India is being hit by a severe second wave of covid-19 and many states are struggling to cope with the increase in cases.
Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state inthe country, is among the most affected and its people are suffering despite the fact that the authorities insist that the situation is under control, as reported the BBC journalist Geeta Pandey.
Kanwal Jeet Singh’s father, Niranjan Pal Singh, 58, died on Friday in an ambulance as he was being transported from one hospital to another.
Four hospitals they had turned him down for lack of beds.
“It was a heartbreaking day for me,” he explained by phone from his home in the city of Kanpur.
“I think if he had received treatment in time, he would have lived. But no one helped us, the police, the health authorities or the government.”
With a total of 851,620 infections and 9,830 deaths since the pandemic began last year, Uttar Pradesh had not done so badly during the first wave that devastated many other Indian states.
But the second wave has brought it to the brink of collapse.
Authorities say the situation is under control.
But disturbing images of overcrowded testing centers, hospitals rejecting patients, and funeral pyres burning 24 hours a day in cremation grounds in the state capital Lucknow and other major cities like Varanasi, Kanpur and Allahabad, have made national headlines. .
With 240 million inhabitants, Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India.
It is home to one in six Indians. If it were a separate country, it would be the fifth largest in the world by population, behind only China, India, the United States and Indonesia.
Politically, the state is also the most important in India: it has the largest number of deputies (80) in Parliament, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, although from another state, competes from here.
However, this political influence has brought it little development.
The state has 191,000 active cases right now and thousands of new infections are reported daily, although the numbers are believed to be much higher.
This has put the state’s fragile health infrastructure in the spotlight.
Among the sick are the state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, several of his cabinet colleagues, dozens of government officials and hundreds of doctors, nurses and other health workers.
Videos shared by a local journalist in Kanpur show a sick man lying on the ground in the parking lot of the government-run Lala Lajpat Rai hospital.
A short distance away, an old man sits on a bench. Both have tested positive for covid, but the hospital does not have beds to accommodate them.
Outside the government-run Kanshiram Hospital, a young woman wept as she explained that two hospitals they had refused to admit their sick mother.
“They say they have run out of beds. If you don’t have a bed, put it on the floor, but at least give it a treatment. There are many patients like her. I have seen several people who have been rejected like us.”
“The prime minister says there are beds. Please show me where they are. Please help my mother,” she said, sobbing uncontrollably.
“No one came”
The situation in the capital, Lucknow, is equally dire.
Sushil Kumar Srivastava was photographed sitting in his car, connected to an oxygen cylinder as his desperate family drove him from one hospital to another.
When they found a bed for him, it was too late.
His son Ashish was too devastated to speak. “You know what happened. I’m in no condition to speak,” he said in a cracked voice.
The handwritten note in Hindi from retired judge Ramesh Chandra, requesting help after authorities failed to remove his wife’s body from their home, was shared by hundreds of people on social media.
“My wife and I tested positive for the corona (virus). Since yesterday morning, I called the government help lines at least 50 times, but no one came to deliver any medicine or take us to the hospital.”
“Due to government oversight,” he wrote, “my wife died this morning.”
Years ago I lost hope, due to the poor medical facilities that exist in this state. This is where my ancestral village is located and I know the difficulties of finding a doctor or an ambulance, even in normal times.
With a raging pandemic, the difficulties have been exacerbated.
In the holy city of Varanasi, which is also part of Prime Minister Modi’s constituency, Vimal Kapoor has long resided.
His 70-year-old mother, Nirmala Kapoor, died of covid at a hospital last Thursday. Describe the situation as “bhayavah” – terrifying.
“I have seen too many people die in ambulances. Hospitals are turning patients away because there are no beds, pharmacies have run out of essential covid drugs and oxygen is in short supply.”
Kapoor notes that when he brought his mother’s body to the cremation ground, he came across a “lashon ka dher,” a pile of bodies.
The cost of firewood for the pyre has increased threefold and the wait for a cremation site has increased from 15 to 20 minutes to five to six hours.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. Everywhere you look, you see ambulances and dead bodies,” he said.
Stories of deaths and families devastated by Covid-19 abound as infections continue to increase.
On Sunday the state registered 30,596 new cases, the highest count in a single day.
Even this, opposition activists and politicians say, does not give a true picture of the spread of the infection.
They accuse the state of keeping the count of cases and deaths low by not conducting enough tests and by not including data from private laboratories.
Y the claim seems to be supported.
Many people I spoke with said that they had not been tested or that their positive results had not been listed on the state government site.
From Lucknow, 62-year-old Ajay Singh sent me his wife’s positive test, which is not mentioned in state records.
And neither Singh, who died in Kanpur, nor Kapoor’s mother, who died in Varanasi, were included in the state count of victims.
Their death certificates did not list the coronavirus as the cause of death.
Indian media has also questioned the government data, with reports of a mismatch between the official death toll and the bodies in the Lucknow and Varanasi crematoria.
Anshuman Rai, director of Heritage Hospitals, a private group that runs medical colleges and hospitals in the state, describes the situation as “extraordinary.”
“The reason the services are not working is because too many healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, messengers and laboratory technicians, are getting sick,” he says.
“At a time when we should be working at 200%, we cannot even do it at 100% because the health sector is totally dependent on the workforce.”
Critics blame the state and federal government for not anticipating the second wave.
They say there was a pause between September and February when health services and infrastructure could have been strengthened, the state could have created oxygen banks and stocked up on medicines, but they missed the opportunity.
And with the virus spreading rapidly, things are unlikely to improve anytime soon.
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