In an eight minute powerful speech in the Rajya Sabha on 20 July, RJD MP Professor Manoj Jha said that those who lost their lives in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have left behind a “living document of our failure”.
Jha held all governments since Independence collectively responsible for the tragedy that unfolded during the pandemic.
“This is not a speech. This is an apology to all those citizens whose deaths we didn’t even acknowledge,” he said.
“Our faith in this House should make us send a collective apology to all those whose bodies were floating in the Ganga and which we sought to dismiss,” he adds.
“What happened during the one-and-a-half months (during the second wave of the pandemic) feels like a nightmare. The anguished cries for hospitals, ICU beds, medicines.…,” he said in a speech that saw near constant applause from the opposition benches.
Terming the one and a half months of the second wave a “nightmare”, Jha said “It was said, the governments didn’t fail, the system failed. What’s this system? Since childhood, I have been told that behind the system there are people. If the system has failed, whether in Delhi or in village alleys, then the governments there have failed. Don’t blame it on the system because people make the system.”
Attacking the government on advertisements that claim “free vaccines, free ration and free treatment”, RJD’s senior politician went on to say: “When I step out of this House, I see big advertisements saying: ‘free vaccines, free rations, free treatment’. This is a welfare state, isn’t it? When a poor man buys a bar of soap, he is as much a taxpayer as are Adani and Ambani. And you’re telling him ‘free vaccine, free treatment, free ration’. No Sir, nothing is free. He has a stake. This welfare state has a commitment. Don’t denigrate, demonise and dwarf him. This is my appeal.”
Delhi University professor further says: “If we are not able correct this (state of affairs), the coming centuries will not pardon us. It doesn’t matter if you put up big thanksgiving advertisements. History should be able to say thank you.”
Jha added: “A lot of big talk is going on about new legislations. Why aren’t you (the government) talking about the right to health? No ifs and buts. A constitutionally guaranteed (right to health) that is linked to right to life is the need of the hour. Then, no hospital can dare to play with the right to life.”
Watch full video of speech: