Retrospection – The need of the hour
May 8, 2021
I am a resident of the sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic of India. And to be honest, I am not the least bit unhappy with any of it. Yes, for any society to survive, there has to be someone taking command; someone who has the ultimate power. And the best way to have that leader is through elections. That way, the position comes to you only when your people have faith in your abilities and it is not one that you take for granted. So sovereign republic, I am all up for it.Coming to ‘secular’. Well, I grew up in a country where we have been very systematically taught to disregard our heritage and glorify the invaders who attacked us. Sati, caste, and the purdah system were evil practices that deserved mention in my social science textbook, but triple talaq and polygamy didn’t. All of this in the name of secularism!! But yes, my personal belief says that no god is above the other. So yes, to secularism it is.Coming to socialist. In my opinion, any human being performs to the best of their abilities only when they are incentivised for the same. In a socialist society, there is a reward for hard work and toil and that pushes one to put their best foot forward. History is a testimony to the fact that socialist economies have fared much better and I, for one, believe that a socialist regime is the only way forward.No, this is not a social science essay that I am writing to justify my role as in Indian citizen. In fact, this piece is written to draw your attention to something much more important than that.Now, in the recent past, all of us have read tweets talking about how the pandemic has divided India into three groups. The privileged ones are those who are working from the comfort of their homes, holding respectable positions in the society, and a major section of whose monthly earnings goes as savings. They (or should I say we) are not really conscious about political events and all that SSR case, Rhea, Deepika, and Sara news has pushed them (read us) away from the news channels. The fact that the death of an elephant or the burning of a tractor attracts better media attention and reactions from our esteemed cabinet ministers than the brutal gangrape of a woman is what has led me to give up on Indian news channels. I am sure you have your own reason. Little do we realise that saying, “I do not have time to watch stupid happenings of the world” is a privilege in itself.There is this second group whose livelihood has been affected by the pandemic. Either they have lost their jobs or have had to compromise with their packages in the pandemic. With dwindling savings and a lot of time to spare, these are the people complaining about farmer bills, and UPSE, JEE, and NEET postponement and a lot of other things.The third lot are the ones who have are just not bothered and not complaining and are simply going about their day as usual. Not that they are not aware of what is happening. Trust me, every time they hear of a COVID case is the vicinity their heart trembles as the lips move in prayer for the safety of themselves and their loved ones. But here they are. Going out, doing their job, and making the ends meet. Sanitation workers, traffic police constables, watchmen, ward boys, and others. These people have no other way out and they know that if they don’t go out to earn there will be no food at the table. The story of a socialist society and I cannot complain.But there is another group that is a member of this third lot. Doctors. These people earn as much as most of us, if not more. Financially, they can afford to ‘take it chill’ and enjoy some months off their job. With the dearth of doctors in India, it will be a cakewalk for them to land a job in a post-pandemic world. But these people ‘chose’ not to.It is shameful that we needed a law to tell us that these doctors need to be treated with respect and physically assaulting them would result in ‘imprisonment from 6 months to 7 years’. If this is not society failing a community, I don’t know what is. But sadly, there more to it.A few more minutes on Google told me that Dr. Sayeed Ahmad Ali of Noida was a frontline COVID doctor who succumbed to the virus. Notated anaesthetist Dr. Aseem Gupta of Delhi met the same fate under similar circumstances. Dr. Manjunath based out of the Health and Family Welfare department of Ramnagara (Karnataka) was turned down by three private hospitals before dying of COVID. Dr. Biplab Kanti Dasgupta, the Assistant Director of Health Services, West Bengal died in Kolkata of COVID-related complications. Dr. Om Prakash Chauhan of Indore (Madhya Pradesh) also died of coronavirus. At the time of writing this, thousands of doctors across the country are COVID-infected.A look at the names of the doctors would reveal that they were divided by religion, sex and a host of other demographics and the Hippocratic Oath and commitment to mankind is the only thread that held them together. All of us know the story of how Socrates drank the Hemlock poison in a bid to serve society and teach his students. Socrates had the option of avoiding the venomous Hemlock, he chose no to. The doctors of modern India also have the choice of avoiding the Hemlock (struggling in COVID wards, dealing with lack of timely medicines, PPE gears, etc). They are choosing not to give up on you and me, the very same people who make life harder for them than it already is.Now you would wash your hands clean stating that you have never harassed a doctor and that you had no role in this. Fair enough. But do you realise how you not making a mask is putting the life of someone else in danger? And more importantly, do you realise that it is you and me who democratically elected in a government that claims to have no details of the deaths of the doctors in the lines of COVID duty? According to claims made by the Indian Medical Association on the 17th of September, 382 doctors were dead in the COVID line of duty. The Indian government claims that there is no data on this. An ironic statement made in the lines of 2020, where a self-reliant, digital nation is the vision of the land. In such a situation, isn’t the lack of data a sheer case of step-motherly treatment to those who came forward for the nation?Today, not only is there an acute death of PPE medicines, but COVID doctors are made to work for much longer hours in India than in most parts of the world. Just because they ‘chose’ to serve the society it does not mean that we have the right to exploit that. India has the lowest doctor per patient ratio in the world. Let that sink in.As a society, we have failed a community, and you and I are as much to blame for this as any present or past government. Maybe, its time we stop putting the community on a pedestal every 1st July and worshipping them and start respecting their actions. Maybe, just maybe, its time the medical community is given its due?