With coronavirus pandemic protocols and corresponding medical treatment changing every day, doctors and scientists are scrambling for the right treatment that will put an end to human suffering. But shockingly, both the state and Central governments and the agencies concerned, seem to have lost the thread of the narrative. Their apparent helplessness has led to fear and anxiety not only among the masses of the country, but also the privileged. Amid this chaos, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments are handling the Covid-19 situation in mutually exclusive ways, instead of launching a mutually cooperative programme. After all, they were one state barely seven years ago!
What could be a better example other than the very illogical decision taken by the Telangana government to stop ambulances carrying Covid patients from neighbouring Andhra and other states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Chattisgarh from entering Hyderabad city. This decision came under severe criticism from Telangana High Court, especially the stoppage of ambulances from Andhra.
But the Telangana government has set up checkposts on borders and continues stopping the entry of ambulances. Further, it has justified its action, saying since Hyderabad is a medical hub, an overwhelming number of patients from neighbouring states are clogging up Hyderabad hospitals. This logic is against all basic medical ethics. Surprisingly, the neighbouring Andhra government has not reacted to this and is maintaining a stoic silence on the issue.
Amidst speculation that the Telangana government would announce the second round of lockdown due to a continuing surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths in the state, Telangana Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar convened a media conference. There, he explained at length about the Covid kits that the state government was supplying to people for treating themselves at home. He detailed how every medicine in the kit would help people to recover. But if the fever persisted for more than four days, home isolation patients should take the steroids provided in the kits. Needless to say, within 24 hours of Somesh Kumar making a mention of the medicines, they went out of stock from all medical stores in the state.
CS or medicine man?
Immediately thereafter, private companies manufacturing these medicines jacked up their prices by more than 100 per cent. In our country, where selling medicines without a prescription is a crime, how can a chief secretary ask people to use particular medicines? Is the treatment of coronavirus as simple as that suggested by the CS, who is not a qualified doctor? Who will take responsibility for the consequences of treatment such as taking steroids, as suggested by Somesh Kumar?
All along, the Telangana government had been against imposing any lockdown, as it fears a repeat of the adverse impact that it has already caused to the state’s sinking economy. Due to the firm stand taken by Telangana High Court on the matter, the state finally relented and imposed a 10-day lockdown in the state, with just 15 hours’ notice. Within the first hour of the lockdown announcement, all shops, particularly liquor shops, witnessed huge crowds. Just two shops in Hyderabad sold their entire stock of Rs. 3.5 crore each within two hours.
There was a silver lining in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh after its Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy announced that Covid treatment would be part of the state government’s health scheme Aarogyasri, wherein a patient’s hospitalisation and treatment costs are borne by the government. AP CM YS Jagan had also taken a major policy decision for the first time in the country about the children left orphaned by the death of their parents and guardians to Covid.
The AP state government has decided to set up 32 child care centres, especially for those children who have lost their parents and guardians. With some reports suggesting that the third wave of Covid may hit children below the age of 18 years, these child care centres will provide food, shelter, home and education free of cost to the children. The AP state government has also set up two helplines, 181 and 1098, to help children get admission to these centres.
It is pertinent to note that despite warnings of the deadly second wave, the CMs of both states went ahead with bypolls, municipal polls and panchayat polls, triggering more cases of coronavirus. And the state election commissions have become complicit in the decisions to hold elections despite the pandemic. On the matter of elections, both the CMs are on the same page.
Meanwhile, desperate as they are, people of both states are trying every medicine and treatment – from naturopathy to Ayurveda and homeopathy to herbal medicine to protect themselves from corona. Not to mention quick remedies posted on social media.
The words of the popular song ‘Dil ka Haal Sune Dilwala’ from the film Shri 420 come to mind. In that, Kaviraj Shailendraji has clearly warned, ‘Bin Mausam Malhar Na Gaana (Don’t sing Raag Malhar unless it is the rainy season)' and also, ‘Tinke Ka Leke Sahara Na Behna’ (Don’t swim with the support of a straw)'.
But we seem to have forgotten both the Kaviraj and his advice.
The writer is a senior journalist based in Hyderabad