it must tell about the real origin of the virus, and two, it must clarify why it deliberately withheld crucial information from the rest of the world. The Chinese government must be held unaccountable for spreading this deadly pandemic across the world. The world must now speak in one voice against China. Now or never.

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Boycott Chinese goods, teach China a bitter lesson for border intrusions

AKB2610In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday night, we showed how China is misusing social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to circulate fake pictures and videos of Indian army jawans at the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh. This is part of the Chinese army’s psychological operations to create fear and suspicions in the minds of Indians who use WhatsApp and Twitter regularly.

Last month Chinese troops tried to stop Indian army from carrying out construction activity within our territory in eastern Ladakh, they began stoning and our jawans shooed them off using force, the Chinese troops then set up tents, brought in armoured vehicles and started a buildup of more than 5,000 soliders. In retaliation, Indian army also beefed up its presence at the LAC by bringing additional troops and a standoff ensued that still continues.

Both the armies are now busy in several rounds of talks, but in the meantime the Chinese army, with active connivance of their Pakistani collaborators, started posting fake pictures and videos of Indian jawans on Twitter and WhatsApp to create doubts in the minds of ordinary Indians.

Unfortunately many gullible Indians fall prey to such fake propaganda and forward them in their groups. I appeal to every patriotic Indian to ignore and delete such fake videos circulated by the Chinese army.

Our defence correspondent Manish Prasad spoke to senior Indian army officers and they described the pictures and videos as fake ones posted by the Chinese propaganda factory. One picture originated from a Chinese Twitter handle OedoSoldier. The Chinese army does not have the courage to own up these fake pictures and videos and post them on their official sites, because they know there are either old, or morphed or fake.

Our correspondent showed videos prepared by the Indian army in which Chinese soldiers were adopting aggressive postures. These videos also show that there were at least three rounds of talks between both armies in the month of May to defuse tension.

The last meeting took place on May 28. After these meetings, the Chinese PLA troops retreated into their territory. Our jawans spent some time near the river, wary about the Chinese response in Galvan valley and then returned to our old positions.

Former Indian army DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia says, China, after being snubbed by India in Ladakh, is now indulging in PsyOps (Psychological Operations) that is part of psychological warfare. This is the reason behind fake Chinese videos on social media.

China is presently facing serious domestic and international problems, and wants to divert its people’s attention to India-China border dispute.

It has been universally accepted that China is responsible for the worldwide spread of COVID-19 pandemic, and it is fast becoming the international pariah. Most of the developed countries in Europe, USA, Australia and Japan are holding China responsible for the spread of pandemic.

At the same time, China is facing massive popular unrest in Hong Kong where people are demanding democratic rights. China has been criticized for supplying poor quality PPE kits, masks and spurious testing kits to many countries.

Most of the countries have lost trust in Chinese products and there is widespread anger over poor quality Chinese goods. Many countries are wary of buying Chinese products, and for the first time in several decades, the unemployment rate in China has gone up to 27 per cent because its economy has been derailed.

Voices of dissent are mounting inside China and President Xi Jinping’s government is facing problems on multiple fronts. In order to divert people’s attention from domestic issues, the Chinese army is deliberately carrying out intrusions on the LAC to foment India-China tensions.

India can teach China a bitter lesson on the economic front if every Indian stop buying Chinese products. The Chinese economy derives its power when buyers in big markets like India purchase its products.

India and China have a bilateral trade of 90 billion dollars (Rs 6 lakh crore), out of which Rs 5 lakh crore worth Chinese goods were imported by India. Only Rs 1 lakh crore worth Indian goods were exported to China.

In January this year, China exported Rs 41,956 crore worth goods to India, while India exported only Rs 10,800 crore worth goods to China. In February, imports from China into India fell (because of COVID) to Rs 31,764 crore and Indian exports to China declined to only rs 7,999 crore.

These figures clearly show that the huge Chinese economy machine runs on Indian money. China has been using India as a big market for its products to keep its economy alive. India annually imports Rs 2.25 lakh crore worth electronic goods like cellphones, cameras, laptops and electronic gadget parts from Chinese companies.

India imports Rs 10,000 crore worth Chinese toys, Rs 12,000 crore worth Chinese cotton, and Rs 15,000 crore worth Chinese furniture. Indian markets are choc-a-bloc with Chinese interior lights, fancy lights, cellphones, silk, artificial leather and products made from animal hides.

China has been importing iron ores and other raw minerals from India and has been reselling finished steel, copper and iron products made from our own raw material.

Millions of Indians use Chinese-made cellphones which have inbuilt apps that store crucial data relating to contacts, bank account details, and even the passwords. These data are stored on Chinese servers. Each one of us should be wary while using Chinese cellphones and laptops as we may be unwittingly passing on data relating to our personal lives and banking account details.

Once we start boycotting Chinese products and buy Indian-made goods, the Chinese leadership will understand the strength of the Indian economy. China will try its best to create new flash points on the border, but we must focus on self-reliance (atma-nirbharta).

A small step like boycotting Chinese goods by each one of you will make a good beginning. The Chinese mandarins will then understand which side their bread is being buttered and they may learn the lesson about avoiding misadventures on our border.

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