Abner Manzar

19th June 2020

We travelled from Bettiah to Gaya and experienced the backwardness of Bihar through its horrendous roads.

Ravi Guria

19th June 2020

In Bihar, there is a general impression that normalisation has returned with the lifting of lockdown. People are up and about, going through their everyday chores and flow without much concern or consideration for preventive measures.

Two doctors in Gaya shared, “Taiwan and South Korea are role models in successfully combating Covid-19 epidemic because they upgraded their health infrastructure during SARS few years ago. Covid-19 is a much docile virus as compared to some others which exist amongst us. They also don’t have a cure and surely leads to death if one is infected. In comparison, we should be able to counter the present crisis very easily because one can avoid it by adopting hygienic lifestyle. However, there is total absence of political will towards undertaking robust awareness programmes and adopting strategies leading to resolution.”

“There are less than 100 ventilators in Bihar. The ones in Government hospitals are mere showpieces because they don’t have trained staff to operate it. There is only one hospital in Gaya with only around 550 beds to treat infected patients. It caters to a population of over a crore from Gaya and adjoining areas. There are three times more quacks than licensed doctors who hawk over potential patients with an aim to milk them for maximum income.”

“A city surgeon’s post has a bribe of minimum fifty lakh rupees attached to it. So there is a compulsion to make two times more to justify the investment. Similarly, all low level government vacancies cannot be acquired on merit. And this leads to intense vitiation of health infrastructure. Bihar could’ve risen to the occasion and used this pandemic as an opportunity, but lack of visionary leadership has left it huffing and puffing, yet again.”

“The pandemic should be upscaled to the status of community spread, but the government has their own unexplainable reasons for not doing so. We all will be infected at least once. The impact of the virus will plateau in Delhi and Mumbai through herd immunity. Every part of India will have separate timelines for peaking and plateauing”, they assert.

This epidemic has opened up a Pandora’s box.

We have encountered stories of extreme pain, struggle and depravity, along with incidences of unbelievable goodness and moral forthrightness. Unfortunately, negative stories get more focus, but that’s not the complete truth.

A migrant shared that when he set himself up along with others to ride his bicycle all the way from Punjab to his village in Bihar, in Haryana border a police constable warned them that their bicycles will be taken away at the check point ahead, so they should sell it off in the village nearby and take the train. It was a valuable advice, and with the help of village Mukhiya (Village Council Head), they were able to get a good price. It provided them with much needed cash.

When the District Magistrate (DM) of the district came to know of their ordeal, he immediately joined them and sat till late in the night coordinating and arranging for the train tickets, and he left only after seeing them off in the train in the morning.
A DM in Tamil Nadu organised the travel arrangements of 300 migrant labourers by train and made sure that they had enough food and water to last them through the journey.

On another occasion, an employer in Maharashtra took it upon himself to drive his struggling workers to their village in UP in his personal car.

There are people who have found themselves in the situation of desperate need for the first time. Their self-respect and pride prevents them from asking for food, even though their families are really struggling with hunger. They don’t want to be seen standing in line with others. Essential items are being dropped at the doorstep to help such people in the night.

Then there are also instances of people hoarding essential items and exchanging them for cosmetic items in the shops. Earlier, they were getting princely sum of Rs. 20 per Kg of rice. Overtime due to regularity that came down to Rs. 12 per kg. Lots of people have hoarded essentials to comfortably last them more than six months.

Film actor Amir Khan undertook an experiment to bypass immoral beggars and hoarders, who are hogging a lot of essential items under relief measures. He distributed tightly packed 1kg wheat flour in Mumbai amongst poor people. People who were not needy thought it was too less and gave it a skip—but the ones who were genuinely hungry accepted it. When they opened the package, along with wheat flour they also found Rs. 15000 in cash.