Delhi is one of the worst-hit states in India’s spiralling cases of infections and mounting deaths during the second Covid wave. People are aghast at the overall failure of the Delhi Government led by Arvind Kejriwal in saving precious lives. The tall claims made by Kejriwal about the measures taken by his Government to deal with Covid cases have now been laid bare as deliberate falsification of the ground realities. His Government could not be of any help to several hundreds of people in serious conditions of Covid infection when they were virtually crying and making SOS calls for urgent admission in hospitals. It emerges that hundreds of people died breathless outside the hospitals of Delhi as they were denied admission in hospitals for want of adequate beds. Many who could manage to get admission in hospitals died for want of oxygen. Media reported deaths in a number of private hospitals in Delhi because of lack of adequate oxygen supply, but lack of oxygen in Delhi government hospitals came to light from the high number of deaths in those hospitals, as told by those who handle the disposal of the dead bodies, which are in fact more than the numbers being admitted by the Delhi Government.
Kejriwal remained complacent with his claim that several Delhi government hospitals have been converted to specially treat Covid patients and even launched a mobile app to show the occupancy and vacancy in both government and private hospitals. This has now turned out to be a vain exercise, for when people desperately needed hospital care the same was not available to them. Delhi Government badly failed to create adequate additional facilities to deal with the rise in Covid cases. Delhi Government did not show any alacrity needed to tackle the exponential rise in cases beginning from mid-April of this year. Many states where the similar rise in cases occurred have been able to set up a Covid control and management system of proactively reaching out to the seriously infected people and ensuring that they are promptly taken to the hospitals for urgent care and treatment. The Delhi Government has failed to do this. As the number of cases surged, the people were told that only those with a Covid positive test result would get hospital admission, but no arrangement was made to improve the facilities for testing. The guidelines for testing issued by the Delhi Government on its own denied even symptomatic contacts of confirmed Covid patients the right to have timely tests. Even those who got tested could get their results after much delay. Large numbers of people were therefore deliberately denied admission in hospitals even when they were in a critically advanced stage of infection and many of them eventually succumbed to Covid. As I know, this includes a number of young scholars and teachers in Delhi University, JNU and Jamia Millia.
The inability to rise to the occasion prompted Arvind Kejriwal to resort to spreading falsehoods. On the issue of the dearth of oxygen cylinders in Delhi hospitals, he falsely accused the Central Government of not providing adequate quantities of oxygen. The real story is that his government was quite incapable of arranging transport in tankers of the oxygen which were promptly allocated by the Central Government. This rightly invited the ire of the Delhi High Court on Kejriwal’s Government. The court lambasted the government for its failure to check black marketing of oxygen cylinders. In the wake of the unfortunate loss of 21 lives to Covid-19 in Delhi’s Batra hospital, the court asked the Delhi government to squarely take up the responsibility of ensuring the supply of oxygen cylinders to Delhi’s smaller hospitals and nursing homes.
Kejriwal and his team’s lackadaisical and cold attitude in facing up to the urgent challenge of fighting the Covid menace and saving the lives of people are also seen in the fact that vaccination centres in Delhi are mostly closed for the last few days. Delhi government has not been able to timely procure adequate vaccines for its people especially the young people in the age group of 18-44. Only the vaccines procured and provided by the Central Government for the people above 45 years are now being administered. Kejriwal seems to be more interested in playing silly politics and engaging in blame games instead of being sensitive to the urgency of the situation. While a number of State Governments have taken emergency measures for procuring vaccines on their own, Delhi refuses to follow suit and keeps on relying on the Central Government which shows grave irresponsibility in the time of the need. When the people have been subjected to a prolonged lockdown period by the Delhi Government, it is expected that it takes all sincere efforts for expeditious completion of vaccination during this period so that further lockdowns could be avoided and people’s routine livelihood activities are resumed.
The present lockdown in Delhi and in most other States proves the foresightedness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in announcing a national lockdown in March last year. At that time Arvind Kejriwal and his team tried to mislead the people on the issue. Now that he has realized the importance of the lockdown measure, there is no crocodile tear which he shed last year in the name of the poor migrant workers and there is no news of any special measure being taken by his Government to protect the interests of the poor people during the present lockdown period in Delhi. Help to them is now provided mostly by Sewa Bharti in Delhi. Sewa Bharti is also active in helping and caring for the people who are in need of hospital care for Covid treatment but are not able to get admission in Delhi hospitals. It has helped to set up several centres for such help for the people until they are able to get hospital admission. In the meanwhile, instead of realizing the gravity of the situation and concentrating on constructive work to save people from the scourge of Covid, Arvind Kejriwal is engaged in further irresponsible behaviour. His recent claim that a new variant of Coronavirus has been found in Singapore which will harm the kids, has put the Government of India in an embarrassing position before the Singapore Government. This led to a diplomatic row between Delhi and Singapore, gratitude to S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs who tried his best to cool down things. Even, after that, his party instead of feeling guilty and apologizing charged the govt by accusing – “more concerned about their image abroad than the children in India”. Also, a few days back, in a meeting with Prime Minister, he broke the important protocol and made the meeting live on television.
The Author teaches at Satyawati College, University of Delhi