Dealing with COVID-19: Fix the Basics, the Mantra Yogi followed and Uddhav missed

    03-Apr-2020
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The consistent high increase in number of COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra is a matter of deep concern. The state government should draw a lesson or two from the way Yogi government has implemented the lockdown in Uttar Pradesh.
Rahul Vatsa
 
Yogi Uddhav_1  
 
During the lockdown, in Rampur Maniharan, a small town in Western Uttar Pradesh, a senior citizen calls up the emergency number 112. Within 10 minutes, the local authorities reaches to his house and provides the needed help.
 
A few hundred miles apart in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, an ailing elderly couple staying alone could not get food and medicine for a day till they could approach a local NGO which provided them the needed medicines and food.
 
The two stories in the two states – Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra - are not the single isolated ones, there are respective similar stories in any neighborhood in the two states during the ongoing lockdown in the country to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
This simple comparison gives some idea of how the two state governments are dealing with the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic in the respective states.
 
Since 24th March, the entire country is under complete lockdown. Why it has been imposed? What the government of India wants to achieve out of it? And why not a curfew instead?
 
We know that there is no medicine or vaccine yet available for COVID-19. Medical institutions, private companies across the world are working around the clock on this front. If we are lucky and any of these institutions gets success in next few days or weeks, then also it will take a few months’ time for the vaccinations to be available in the market. To add to this worry, we have limited ventilators and also limited testing capabilities. Thought government of India has involved different government institutions as well as private companies to get over these limitations, but we can’t expect quick drastic changes, things will improve over time. Therefore, the best we can do at this point of time is to try to contain the coronavirus as much as possible. And the ongoing nation-wide lockdown is aimed to achieve this very goal.
 
It’s a lockdown, not a curfew, people are allowed to come out of houses if they really need to, shops of essential items are open and supply chain of the essential items is maintained. This is done to ensure the citizens doesn’t get troubled and no panic like situation arises in the country.
 
Therefore, the two aspects of this lockdown is to ensure that social distancing is followed to the maximum possible extent, and while doing so ensure that the citizens are troubled the least possible.
 
The social distancing can be achieved to the maximum possible extent only if it is ensured that the people don’t have to come out of their houses for their essential needs. And this is what the Uttar Pradesh government has implemented to a large extent by putting up a system where the government authorities are directly involved in supply of the essential items including the ration, vegetables, milk, medicines at the doorstep. There has been massive arrangements done for this across the states. In some areas, where the shopkeepers are ready to provide doorstep delivery, has also systematically registered and each one of them are assigned the delivery of the essential items to certain number of houses. Further there is a fixed rate for every item, and is being strictly being followed. Apart from the usual delivery arrangement, a person who requires any help including the ration can call 112 anytime, and the police and local authorities provides the help at the doorstep.
 
In Maharashtra, there is no such system devised by the government, people have to go out to stores for the food items and the medicines. Though there are guidelines to maintain social distancing outside the shops, but in many of the places there is nobody to enforce it. Also in some places people have complained that the shopkeepers are charging higher prices. There is no single emergency helpline facility like the 112 in Uttar Pradesh.
 
As part of direct financial assistance to the daily wages earners, in Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi government has transferred 1 thousand rupees in the account of over 27 lakh workers. In Maharashtra, government is still working on it, and it should be done soon.
 
In both the states there are community kitchens across districts to provide food to the poor, there are 527 and 262 declared kitchens in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra respectively. To ensure that nobody roams around unnecessarily, In Uttar Pradesh frequent police patrolling are being done. Similar patrolling are done in Maharashtra as well. But it is not that intense in the rural areas.
 
For monitoring in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, more than a lakh Anganwadi, accredited social health activist (ASHA) and auxiliary nurse midwives (ANM) are involved and the district health officers regularly collects feedback about the people residing in the villages. These workers have been directed to report if any person has symptoms of the virus. This has been helping contain the virus in rural areas. In the rural areas of Maharashtra, there are no similar plans implemented by the Uddhav government.
 
In Uttar Pradesh, there has been lot of thrust, especially in smaller cities and rural areas, on educating people about the danger of the COVID-19 and the precautions to be taken.
 
It’s a fact that whatever policies a government devises, it’s the government officials, police and other government employees who implement it. Therefore, however good policies the Yogi government would had taken, the lockdown in the state would not had been successful unless the government would not had got the active support from the government officials and employees. In his three years in office, Yogi has built an image of non-nonsense CM. He has stood by the officials when they have performed their duties sincerely, and has punished the officials who were found not working properly. Such image and the rapport with the government employees has helped in proper implementation of the lockdown in Uttar Pradesh.
 
In Maharashtra, chief minister Uddhav Thackrey has allowed the district magistrates to plan and implement different measures depending on the situations in their respective districts. Some believe it to be a right decision, but the job of the officials is not to devise plans but to implement the policies and plans devised by the government.
 
In Uttar Pradesh, chief minister, Yogi is himself monitoring the situation in the state and is giving instructions as and when required. When high number of COVID-19 cases were reported in Noida and there were certain mistakes by the local administration, he ordered the transfer of the district magistrate. When it was found that a company in Noida had hidden the travel history of its employee, an FIR was immediately filed against the officials of the company. By taking such strong actions, the chief minister has ensured that the officials and the government employees stay sincere with their duties in this crucial time and the private companies co-operate with the government. No similar actions were taken in Maharashtra when travel histories were hidden and there were lapses by the officials.
 
The consistently high number of COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra is a matter of deep concern, the state government should look back at its own decisions to improve the situation at ground and probably may also take a look at the policies devised and the ways the Yogi government has implemented the lockdown in Uttar Pradesh.