If there is one state in India whose Coronavirus containment strategy is non-existent, it is Bihar, under an incompetent and largely indifferent Chief Minister – Nitish Kumar. It took deaths on the roads of Bihar, apart from cries on live videos by COVID patients from within their wards for the media to barely notice the complete collapse of India’s most densely populated state’s health infrastructure. Bihar’s public health infrastructure has always been disastrous. However, the least which was expected from Nitish Kumar was for him to ramp up the same to bare minimum levels of competence. Needless to say, the man has failed catastrophically.
Bihar has one of the lowest testing rates per million population in the country, yet, among the highest positivity rates.
This effectively means that the state’s actual numbers are far more than what have been placed on record so far. Having recorded 31,980 cases so far, it would not take an intelligent guess to know that the state is headed towards a disaster perhaps like no other in the country. What’s worse? The administration has abandoned contact tracing and is not particularly enthusiastic about ensuring that testing is ramped up. Reports suggest that the lack of rampant testing has much to do with the upcoming state elections, as Nitish Kumar flounders to keep the number of cases in Bihar cosmetically low.
Bihar is currently testing around 10,000 people on an average every day, a number which is significantly lower than states with comparable populations. Further, these 10,000 tests are not RT-PCR ones. The number majorly comprises of rapid antigen tests as a bulk, which are not very reliable in nature. As such, those who are turning up with false negatives are in fact acting as super spreaders in the state. With no contact tracing happening, the people have been left to fend for themselves.
How do the people fend for themselves, however, if the medical authorities too are least interested in ensuring that medical aid is availed by all those in need? People who have explicitly visible COVID-19 symptoms are being denied testing, and are being made to stand in queues of 300 or more to get themselves tested, only to finally be told that the daily quota of 50 tests has been reached by the testing centre.
Medical authorities on the ground say that they have strict instructions “from above” to not test more that 50 samples a day in case of a private lab, and not more than 75 in case of a government medical institute/COVID care facility.
— Nomercy Thanos (@rockkrishna) July 23, 2020
— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) July 23, 2020
Allegedly, in the state of Bihar, testing is being carried out on the basis of whose reference an individual has. As a consequence, only those with powerful connections in the state are being tested and allocated beds subsequently if positive. Such is the scenario, that a senior government official had to spend a night on the footpath inside the premises of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Patna. The official died days later of the infection.
Hospitals of Bihar have transformed into a gateway of death for the people of Bihar, many of whom are dying inside due to lack of medical care, if not dying on the roads outside due to an unbearable infection and the scorching heat, not to mention the administration’s absolute disregard for human life. Leave alone the COVID care facilities in other parts of Bihar, in Patna’s Nalanda Medical College & Hospital (NMCH), the Central team was left aghast seeing the subhuman conditions in what was supposed to be an isolation ward for infected patients, with a dead body lying in the middle of the ward during their inspection. Witnessing unrestricted movement of attendants and other people in COVID-19 wards, a member of the central team said, “Such reckless acts are like super-spreaders. The hospital needs to guard against the spread of infection. Else, it will be difficult to break the transmission pattern.”
Meanwhile, infected and uncured patients are also fleeing hospitals in Bihar. A cancer patient from Bihar’s Sheikhpura district, who had been admitted to the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) in Patna after testing positive for Coronavirus on July 3, has been missing since July 6. Hospital authorities, meanwhile, shamelessly admitted that the said patient was not the first to go missing.
Bihar is in a mess, and the Chief Minister, who for reasons best known to the BJP is still supported by them, is nowhere to be found. Ideally, a Chief Minister of a state must regularly update the citizens of the measures being taken to contain the spread of infection in times of a pandemic, but Nitish Kumar is an exception. The man seems to have retired to a corner and has left Bihar to somehow magically overcome the pandemic itself. Government apathy is skyrocketing, testing is dismal, and contact tracing is non-existent. As such, Bihar has no containment strategy, which would explain why Nitish Kumar has surrendered to the virus.
Nitish’s deputy, Sushil Modi from the BJP is more than glad being in power, and could not care less for the plight which the people of Bihar are being made to suffer. A Nitish Kumar loyalist, Sushil Modi is perhaps the reason why the BJP is still in an alliance with the JD(U). Mangal Pandey, the state’s health minister, is nowhere to be seen. The trio of Nitish-Sushil-Mangal have wreaked Bihar perhaps like nobody else ever did, and for that, they might have to pay a big price in the near future.
With Bihar’s state elections around the corner, it is as though the BJP and JD(U) are handing a victory to the RJD and Congress on a silver platter. When people are disgusted by the working of Nitish Kumar in times of the pandemic, they will without a second thought vote to kick him out of power, even if that means giving back power to the infamous Lalu Prasad Yadav. Sadly, the BJP is scripting its own downfall in Bihar by continuing its support for an inefficient Chief Minister.