Monday, 30th October 2017

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Empty vessels: There are more meaningful ways of showing appreciation

Modi must bolster nation's healthcare apparatus, safety of medical personnel should be priority

  • Published 25.03.20, 12:07 AM
  • Updated 25.03.20, 12:07 AM
  • a min read
Patients consult with a doctor at a fever clinic which is operative at the Civil Hospital in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, in Lucknow on Tuesday , March. 24. PTI

Morale, history has shown, can make a difference to mortality during the time of crisis. Winston Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches” speech in the House of Commons electrified Britain during the Second World War, leading to a united effort that stopped the advance of a seemingly invincible enemy which would have culled thousands. The Indian prime minister’s oratory skills may be modest in comparison. But Narendra Modi’s suggestion to citizens in a recent address to express their gratitude to those on the front line of India’s battle against the coronavirus in a rather novel way certainly struck a chord. India erupted, as Mr Modi had requested, with the cacophony of clanging pots and pans on the evening of March 22 to salute the courage and contribution of doctors and other staff integral to the healthcare system in the time of a pandemic.

There are, arguably, more meaningful ways of expressing appreciation to the warriors rendering essential services in this difficult hour. The safety of the personnel should be accorded the utmost priority. Unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest that Mr Modi and his government have performed quite poorly in this crucial aspect. There is an acute shortage of protection equipment for medical teams that are fighting the condition. Astoundingly, the Centre had permitted the export of surgical masks and ventilators even though the World Health Organization had directed nations afflicted with Covid-19 to stock up on these essential resources. There is also a critical shortage of testing kits: the West Bengal chief minister is on record that the state has only 40 testing kits. These gaps — did Mr Modi underestimate the scale of the crisis? — have been compounded by irresponsible public behaviour. In many places, processions had been taken out in public in response to Mr Modi’s appeal for a ‘Janata Curfew’, aggravating the risk of infection. India would survive this challenge but it is likely that the costs — economic and human — would be quite high. This is reason enough for Mr Modi to bolster the nation’s healthcare apparatus on a war footing. That would be a much better way of acknowledging the work and sacrifices of this constituency.