The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the already putrefying socio-economic system in India. There have been heart rending stories of pain, borne out of the apathy shown to workers returning to their homes, immediately after the first lockdown was announced in the country. Massive unemployment, with about 120 million people across the country without a job at the moment, has further accentuated the misery of the people.
A hullabaloo was created in the beginning of the lockdown – that it is essential and similar to fighting a war – with a euphoric call by the Prime Minister himself, who said that the Mahabharat was won in 18 days and the present war (first lockdown period) will be won in 21 days. However, the situation deteriorated and we are now in the fourth phase of the lockdown with more than 60 days having passed by. The total number of people in the country infected by the novel coronavirus are 1,51,767, while 4,337 deaths have occurred so far. Even non-COVID deaths, i.e., those that have died because of starvation, exhaustion, accident, suicides and the like, due to the lockdown, are at 667.
The government has miserably failed to even ensure food to the Indian people during this period. In a few states, especially those governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh etc., more than 74% of the relief camps were organised by civil society groups; the government was missing. In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Centre said that of the total relief camps being run across the country, 65% are being run by Kerala. This, in itself, explains the situation!
The people, however, contributed to the government and to civil society groups in large numbers and volume to run relief camps, to provide them food and health equipment. But, the worst that one could imagine in such a time is that someone would use this precarious period as an opportunity to mint money and amass wealth through corrupt deals. It is inhuman to believe that such deals would be struck for the supply of health equipment – but it did happen – and its beneficiaries are none other than some top BJP leaders in BJP-ruled states. Such deals were made in two states, namely Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, where the BJP is in power, and the leadership of the BJP has been directly indicted.
PURCHASE OF PPE AND OTHER EQUIPMENT
A major scandal that has come to light during the lockdown is about a proposal to purchase PPEs (personal protective equipments) and other medical gear in the state of Himachal Pradesh. The Director Health Services of the Himachal state government, Ajay Kumar Gupta, has been arrested by the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau in Shimla. There are allegations of bribery against the accused. A voice message exposed the deal that was struck between Gupta and the supplier of the medical equipments. The message had gone viral on social media. The dealer is considered to be a close associate of a former minister and a present leader of the BJP. The deal was to buy equipments and other orthopaedic machines from a company from Solan, which is owned by a former OSD (officer on special duty) of the BJP leader.
A judicial probe into the incident was demanded by the opposition and the CPI(M). Shanta Kumar, a BJP leader and former union minister, ridiculed the BJP government as well. He said it is shameful that the leaders of the BJP are indulging in money making during a crisis. Though Gupta under arrest, the dealer is still at large. There is suspicion that the reason for not arresting him is his link to the BJP leadership.
In another incident in Shimla, a BJP leader has been indicted for supplying unlicensed sanitisers to the government. These sanitisers were supplied to the state secretariat. An FIR was registered by the secretariat alleging that the sanitisers were sub-standard. An investigation found that the supplier did not have a licence to supply these sanitisers. Local media revealed that a large quantity of these sanitisers that were supplied to the secretariat were actually given away as charity and that the supplier picked up a batch and supplied it to the secretariat. The supplier is a BJP leader and a former councillor in the Shimla Municipal Corporation.
THE VENTILATOR SCANDAL
A fake ventilator scandal was unearthed in the state of Gujarat recently. Nearly 900 ventilators were purchased by the Gujarat government and were installed across government hospitals in the state. Questions were raised about the procedure of procurement and the quality of the equipment. The procedure of purchase was done in a hushed up manner, bypassing all norms of quality check. These ventilators, which have been called fake, do not even have the mandatory license from the Drug Controller General of India. Quite astonishingly, the ventilator was tested on just one patient. Further, the ethical committee that is required to monitor the ventilators was not formed, as per medical rules 2017.
A Rajkot-based company, Jyoti CNC Automation, had developed the ventilator called ‘Dhaman - 1’ in a period of ten days. According to a Gujarat government press release, it was considered a great achievement for the Prime Minister’s dream of ‘Make in India’. Parakramsinh Jadeja, the owner of Jyoti CNC, is believed to be a close friend of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
According to the people of Gujarat and the opposition leaders in the state, over 300 deaths that took place in the Ahmedabad civil hospital were due to this fake machine. It is beyond imagination that even in this period of crisis, the BJP government is playing with the lives of people.