Rajat Sharma

Covid pandemic in Maharashtra is alarming

akb 0909In my show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Thursday night, I showed a viral video of Om Prakash Shete, who used to be OSD to former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, describing the plight of Covid-19 victims in the state. At one point, Shete broke down saying “I feel very bad, cannot sleep at times. The common man is unable to save himself from Covid. We have served 17 lakh people till now, but still people are dying. Every day 600 people die. I feel exhausted after replying to umpteen number of requests from people for assistance. Many people are dying. It is my request to the court to remove this technical error.”
What is the technical error? When Fadnavis was chief minister, there was a medical assistance cell in the Chief Minister’s Office. Poor people who were unable to get costly medical treatment, used to send applications, and financial assistance was released to them from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Shete was the man who used to clear these applications. When Uddhav Thackeray became the CM, he discontinued release of medical assistance from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Thousands of poor people, who needed assistance for treatment of Covid, are now dying because Shete is helpless. This is one major reason why the Covid death toll in Maharashtra is high.

It was this viral video which the Bombay High Court bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni referred to while disposing of an application for opening up place of religious worship. The Chief Justice said, “we can just say that the situation is alarming especially if we look at the numbers, which are rising daily. We have received numerous messages stating that the situation in Maharashtra is really bad.”
Referring to Om Prakash Shete’s video that was sent to the court through WhatsApp, the Chief Justice said, “if the contents of this video are authentic and true, then we think something should be done at the earliest…but for that you (Advocate General) need to verify the authenticity of this video and ascertain if this man is indeed the officer of the Chief Minister’s Medical Assistance Cell.”

Maharashtra accounts for nearly 20 per cent of total number of Covid cases in India. Out of 58.2 lakh Covid cases in India, Mahrashtra accounts for 12.6 lakh. Out of these, 9.56 lakh people recovered in Maharashtra. Out of 92,290 Covid related deaths in India, Maharashtra accounts for 33,886 deaths. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karntaka come second, third and fourth respectively in the Covid list.

Mumbai has been the Corona hotspot since the beginning, and there has been a consistent rise in the number of Covid cases. Social distancing norms are still being ignored in Mumbai and other cities of Maharashtra. We have visuals of crowds inside Mumbai’s suburban trains similar to those that we used to see in pre-pandemic days. Most of the commuters do not wear masks, and they jostle one another in order to gain a foothold inside the train coach.

Officials argued that since it rained heavily on Thursday, fewer suburban trains ran because of which there were huge crowds of commuters. But the fact remains that even when the weather was normal on Friday, similar crowds were seen in suburban trains. Commuters were saying on camera that they would face more crowds if they travelled in buses.

Maharashtra government needs to pay more attention to arrest the spread of Covid pandemic, both in Mumbai and in the hinterland. On Friday, 21,029 new Covid cases were reported from Maharashtra. In his video meeting with Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi advised him to focus on those 20 districts where the pandemic is spreading. In all, there are 60 districts in India which account for nearly 80 per cent of Covid cases. Uddhav Thackeray had promised the PM that his government would put in its best to control the spread of pandemic.

But Thackeray is facing a Himalayan challenge. Where is the infrastructure? Where are the hospitals, where are the oxygen cylinders and where are the doctors and healthcare workers needed to tackle the pandemic? Above all, why is the infrastrutcture that was created in March and April to tackle Corona not being used? The same situation is prevalent in Nagpur. Covid patients are facing shortage of hospital beds, there are inadequate number of oxygen cylinders, and above all, there is acute scarcity of doctors and healthcare workers.

I know for a fact that five buildings in Nagpur were converted into a Covid hospital. It was equipped with beds, oxygen cylinders and medical equipments. But this Covid hospital is now locked. Local officials say there is lack of doctors and para-medical staff, because of which this hospital has been locked. Uddhav Thackeray needs to fix all such loopholes, on a war footing.

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