Shaheen Muddassir & Nafis Haider
The people of Bihar are in the state of constant panic and confusion. With no words coming from the state government and the silence of the officials in the face of vaccination drive and medical help, the people are left in an abyss where no one is coming for their help.
“We are left with nothing here. Our locality has no good hospital and the nearby hospitals which provide good medical service are charging very high price. We are not even able to find the necessary medicines for COVID-19” said Moin Ansari from Patna. He lives in Phulwari Sharif and owns a shop in the local market.
“The condition here is really bad” he said. “Market has been severely affected and there is no other means of earning for me. This is with most of the people here. It is becoming difficult even to find bread and butter for the family.”
Days after Nitish Kumar led government found 71 dead bodies in the Ganga in Buxar district, more bodies were also fished out near the Gulabi ghat in Patna which also included dead body of a child. With the corpses found floating in the Ganga ghat in Patna suspected of being of those deceased due to coronavirus, the residents living in the nearby colonies are utterly traumatized.
Shadaab khan, a resident of Haroon Nagar colony explained the chaotic state of the things: “People are not coming out to even give medicines to those suffering from virus. You cannot depend on even your neighbours as everyone is afraid they will catch the disease. The old were the first to pass away during the month of Ramadan. People were so traumatized by the number of deaths from this colony alone that we had to call off the practice of announcement of death from the mosque.”
As the result of the inefficiency of Bihar government in testing people who are coming from other states, many villages which had zero cases are witnessing a rise in COVID-19 positive patients and the subsequent deaths. Recently, in a high level meeting, CM Nitish Kumar showed concern about the proper testing and quarantine of migrants who are coming back to Bihar in the second wave of COVID-19 but nothing concrete actually happened on the ground.
The locals are also complaining of the forgery in the results by the government hospitals. Tasneem Malik who recently recovered from the infection said that three weeks before when he had high fever and severe diahorea along with other symptoms of COVID-19, he went for a COVID test. The result was negative but after two days when his case became serious he went for the test again, he was tested positive for virus. There is a growing feeling among the locals that the government is trying to reduce the count of COVID-19 positive cases by pronouncing people negative even though they are positive. Moreover, between 5 May and 15 May, positivity rate has come down from around 15% to 5%. This can seem like the effect of lockdown but such a sharp decline have raised suspicions of data manipulation.
As on 18 March this year, Bihar recorded the highest single day COVID-19 deaths as 111 persons succumbed to the virus. But the locals are saying that the death toll is much higher than what is projected in the official data. This claim of the locals is substantiated by the inconsistencies in the toll reported for Buxar by Bihar’s chief secretary and the Patna divisional commissioner. The chief secretary submitted report in the Patna High Court that since March 1 only six deaths due to COVID-19 had taken place in Buxar, while the divisional commissioner’s affidavit mentioned between 5 May and 14 May, 789 cremations held at just one cremation ground of the district.
Bihar medical sector is already in a dilapidated condition and the surge in coronavirus infections is making it explicitly visible.
The already exhausted staffs and doctors are made to work in severe infectious environment without proper equipment. The Indian Medical Association in its report on Tuesday said that out of 269 doctors who died in second wave of COVID, as many as 78 were from Bihar. The required strength of doctors in Bihar is around 17,000, but the presence in government hospitals is mere 8,000. The deaths of doctors accompanied with an already shortage of staff is making the condition worse.
The Indian army has created two field hospitals to assist Bihar government in fighting the rising number of cases but compared to the rising demands of doctors and beds in the city, they are a mere eyewash.
There is urgent need for CM Nitish Kumar to take concrete action and increase the number of testing as well as provide medical assistance to the general public. With the central government shedding off all the responsibility of curbing the crisis of second wave of the pandemic, it is essential that CM Nitish Kumar devise mechanisms to curb the surge of coronavirus infections in the third most populated state in India.
Shaheen Muddassir studies History at Jamia Millia Islamia while Nafis Haider is a student of Political Science at Aligarh Muslim University.