Patna: Demanding Oxygen for COVID-19 patients battling for their lives in hospitals and protesting for its supply may put people behind bars in Bihar. This was evident at a government-run hospital in Bhagalpur district, where two brothers in their early 20s were arrested and sent to jail after they demanded Oxygen for their critically-ill grandparents and voiced their protest when it was not provided.Their grandparents had been admitted to the hospital after their condition deteriorated.
Akshay Kapri and Chhotu Kapri were arrested by the police on Tuesday based on a written complaint by the superintendent at the Mayaganj Hospital in Bhagalpur for allegedly assaulting medical staff and vandalising property.
Barari Police Station officer in-charge Navneesh Kumar told Newsclick on Wednesday that two brothers were arrested following a complaint by the hospital superintendent. "After having arresting the two of them they were produced before a local court which sent them to jail," he added.
Police officials reasoned that the constabulary had no role in the matter as the arrest was made on the basis of a complaint by the hospital authorities who accused them of vandalism and manhandling of staff. "Police will conduct a probe into the case," Kumar said.
Meanwhile, Akshay and Chhotu Kapri refuted allegations by hospital authorities that they attacked doctors and vandalised property. Both have reportedly admitted that they were angry after Oxygen was not provided despite repeated requests and had staged a protest to ensure its supply.
A close relative of the arrested Kapri brothers said the two young men, who had already lost three members of their family – including their father and uncle – in the last few days, were terrified after the Oxygen level of their grandparents dropped. They first cried for Oxygen and later protested when it was not provided. "Both were upset as three of their family members had succumbed to COVID-19. After their grandparents developed breathlessness following their levels dropping, they demanded Oxygen; that was their crime," the relative said.
This is not an isolated case. Three close relatives of COVID-19 patients were arrested by the police in Vaishali and Muzaffarpur districts for vandalism and manhandling of staff at a government hospital after the patients died.Those arrested accused the hospital of negligence and lack of proper treatment on time.
Lack of Oxygen, beds and proper treatment on time are claiming lives of many severely affected COVID-19 patients across Bihar. Despite drawing repeated flak from the Patna High Court over the last two weeks with oral observations mentioning the failure of the state government to ensure Oxygen supply to hospitals and arrange for beds and proper treatment, things do not appear to be moving in the right direction on the ground.
The Patna HC on Monday had observed that the state government had failed in controlling the COVID-19 situation in Bihar. It further stated that there was no action plan with the government to handle the pandemic and that the Health Department officials are submitting farcical reports which are far from the truth on the ground.
The Court on Tuesday again pulled up the state government over its failure to ensure beds, ICUs, Oxygen and ventilators and asked the Centre’s additional solicitor general, K.N. Singh, to speak to the defence secretary regarding handing over the entire health infrastructure of the state to the Armed Forces Medical Services. The HC observed that it felt “ashamed” that it had reposed faith in the government this far and “continuously passed orders while people were dying”.
Most of the private hospitals have been reportedly refusing to admit COVID-19 patients citing a lack of Oxygen supply. Even if someone does manage to get beds, their close relatives are being asked by the authorities to arrange Oxygen for them.
The price of an Oxygen cylinder is allegedly between Rs 50, 000 and Rs 65,000 in the black market in Patna, an observation also made by the Patna High Court during a PIL hearing on Monday.
The state has 1,10,430 active COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, with 14,794 new cases reported. On Tuesday a total of 105 people lost their lives to COVID-19 while 28 died on Monday and 151 on May 1.