–Kakali Das |
We are in terrible times; human rights, human lives have all been abandoned. They are abandoned at the hands of a governance which has failed us. Accountability is a question which the constitution has provided for us.In the last 4 days, 75 patients in Goa’s Medical College and Hospital passed away because of a shortage of Oxygen, causeto what the government said “logistical issues in the supply of medical oxygen.” According to The Wire, there have been 223 deaths in a hospital, in Goa, in which hospital authorities and local administration have confirmed the cause due to a shortage of Oxygen. Another 70 deaths in which patients’ families alleged lack of oxygen, blamed the authorities for it, although they haven’t made any confirmations on those allegations yet. The states which have reported deaths due to the shortage of oxygen include, Delhi, Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, and Goa. There have been cases filed against hospitals, individuals which have put up notices complaining about the shortage of oxygen. Sun Hospital in Uttar Pradesh has an FIR filed against it by the Uttar Pradesh police for allegedly spreading false rumours, because it had told the patients’ families to take their loved ones elsewhere, since the hospital was running out of oxygen.
There are several other issues about the deaths that have occurred in our country, in the second wave of Covid-19, due to ignoring the expert advice. On 30th November, 2020, the technical advisory committee comprising of, Epidemiologists, Doctors, Public Policy experts warned the government of the second wave of Covid-19, that they predicted erupting in between April and May, 2021, and had submitted a district-wise action plan on how to tackle it. There is no evidence yet whether the government considered the advice of the experts and acted upon it. Apparently, that report also advised the government to augment beds, ICUs, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, antiviral drugs, ambulance services and others.
Moreover, the massive shortage of vaccinations in the country is making the states run hither tither. From exporting about six and a half crore vaccine doses to now falling short ourselves, the system’s negligence and abandonment have cost us our lives. We, now, have reached a point where the state governments are issuing global tenders to bring in vaccinations on their own. According to many experts, it reduces India’s bargaining power by fragmenting each order into every state government as opposed to the central government, who were to actually place the orders. The states of Maharashtra, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, are now competing with all of the countries in the world in order to source these vaccinations. In fact, the city of Mumbai has been reported issuing its own tender. The competition is in between the cities andthe states as well, along with the countries.
Agreed that it is the virus that’s the primary problem, but it is, now, beyond the shadow of doubt that there has been a severe mismanagement of this problem, that has led to avoidable deaths across the country. What is the accountability for these avoidable deaths? Are these loved ones of ours merely statistics? The state governments, in various cases, haven’t even recorded the deaths accurately. To remind the readers, whenever a state or any government refuses to record deaths correctly, it basically turns our data into rubbish, while severely impeding our ability to prepare for any more crisis further. Since the data haven’t been recorded precisely, the country is in no position to study it accurately and understand the variants and the behaviour of the virus in our population, weather, or even our drugs that are currently in use.
One of the most fascinating provisions in our constitution is the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, which are very vast and wide. They audit the actions of the state in financial matter and all consequential proceedings. But unfortunately, the CAG’s reports have fallen 75% per year in the last couple of years; it had actually submitted 55 reports in 2015, and less than 14 reports in 2020. When the transparency and authenticity of the reports of CAG in the concrete affairs of the state are in question today, it seems pointless to ask for any scrutiny or inspection on the matters, which, anyway, falls under the domain of the term, ‘natural disaster.’
Does all of these disasters by the system add up to criminal negligence, dereliction of duty? Is it a violation of the laws that have been written down for us under the Disaster Management Act, 2005? Where will the accountability come from? Will we have to wait for PILs to be filed in the courts?To some extent, there are contributory negligence of the people, and we mustn’t forget that the buck also stops at us, the common mass. But where does it start from and what is the responsibility of the centre and the state, particularly, when ‘health’ is a state subject, but the centre is deciding the allocation of oxygen?
We do not value human lives; whenever there is a miscarriage of justice, whether it’s by the state, or the centre, for wrongful arrests or deaths, there are no punishments for it. Tort laws in our country are unfortunately not as well developed as in other countries. Unless there is a recognition that the human life is valuable, the country is doomed. The situation, here, reminds me of the Nuremberg Trials and the justice that was prevailed, barring no state officials while proven guilty. To the uninformed, the Nuremberg Trials were a series of 13 trials that were conducted in a place named Nuremberg, Germany after the Second World War, holding the Nazi officials to trial for the deaths and the war crimes that took place at the hands of Nazis. This was a trial that was conducted by a bench of international judges who passed the judgement for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, judicial, and economic leadership of Nazi, Germany. I doubt, whether we would find any international organisation intervening in the trial, if any, in our case. There is, currently, an overlapping of duties between the centre and the state governments, city governments and municipal corporations, so who will hold this trial in our case? Who do you hold accountable for when a state asks for allocation of oxygen, but receives nothing in return, or an allocation of 10%, more than the required amount to a selected few, from the Centre. The trials, here, might be individualistic of those who decide to come to court