Monday, 30th October 2017

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White cape: When superheroes are vulnerable

The sufferings of medical professionals reveal a deeper rot that is at once moral and economic

  • Published 12.05.20, 5:01 AM
  • Updated 12.05.20, 5:01 AM
  • a min read
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Doctors and medical staff raise slogans as they stage a protest against the government, demanding regular jobs, at Guru Nanak Dev hospital during the ongoing nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, in Amritsar, Monday, May 11, 2020. PTI

The eye of the artist is blessed with clarity of thought and vision. ‘Banksy’, an elusive but political artist, has donated a work of art to a hospital in England that depicts the figure of a nurse of the National Health Service as a “superhero”. The suggestion of a caregiver blessed with superhuman powers is not awry in a world that is trying to survive a vicious pandemic. All around the globe, the health fraternity — doctors, nurses, health workers, first responders, to name only a few personnel — has risen to the occasion in this time of unprecedented peril, working long hours to save thousands of lives, often with minimal resources that uncaring governments have put at its disposal. This service does not fall short of the standards set by those powerful but humane figures who light up the world of fiction. Unfortunately, men and women wearing the metaphorical cape in real life are, unlike their peers in comic-books, a vulnerable constituency. The disease poses a serious threat itself. The International Council of Nurses says that at least 90,000 healthcare workers have been infected and that their infection rate and demises are not always recorded by governments. India is not immune to these worrying developments and some more. Astoundingly, there are reports of India’s front-line workers being assaulted and discriminated against. Residential associations are barring the entry of doctors fearing contagion in Uttar Pradesh; attacks on health workers have taken place in Bangalore and Indore, to cite two examples; and then there is, as always, a government insensitive to their critical needs. India’s medical fraternity has repeatedly demanded quality personal protective equipment in adequate numbers besides the need for greater testing, better contact tracing and the modernizing of hospital infrastructure. Yet, the administration chose to express the country’s gratitude to corona warriors by showering petals from the sky. There are surely better ways of spending money during a crisis of this scale.

The sufferings of medical professionals reveal a deeper rot that is at once moral and economic. There is a monumental apathy towards the idea of seva. The commercialization of caregiving institutions — is the privatization of healthcare to be blamed? — may have something to do with it. The plight of the handful who continue to serve thus remains unaddressed in retaliation.