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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 20, New Delhi, May 1, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 1, 2021

Saturday 1 May 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 1, 2021

A grim future stares at India at it battles against a ferocious second wave of Covid-19. A staggering 402,110 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported for April 30. Official data on total number of infections in the country is fast approaching 20 million.

Health facilities in different parts of the country are caught in a storm and a shortage of oxygen, of beds and personnel who are trained to handle a large-scale medical emergency, and hospitals are routinely turning away patients due to lack of beds and oxygen. There is a shortage of ambulance services, oxygen cylinders, test kits, and little space left in the morgues and in the graveyards, and in the crematoriums. Parking lots and parks are being requisitioned for conversion into open-air crematoriums. All this will seemingly go on for weeks before a peak is reached and the huge numbers begin to decline. The Central Government and the State Governments are scrambling to respond at many levels. They are failing expectations to adequately respond to the crisis. They are taking short-term ad-hoc and temporary measures but the public health system is unable to manage. You cant build suddenly build a health system at the push of a button, you might be able to create emergency infrastructure at short notice but you cant train doctors & nurses other medical personnel at the drop of a hat. Millions of Rupees were raised by the PM Cares Fund and no one knows where much of that money went. Knee-jerk, temporary arrangements won’t do the Governments priorities must change. The Pandemic is not going away next week or next month or the month after. The present crisis may ebb but a third wave of the pandemic may come again and we will again be caught with our pants down if things go on as they have.

According to the latest Global military expenditure data for 2020 released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute India was the world’s third-largest spender of money on the military. India’s military expenditure was $72.9 billion. In 2019-2020 India spent 1.9% of GDP on Health and it was raised to 3.6% of GDP in 2020 but it is way too low when compared to other BRICS countries: Brazil spends the most (9.2%), followed by South Africa (8.1%), Russia (5.3%), China (5%). India must increase public spending on health, buying more military jet planes won’t protect against its citizens from Covid-19 and other pandemics to come.

The large-scale Covid-19 crisis has India drowning in pain and agony. The universities must show social responsibility and document this giant social crisis disrupting and breaking us physically, psychologically, and financially. It will leave lasting scars and long-term social trauma. Maybe universities abroad will do the job, while India’s sociologists & anthropologists continue their romance with the indigenous peoples ’Adivasis and rituals in rural hinterlands. In the 1940s a socially committed photographer Sunil Janah documented the Bengal Famine like an ethnographer. Thanks to PC Joshi the Humanist General Secretary of the Communist Party Janah’s photos whose value should be higher than gold were published in the Communist Party newspaper ’People’s War’.

The arrogant small-hearted men in power who rule India are curbing the presentation of the overall picture of the present health crisis. The Central Government led by Mr. Narendra Modi has sent a notice to Twitter to take action against posts critical of government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic

Citizens, publically asking for medical help in the midst of a health crisis are being seen as presenting the health system in a bad light and thus worthy of being treated as a criminal offense in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state.

Where do we go in a situation like this? Concerned citizens have done well to approach the courts to take action. It is commendable that the courts have done their job to show the mirror to the authorities and point out constitutional rights of people and dereliction of duty on part of the authorities

Madras High Court has rapped the Election Commission of India for the COVID-19 surge in Tamil Nadu, Pudducherry pointing at the election campaign rallies as super-spreader events. The Madras High Court slammed the Election Commission, a constitutional authority saying its officers "should be booked on murder charges"

Uttarakhand High Court while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the Covid 19 situation in the state told the government to make all efforts to save people’s lives and expressed alarm at the ’Char Dham Yatra’ pilgrimage to religious sites and as a result the govt has had to cancel the planned pilgrimage in mid-May.

The Supreme Court of India on April 30, 2021 stood up against any clampdown on information. Justice Chandrachud saying: “So let a message go out loud and clear to DGPs not to take action against citizens for social media posts about shortage of beds, oxygen shortage, condition of Covid care centres and hospitals etc during pandemic.”

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Mayday Greetings to all citizens and to organisers in the Labour Movement

Tributes:

Renu Agal, a senior journalist editor of The Print (Hindi) passed away on April 21, 2021.

Kakoli Bhattacharya, a journalist, translator, and assistant to the correspondents of The Guardian in Delhi passed away from Covid-19 on 23 April 23, 2021

Ramesh Upadhyaya, a short story writer, critic, a teacher passed away on April 24, 2021

Syed Raza Haider, Director at the Ghalib Institute in Delhi died of COVID on April 25, 2021.

Vivek Bendre, The Hindu’s senior Mumbai-based photojournalist, lost his battle against the coronavirus on April 25, 2021.

Thamira the noted film director of Tamil films passed away due to Covid-19 on April 26, 2021

Ashok Amrohi the former Indian ambassador to Brunei, Mozambique and Algeria passed away on April 27, 2021 while waiting for a bed in the parking lot of Gurgaon’s Medanta hospital for nearly five hours.

N K Bhattacharya, a former professor at Delhi University and a human rights activist passed away on April 28, 2021

Dr Joginder Singh Dayal, a prominent figure from the Communist Party of India and an activist of the All India Students Federation also a former president of All India Youth Federation passed away on April 29, 2021, in Chandigarh

Sanjivi Sundar, former Union Transport Secretary, on April 30, 2021 of Covid. He was 82.

Soli Sorabjee , the former Attorney General of India and a renowned jurist died of Covid-19 in New Delhi on April 30.

We pay our tributes to the above figures

May 1, 2021 – The Editors

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