During the entire election campaigning, all the front-ranking BJP ministers from the Centre, and BJP-ruled state of UP or the top-ranking ruling Party functionaries played the record of how effective for sustained development, it would be for the states to have a ‘double engine’ government, that is BJP governments in states, with a BJP government at the Centre.
Here , we provide a few instances of how such a leading double engine government in UP is faring in combating the raging pandemic second phase, following the footsteps of its parental Union government.
Instance number 1
Uttar Pradesh, for instance, has recorded over 2,97,616 Covid-19 cases, and in the past 24 hours there has been an increase of 9,472, according to data shared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). According to the Government’s policy think tank NITI Aayog’s prediction, Uttar Pradesh may be the next Covid-19 hotspot after Delhi, which is reeling under a massive surge in cases.
According to news reports the NITI Aayog has projected that Uttar Pradesh is likely to add 1,19,604 coronavirus infection cases by April 30, Maharashtra is predicted to add 99,665 cases and the surge in Delhi will continue with 67,134 cases.
These predictions of the Covid-19 of the pandemic that is expected to peak around mid-May, with a projected daily infection count of five lakhs were made by NITI Aayog member (health) VK Paul during a presentation at the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attended by chief ministers of high caseload states. According to the news reports VK Paul said, “Heavily populated states are at particular risk and health infrastructure in these states is not adequate enough to cope with the present scenario.”
Uttar Pradesh is one of the most densely populated states in the country, and it seems that dark days may lie ahead as seen in Delhi that shares a large porous border with it. There is an acute shortage of hospital beds, ICU beds, oxygen for Covid-19 patients and many are dying waiting for help to reach. Many Delhi Hospitals have been flagging that oxygen supplies are running low, announcements are made over social media, and pasted outside hospitals.
According to reports, the NITI Aayog has projected a daily shortage in Uttar Pradesh of isolation beds with oxygen at around 16,752. There may be a 3,061 shortfall of ICU beds and at least 1,538 ventilators will be needed in the state. (sabrangIndia-27-04-21)
Instance number 2
“My mother will die if you take away her oxygen cylinder.” In a viral video shot on April 27 at Upadhyay Hospital in Agra, the well known tourists’ city in UP, a young man in a PPE suit is seen down on his knees on the road pleading with the Uttar Pradesh police to not confiscate an oxygen cylinder that some men under their escort are seen carting towards a van. On 28 April, this video was tweeted by Times of India, among others, and was soon shared multiple times.
The young man was identified by The Wire, a web portal, as Anmol Goyal, 22-year-old. Anmol’s mother passed away two hours after the video was taken, he told TheWire. She was 53 years old. “The only thing that the doctor said would help her – an oxygen cylinder – was taken away from us,” Anmol said. In his tweet with the video, the TOI journalist had alleged that the cylinder was reportedly taken “to supply it for a VIP.”
Instance number 3
It may be recalled that two days earlier, the BJP Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath had reportedly asked senior administrative and police officials in an online meeting on Sunday, 25 April, to ”crack down” on hospitals that discharge patients on the grounds of a shortage of oxygen or “complain” about shortages to the media.
Following this meeting the state’s additional director general of police (law and order), issued a letter to all police officials in Uttar Pradesh which said that “misleading” social media posts related to the Covid 19 situation in the state must be penalised. It entailed : “It has come to our notice that misleading information, such as copy-pasted posts, is being shared on social media to create panic”. “At present, it is very important to take strong action against unruly elements of society who put up misleading posts and to nip this misinformation in the bud. Tell your district’s social media cells to be active 24×7 and take action if any misleading posts intended to create panic are found.” (The Wire 28-04-21)
Instance number 4
In line with this order, the Amethi police booked a man named Shashank Yadav under the Indian Penal Code and Epidemic Act, accusing him of creating fear among the people after he tweeted on Monday: “Need oxygen cylinder, ASAP”. He had apparently required it for his 88-year-old relative. The police framed a story that on enquiry the man was found sleeping peacefully, while the patient had died not of Covid -19 but of a cardiac arrest and did not require oxygen support. Notably, Yadav’s tweet never mentioned of Covid 19 infection of the patient. An FIR was lodged against Yadav and he was served a notice under Section 41 of the Cr PC (requiring appearance before police to prevent the person from committing any further offence). The Tribune 28-04-21)
Instance number 5
In Gorakhpur, the CM’s home district, a privately-run Durgavati Hospital posted a notice on 24 April stating “It is to bring to the notice of all attendants of patients in the hospital that due to a shortage of oxygen in the hospital, we will not be able to give your patient the required medical treatment. We are informing you in advance so you can shift your patient to another hospital as soon as possible.” A few hours later, the notice was removed and from then on, the hospital administration merely said that oxygen was being arranged. Obviously, removal of notice was virtually coupled with the BJP chief minister ordering crackdown on hospitals reporting shortage of oxygen on 25 April only.
Instance number 6
A Kanpur newspaper Amar Ujala published a report on 23 April, with the headline “476 Cremations, Pyres Burning Even After Sunset”. It said that there had been 476 cremations across different cremation grounds in the district on 22 April. However, the official record of the Covid 19 deaths on April 22, which was released by the state government on 23 April , showed only nine Covid deaths.
District officials alleged the report was “misleading” and Alok Tiwari, the district magistrate (DM) of Kanpur, wrote to the newspaper: “With reference to your news story which said that corona deaths have resulted in discontinuation of the [Hindu] tradition of burning dead bodies before sunset, investigation by the municipal commissioner has revealed that this news item is misleading and can cause people to believe that all the deaths were due to Covid 19 only. Your newspaper is a reputable newspaper and it is not expected that you would publish such misleading news.” The letter continued: “You are requested to get the versions of the officers concerned before publishing such news items in the future. Please issue a clarification for this story.” On being asked, the DM told the Press that “It was a very polite and simple request to the newspaper, coming from a government functionary, requesting the newspaper to not publish articles that appear to be misleading,”
The newspaper continued to publish reports from cremation grounds, stating that its staff were only reporting the facts as they were. It asserted that running a clarification could be considered only if the administration could point to errors in any story published by it. (The Wire 28-04-21)
Instance number 7
In Lucknow, a press report claimed that Covid 19 related deaths in the city were being underreported. The Wire contacted Ram Nagina, the municipal officer in charge of the Covid19 death records in Lucknow’s cremation grounds. He refused to share any information. “I am busy and I don’t have the data right now,” Nagina reportedly said. According to the report, the death counts recorded at crematoria across the city were two to three times higher than the official death counts. Perceptibly in an attempt to hide the actual number of Covid 19 deaths in Lucknow, the UP government installed opaque fencing outside cremation grounds after a video showing multiple burning pyres went viral on Twitter. (ibid)
Instance no 8
Union Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar has shot off a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, raising concerns about shortage of medical oxygen, alleged black-marketing of essential medical equipment such as ventilators, and the difficulties Covid patients are facing in getting a bed in hospitals in his parliamentary constituency Bareilly. “I have received complaints that in Bareilly, patients going to government hospitals are not being admitted as the hospital is asking them to get a referral letter from the district hospital. Because of this, the patient keeps running around from one place to another and in the process his oxygen level decreases,’’ the minister said in his letter. “This is a matter of grave concern. Please ensure that this does not happen,” he added.
Resentment has been brewing among BJP MPs and MLAs over the way the Yogi Adityanath government has handled the Covid situation in the state. More than half-a-dozen BJP MPs and MLAs have written to the UP CM since mid-April when Covid cases started surging in UP, about the suffering of patients owing to the shortage of hospital beds and medical oxygen in the state. Last week, BJP MP from Kanpur Satyadev Pachauri had also written to Yogi Adityanath highlighting how people in Kanpur were dying outside their homes, outside hospitals and inside ambulances because of absence of timely treatment. UP cabinet minister Brajesh Pathak, who also holds the law portfolio, was the first one to write to the state government, drawing attention to the failure of the Lucknow administration to ensure beds and oxygen supply to critical patients, which led to mounting casualties. Meerut BJP MP Rajendra Aggarwal and Mohanlalganj BJP MP Kaushal Kishore have also written to the Yogi government about the shortage of oxygen supply in both private and government hospitals. Kishore had also demanded that the Election Commission cancel the panchayat elections, to focus on the Covid crisis and restrict the spread of infections in the state. BJP’s Bhadohi MLA Dinanath Bhaskar, in his letter to CM Yogi Adityanath on 28 April, demanded an investigation against doctors posted at a Covid facility in the district, following the death of BJP leader Lal Bahadur Maurya. (The Print 10-05-21)
Arguably, many, if not all, state governments are in the habit of such underreporting of Covid 19 deaths to cover up the rickety skeleton of the healthcare infrastructure of the country. In Uttar Pradesh too, besides the above instances death counts from Covid 19 have been underreported in Varanasi, Ghaziabad, Agra, Jhansi and Bareilly districts of the state. Claiming that the state has the coronavirus situation under control, the Adityanath administration of UP is suppressing all indications of what is actually happening on the ground.
So why lay stress upon selected instances? A few issues are involved. One, this busts the myth of efficacy of ‘double engine’ government. Two, the UP CM as also other BJP leaders accused other state governments, for example, that of West Bengal of lying, coercing and cheating people. Be that as it may. The instances referred are few, but clear enough to prove the hypocrisy of the BJP CM. Of course, the UP government and its CM faithfully follow the Union government of the same ruling combine, RSS-BJP. It is now quite well known how heartlessly and cunningly the Union government used the first pandemic to push through its various anti-people agenda, like Labour Codes, Farm Laws, National Education Policy etc., without effectively attempting to improve public healthcare system to rise to the occasion or giving relief to hapless victims of the pandemic. It is also clear to people of the country, how the Union government wasted precious last few months’ time to prepare for fighting an impending second wave, though there were clear cautions raised by medical and other concerned experts. The result is what we find now. The BJP Prime Minister, who proclaims himself to be saviour for poorer countries by providing them with vaccines etc. for fighting Covid 19 pandemic there, is now begging from door to door in the world for alms: vaccine, oxygen, equipments, medical kits. Naturally such a government would like to underreport the crisis to save its face. And following their footsteps, double-engine state governments like UP state governments will naturally try to take refuge behind the measures of coercion, catering false information, underreporting real crisis and so on. People need to get at this truth and press upon such governments to release maximum effort and resources to effectively fight the deadly second wave of Covid 19 pandemic.