The whole country is fighting the coronavirus pandemic unitedly, and in an emergency like war and calamity, the nation has to show this kind of unity. This is a time when it is essential that one stands up for the country without giving any consideration to party politics, ideological or societal differences. On many occasions, our country has set this example. In 1971, during the Bangladesh Liberation War, when India and Pakistan were engaged in a battle, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had announced his full support to all the decisions made by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This is unfortunate that the current top leadership of the Congress, which includes Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, is giving political statements rather than helping the country overcome the pandemic crisis.
Vaccination is the most effective weapon in the fight against coronavirus. It is a matter of pride that our scientists have developed the vaccine by working day and night. The Centre and state governments, doctors, media and social organisations have all played a role in building public awareness regarding the importance of vaccination. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has played an important role in encouraging the production of vaccines in the country and has taken the lead in creating awareness about the need for vaccination. The biggest vaccination drive was launched, first for the elders and sick, and then for the 45-plus age group, which is currently underway. Now, anyone above the age of 18 years will be able to get vaccinated—the registration starts from April 28 and the drive from May 1.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi too has received the jab; had she appealed to everyone to take the vaccine to protect themselves from the virus, like she did, it would have sent a positive message to the people in the country. Rahul Gandhi has tested positive for COVID-19, we pray for his speedy recovery. During the election campaign, he visited different states, but never did he ask people to go and get the vaccine. None of the Congress leaders has contributed to the vaccination drive in any manner, instead, they have only opposed it.
This is not the time to get into political bickering; the need of the hour is to ensure better coordination between the Centre and the states which have been badly affected by the pandemic and try improve the situation. Following the reports on shortage of oxygen in some states, Prime Minister Modi convened a meeting with the chief ministers, reviewed the situation and gave them necessary instructions. Our governments work as per the federal structure and both the Centre and the states have their clearly defined areas, and everyone needs to do their bit. The senior leadership of a party, which holds power in the state, has a greater responsibility to ensure all necessary arrangements are in place to deal with a calamity and for effective disaster management.
Health is a state subject, therefore, it’s the duty of every state government that they build adequate health infrastructure in their states. If opposition parties like the Congress put pressure on their governments in the states, it is understandable, but if they oppose the vaccination drive, then it is not in the interest of the country. We have, so far, not read anywhere that Rahul Gandhi or Congress president Sonia Gandhi has suggested states ruled by their party what steps they need to take to combat the spread of the pandemic. If everybody does their bit, only then the situation will improve faster. How can we think of winning the war against this pandemic by playing politics of blame?
It is surprising that when the Prime Minister was chairing a meeting with chief ministers of badly-hit states, and ways to manage the disaster in a better way were being discussed, one chief minister was telecasting this meeting live and trying to send a political message to the people. That even in the face of a pandemic, he seemed more interested in politics than finding a solution to the problem speaks volume about how some chief ministers are delivering on their responsibilities. This is not the time to do politics, and this needs to be understood by everyone. This is the time to quickly put in place a health system so that patients can be treated.
Since 2014, there has been a steady effort towards strengthening the health infrastructure of the country, and following the first wave of the pandemic, these efforts have been accelerated. In 2014, the country had only six AIIMS, the Modi government approved another 15, of which six are now functional. Further, 75 super-specialty hospitals and trauma centres were approved, of which 38 are operational. Of these 38 centres, 22 have been converted into COVID centres. There were 380 medical colleges in the country in 2014; now their number stands at 565. In medical colleges, the number of undergraduate seats has been increased by 58 per cent, while for graduate students, it has been gone up by 80 per cent. Within a year, India has taken giant strides towards becoming self-sufficient (Atmanirbhar) in medical equipment, and as a result, the country now produces PPE kits, ventilators and vaccines under Make in India. According to experts, the coronavirus wave will come time and again. To combat such a situation in the coming days, the foundation for an efficient medical infrastructure has already been laid.
As of now, more than the disease, it is the panic that has overwhelmed the people. When we talk about the system in the country, it also includes people and the media who play an important role. If we follow the Janata Curfew orders diligently, the spread of the infection will stop on its own. Subsequently, there will be less scramble for beds and oxygen in hospitals. Be it media or social media, it is essential to make people aware of the situation, but it is also very important to differentiate between creating panic and creating awareness. It needs to be understood that if a panic situation is created, it would lead to black-marketing of medicines.
Every citizen has to contribute if we are to fight the current situation. Those among us who are able should take the responsibility of our neighbours, and only then we will be able to defeat the coronavirus pandemic. Everybody has to take care of themselves and others. The government and local administration, political and social organizations, and people together will have to put up a united front to fight this pandemic; only then, will India emerge victorious.
Disclaimer:The author is Lok Sabha MP and former minister of youth affairs and sports (independent charge). Views expressed are personal.
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