Missing truth, misleading discourse

The Cheer Leaders

With the Covid situation getting out of control for the Central Government - as amplified by the number of deaths on the ground, the ruling regime has been bombarded with questions regarding its negligent attitude, its failure to anticipate the situation despite having definite prior information about the second wave. As usual, the cheer leaders of the regime, like their colourful counterparts in an IPL cricket matchs, are coming up with opinioned pieces on national newspapers defending the un-defendable.  I chanced by two such pieces recently, one by lAnupan Kher and the other by S Gurumurthy.

Coming from the person who forcefully exposed the Bofors scandal, the piece from Gurumurthy was a huge damp squib. It would have well be written by any of the team members of Amit Malaviya's office. Although it was not as crass as the letter written by the Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan to the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in reply to some suggestions on how to tackle the pandemic (which I suspect was routed through the IT Cell or the official RSS functionary in BJP), it unsuccessfully tries to shift the blame for the pandemic mess, away from the Central Government.

Firstly, it wrongly assumes that the perception that the Central Government is inept in handling the second covid wave was caused by the Covid deaths that happened in Delhi. Not a word on the deaths in other areas, like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat etc.. It then blames the private hospitals, especially in Delhi, for not setting up oxygen plants in their premises, despite making huge profits over the past covid year and then crying hoarse by filing writ petitions in the Supreme Court arguying for right to life. The writer deliberately forgets to mention that the National Disaster Management Act (NDMA) was enforced by the Central Government in 2020 under which it is the responsibility of the Central Government to ensure the 'effective management of the disaster' - the supply of medical oxygen being a part of it.  Did anyone hear of these horrendous omissions mentioned by in the cheer leader's write up? Read on.

The article also rightly speaks that the flow of medical oxygen into hospitals in managed privately in India. Since the supply chain has to come from far off places, especially to Delhi, things need to be planned in advance and the private hospitals did not plan well. Besides, the article says, these hospitals did not keep a buffer stock of oxygen in their premises. If you knew that there was bad planning done by these hospitals, what on the earth were you doing invoking the NDM act, while the ordinary man on the street was gasping for breath, desperate for oxygen? Did anyone hear of this horrendous omission mentioned in the cheer leader's write up? 

The writer admits that the prices of oxygen is controlled by the National Pharma Pricing Authority (NPPA), an autonomous body under the Central Government's Chemical and Fertilizer Ministry. If the private hospital were over charging for oxegen, why the heavens did the Central Ministry of Chemical and Fertilizer not regulate it through the NPPA? The mention of the 'autonomous' nature of the body that is NPPA is a subtle attempt to insulate a Central Ministry and thus the Central Government against its abdication of constitutional regulatory duties. Did anyone hear of these horrendous omissions mentioned in the cheer leader's write up? 

And then, the article talks about the 162 PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption - a technology that seperates oxygen from the ambient air) plants sanctioned by the Central Government at a cost of over 2000 crores in October last year that were to be installed in the hospitals premises itself, out of which only 33 have been implemented fully. The writer puts the entire blame for this delay on the State Governments. The Delhi Government, for example, has made it clear that they had provided the necessary land for the purpose in eight of their units for their state; one got completed and since then the contractor has been missing. The money for these units came from the PM Care fund and has been routed through the Central Health Ministry which had called for the construction bids from private players. Apparently one person was granted to implement all the 162 bids and in all the States! Did anyone hear of these horrendous omissions / commissions mentioned in the cheer leader's write up?  

                                                        The article by S Gurumurthy

In the next paragraph, the writer distinguishes the second wave as different from the first covid wave in 2020, implying that it came all of a sudden giving the Central Government no time to prepare. He stops short of saying that it was an 'act of god', although he was steadly getting there. Both the official scientific expert commitee on Covid and the Parliamentary Committee on Covid had red flagged matters about the new virulent strain of Covid and about the severity of the impending second wave to the Central Government. The czars who run the Central Government had other pressing things to do - like winning elections for instance - for them move swiftly and concretely on this aspect. Did anyone hear of these horrendous omissions mentioned in the cheer leader's write up? 

Finally, the opposition and their apparent fear mongering is blamed for the initial vaccine hesitancy that the people of India had harboured. Had the central government been transparent on the vaccine especially when pushing for one such vaccine that did not have the phase three trial when it was approved, things would have been different. Besides, the Central Government in a false sense of complacency allowed the IPL cricket league, inaugurated new stadiums, the Khumb Mela, the election campaigning - 8 phases in Bengal, and mega spreader events of such kinds to  happen. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the country in most occasions were themselves not seen wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Did that not send a wrong message to the public? Did anyone hear of these horrendous omissions mentioned in the cheer leader's write up? 

Finally, the writer blames the Indian public that they were not wearing masks and maintaining social distance etc.. - a narrative constantly thrust by the official Central Government spokespersons themselves, leave alone the unofficial cheer leaders. That is what this opinion piece is about - shifting the blame from the Central Government to the private medical sector (notwithstanding the supreme leader singing paeans to the private sector), to the 'autonomous' body that NPPA is, to God, to the opposition parties and finally to the people of India. Burning pyres be damned!

And then there is this Anupam Kher article that I had mentioned in the beginning. Well, its gist can be summed up in the favorite phrase that the writer of the highly coloured article loves to utter come what may, pandemic deaths or otherwise - 'Aayega tho Modi Hi...' (The one who is going to win, is Modi.)

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