June 06, 2021

MP: Mishandling of the Covid Situation by Shivraj govt

Jaswinder Singh

IN a classic example of the ruling class policies betraying the working class, the government in Madhya Pradesh, which is reeling under the second wave of Covid, has been busy fudging data instead of helping citizens. The data related to Covid deaths is being manipulated by the Shivraj Singh-led government to brush truth under the carpet, at a time when citizens are suffering.  However, deaths cannot be hidden. The cries of the families that have lost a member - the widows, orphans, and people who have lost their children cannot be silenced. The situation as witnessed on the ground uncovers the savagery of the government. The state has been turned into a mortuary.

According to official figures, between March 2020 and May 27, 2021, the number of Covid deaths in Madhya Pradesh was 7,828. However, according to a report published in Dainik Bhaskar on May 19, the real numbers are much higher. The story reports the number of last rites at crematoriums and burial grounds across 26 of the 52 districts in the state, in the months of March and April, 2021. In these two months, 26,399 last rites were performed in the urban areas of the surveyed districts. It means on an average 433 deaths every day. Of these,11,467 dead bodies were cremated following the Covid protocols. This means every day 188 bodies have been cremated following Covid protocols.

How horrifying the situation is could be understood from the fact that government is claiming that 7,828 people died of Covid in 15 months. But the report shows at least 11,467 people died of Covid, and their bodies were cremated following Covid protocols in just two months.

It is important to note that the report did not cover every crematorium and burial place in the 26 districts, only those in urban areas were surveyed. However, it is evident that the situation is as bad in rural areas, especially since many returned from the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. Since medical facilities are in bad shape in rural areas and testing is scarce, the real numbers will never be known.

Another newspaper said that in the rest of the 26 districts, there are no facilities for Covid tests or treatment, and that data is not included. It is obvious that the situation there would be alarming. Another aspect is that there were 14,932 deaths in this two-month period, which are supposed not to be Covid cases. The large number of presumably non-Covid deaths shows a lack of access to hospitals for treatment for other ailments as well.

Such alarming figures should be shameful for any sensitive government. It calls for a review of government policies on the pandemic. However, the Shivraj government is quiet.

Perhaps the news report made the leader of the opposition understand the gravity of the situation. He conducted a press conference and said there have been 1,20,000 deaths in two months and most of the deaths are due to Covid. A sensitive government should take cognizance of such charges, and if it is wrong, a clarification should have been issued. Government should have come out with the real figures. The leader of the opposition also challenged the government to refute the charges.

However, BJP decided to run a smear campaign on this. The chief minister called it a conspiracy to weaken the fight against the pandemic. He also said it will discourage healthcare workers. Instead of coming clean, BJP decided to burn effigies of the leader of opposition across the state and a campaign to file FIRs against him were started. In the midst of this, the state went on sinking in the pandemic.

The LDF government in Kerala through its successful fight against Covid proved that the pandemic cannot be handled without strong public healthcare infrastructure. In Madhya Pradesh, the healthcare system is sick.  On May 25, a daily issued figures related to medical colleges and health infrastructure in the state. Such reports should lead a democratic government to introspect. However, expecting this from BJP appears to be too much.

According to these figures, there should be 7,000 doctors, but so far only 2,814 posts have been approved, and there are 1,958 doctors. There are 856 vacant posts. Eight medical colleges, including those in Bhopal, Indore, and Gwalior, have dean posts lying vacant. The situation of 13 medical colleges in the state is as given:

Medical College                                      Approved posts                                  Appointed Doctors                             Empty posts
GMC Bhopal                                                    331                                                         294                                               37
MGM Indore                                                    360                                                         284                                              76
GRMC Gwalior                                                 288                                                         244                                              44
NSCB Jabalpur                                                 341                                                         245                                              96
SSMC Riva                                                       240                                                         198                                              42
Bundelkhand Medical College Sagar              151                                                         107                                              44
Vidisha Medical College                                 162                                                           89                                              73
Ratlam Medical College                                 162                                                         104                                               58
Khandwa Medical College                             168                                                           88                                               80
Shahdol Medical College                               168                                                           79                                               89   
Shivpuri Medical College                               151                                                           68                                               83
Datiya Medical College                                  123                                                           81                                               42
Chhindwara Medical College                        168                                                           77                                                82   
Total                                                            2814                                                       1958                                              856

The state of healthcare can be imagined seeing this data. But it does not show the whole picture.

Posts for doctors, specialists, nurses, compounders, technical staff and para medical staff are also lying vacant. This is the picture that emerges.

Group                                     Approved posts                                        Appointed                         Vacant Posts
Medical Officer                               5000                                                    3600                                     1400
Specialists                                       3500                                                      850                                     2659
Nursing staff                                 20000                                                  12000                                     8000
Lab technician                                4000                                                     2500                                    1500
Radiographer                                 3500                                                     2300                                    1200
Compounder                                 4000                                                      1500                                   2500
Total                                            40000                                                     22750                                 17250

Even in the pandemic, empty posts are not being filled. Over 9,000 healthcare workers are protesting demanding permanent jobs. The government has turned a blind eye to it and they have gone on a strike. This is not all, in Gwalior's Gajara Raja Medical College, eight medical officers have been hired temporarily. Their tenure ends on May 31. The government has already sent them a notice ten days ahead of the date to vacate the post. In different categories, there are 16,000 empty posts for nurses.

Black marketeering of medicines is rampant across the state and ministers have been found involved in black marketeering. Readers would remember last year as Covid spread, the state health minister was in Bangalore with 22 MLAs. It is because of his resignation that BJP is in power in the state today. Now he is a minister in the Shivraj government. A person found selling Remdesivir injections in black said he used to get the injections from the driver of the minister's wife. BJP leaders have remained mum over the allegation. Perhaps they are silent because the chief minister’s photo with one Akash Dubey, who was found selling the drug in black, has gone viral. The Sangh is not far behind. The director of City Hospital in Jabalpur is the district chief of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He has so far sold over one lakh fake Remdesivir injections. This shows how many innocent lives have been claimed by the BJP and Sangh leaders. Medicines are being sold in black in the open, and they are being sold without prescriptions. Medical stores are also not giving receipts.

State government has deputed almost all staff across departments on Covid duties. However, only the health department, home department, sanitation workers at civic bodies, and tax department have been identified as Corona warriors.

According to government figures, till May 1, 723 teachers died because of Covid and three thousand were infected. But neither have teachers been designated as Corona warriors nor have their families received Rs. 50 lakh compensation as promised by the state government, or treatment facilities for those infected.

A week ago the government announced that Rs 5 lakh compensation and job to one dependent would be given to kin of government employees from these four departments who lost their lives due to Covid. This is clear proof of discrimination among employees.

The whole nation saw the dead bodies floating in Ganga. However, bodies were also found in Narmada River, which did not come to attention as such. The matter is not just about the bodies, it is about the apathy of the Shivraj government.

Fearing falling popularity, the government has promised Rs. 1 lakh compensation to kin of those who die of Covid. A week since the announcement, the government has not issued any orders. It is also not clear if the compensation would be only for the families of those who died in the second wave, or all covid deaths would be included. Another problem is that according to the government there have been only 7,828 Covid deaths, while as the report showed 11,467 Covid deaths happened in March and April, in 26 districts. According to figures given by leader of opposition there have been 1,20,000 deaths in just these two months.

The question is that would compensation be given only to those mentioned in government records? If the government gives out compensation as per their records, it will be another injustice and insult to the people who died of Covid.

Even though there has been a curfew, there is no thought given to daily wagers and unorganised sector workers like construction workers, bidi makers, garment makers, hospitality industry workers, small traders, and others. They have not been given any relief.
The Chief Minister has announced free ration for three months for those with ration cards. Not all are able to get that ration, and even those who are getting it are being given just bajra. Only 0.97 per cent of families with income under Rs. 5000 have been included in the government's list. While people are struggling with food and water, the government is extracting water and electricity bills.

People are suffering due to the pandemic, have lost jobs, and are also bearing the brunt of inflation. Petrol and diesel prices have increased, because of short supply, prices of food grains have also increased. This is how the prices have risen:

Commodity Price per Kg in January Price per kg in May
Mustard oil Rs. 120 Rs. 160-170
Soybean oil Rs. 115 Rs. 157
Palm oil Rs. 100 Rs. 125-135
Sunflower oil Rs. 130 Rs. 167
Peanut oil Rs. 140 Rs. 155
Bengal gram Rs. 68 Rs. 75
Arhar daal Rs. 90 Rs. 117
Urad daal Rs. 105 Rs. 120
Mung  Rs. 100 Rs. 120
Flour Rs. 22 Rs. 30
Gas cylinder Rs. 694 Rs. 809

The brunt of inflation has led to people being able to buy lesser food.

Even during a pandemic, the BJP and Sangh are busy in petty politics. The all party committees at district level do not include the CPIM, even though these committees are mere formalities. Power lies in the hands of Crisis Management Committees which have only BJP members. Even opposition party MLAs, or urban and rural representatives of any kind have not been included in these committees.

In addition to all this, a letter has been written to the state government by representatives of 12 political parties on May 19 with six demands. Memorandums have been given to district administration. On May 21, protests were held at all branches of the party from 4 pm to 6 pm against the government's actions. The fight will need to be intensified in the coming days.