Demise by apathy

There is no end to the nation’s misery as citizens are left lamenting their losses, while running in circles begging for beds in hospitals and oxygen cylinders. If the defining picture of the 2020 lockdown was that of law-abiding people travelling in the bowels of cement mixers, the lasting image of the second surge of the pandemic in 2021 is that of patients dying in hospitals gasping for breath with their caregivers begging for oxygen in the national capital. Theirs cannot be termed a natural death; they were killed by apathy. And they were not voiceless migrant labour but the middle class that could afford expensive treatment.

Our politicians do a lot of forward planning to get elected. They spend months or even years mobilising people, conducting several rounds of surveys understanding the choices of the voters, deploying artificial intelligence to airbrush their image and finally, reaching out to the electorate through innovative means like panna pramukh or page-in-charge of the voters’ list for every booth. Such meticulous planning and execution make them wonder-men of our democracy. But, that democracy appears to have become seriously sick like a Covid patient as it doesn’t perform any function other than electioneering. After getting elected, these same super-efficient men and women cannot even install 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption oxygen plants worth a meagre Rs 200 crore in a whole year — apparently the tendering process itself took about seven months. This Sunday, the Prime Minster announced 551 more such plants — one in almost every district. Better late than never.

Kerala is also ruled by politicians accused of being vile and corrupt, but if that state could become oxygen-surplus in no time, there ought to have been nothing stopping the Centre or the other states. All those responsible for not ramping up oxygen production, creating transportation facilities and installing oxygen plants, despite being tasked to do so, should be punished. Also, the bureaucratic and political bosses who failed to prepare for the second surge should be made answerable. What separates a failed State from a successful one is the latter’s ability to enforce accountability.

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