You need every hand on the deck, and must act on war footing like a well-oiled war machine. With the spread of Covid 19 variants in villages, particularly in UP, you have very few options left on the table. You need 24×7 war rooms in PMO and every state capital. You cannot waste time of your officers in preparing briefs for SC and HC judges, the nincompoops, who have come to believe they are saviors of this nation. Shockingly, the juvenile upstarts have begun saying this openly. They need to be told to get off the back of your extremely stressed officers and crew and stop opining and passing judgments over the actions of the executive. PILs must not be entertained during this national emergency. If they still persist, ignore them completely.
You also need to communicate freely, firmly, and decisively with your team and the people of India and seek their support, co-operation, and compliance in these war efforts. You have to tell them that there will be some other day of mourning for the precious lives of our near and dear ones that were lost. The pain of the loss should strengthen our resolve instead of breaking our spirits. We can play the blame games in normal times but not now. It’s the time to put our shoulders to the wheel. These are tough days for the nation and we are being tested like never before. But we have no option but to win this war, overcoming all our shortcomings, and hurdles on the way.
Here is a checklist for your consideration. I presume your team already has such checklists but I see no harm in presenting this one.
1. Bring all hospitals, ambulance services, pharmaceutical companies, vaccine manufacturers, oxygen plants & suppliers, and other essential services under the direct supervision of the state as an emergency measure to co-ordinate and streamline their operations, as well as to stop their usurious ways. Create thousands of co-ordination nodes across towns, tehsils, and villages.
2. Make Covid treatment free of charge across the nation and in all hospitals, private or public.
3. Pull in manpower, infrastructure, and financial resources from non-essential ministries like Culture and I&B.
4. Every marriage hall, convention centre, banquet hall, and educational institution with large physical infrastructural spaces should be converted into a Covid facility.
5. Convert every rural railway station into a covid-care hub.
6. Use large hotels to provide recuperating facility to stressed-out health workers working in shifts and use such available infrastructure to keep the doctors and nurses going in these tough times.
7. Create effective, credible and working helplines, phones as well as SM platforms. Strengthen the existing helplines.
8. Ask insurance companies to fall in line and support the national effort or be ready to face the consequences that will include prosecution of their directors under serious IPC provisions including ‘murder’.
9. Assign serving SC and HC judges, retired generals and bureaucrats to supervise the functioning of these services and deal with public grievances. Bring them down their high perches and deploy them in the field.
10. Make every MP, MLA, gram pradhan, and elected representative of local governments as nodal officers for their responsibility area and ask them to use all their offices, resources, money, and manpower in reaching help to people and work in co-ordination with government officials offering them help and solutions. They have a major role to play in organising local resources to create isolation centres (use tent house firms). They should be in the forefront of the relief and support effort. Tell them that their re-election will depend on how have they behaved in these times.
11. Ramp up the production of PPEs, masks, testing kits, other medical equipment by streamlining their supply chain, providing the manufacturers ample guarantees to take care of their working capital requirements.
12. Prepare Aasha workers, rural clinics, and local doctors to deal with grass-roots spread of Covid and provide essential medicines for those quarantined and isolated at home or in schools, community centres, local temples, etc. Use village green orchards as isolation areas for the Covid affected.
13. Vaccinate and deploy young medical and nursing students into the field.
14. Ramp up the production of essential medicines like Paracetamol for those in ‘home or community quarantine’, etc. Distribute these medicine kits free of charge. Every Gram Panchayat must have sufficient numbers of Oxymetres.
15. Talk to trade bodies to enforce staggered curfews on their own, totally discouraging person-to-person contacts in their businesses, and ask them to explore alternative avenues of carrying on their businesses in these time by trying out options like door-to-door delivery.
16. Focus on the vaccination programme on war footing. You need to have mobile vaccination units for rural areas. Encourage corporates to vaccinate their officers, staff and workers. The expense incurred can be deductible as CSR expenses.
17. Ban all mass gatherings and protests. First have a talk with mullahs, maulanas, priests, farmer leaders, and protesters and make a firm request. If they fail to control their flock, arrest all of them under NSA, confiscate their properties, and make them rot in jails.
18. Create a joint volunteer force, bring various voluntary organisations, political parties included, under one umbrella and under one command to co-ordinate their activities. Promise them credits for their yeomen services.
19. Appoint nodal heads of voluntary services in every village and district of India and ask them to create temporary field offices with whatever ‘panchayat’ infrastructure they have. Ask them to convert local vans and vehicles into temporary ambulances.
20. Impose a strict ban on fake news and arrest and prosecute fake news spreaders. Use severe laws that carry minimum of 5 years jail term and confiscation of property as punishment.
21. Ask Prakash Javdekar and Prasar Bharati to run 24×7 DD channels and Radio stations in all Indian languages, completely dedicated to Covid efforts, disseminating essential information continuously and repeatedly.
22. Use CID and IB to locate the saboteurs, profiteers, hoarders, black-marketers, spurious drug-makers, rumor mongers, and other criminals who are constantly undermining the relief efforts, creating panic, and compounding our problems.
This checklist is far from comprehensive. It can be further expanded in view of the ground situation that’s changing every minute and hour. We must acknowledge the fact that this pandemic is no more an urban phenomenon and has reached our villages that lack medical infrastructure. Unfortunately, thanks to the media, the focus remains on big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow.
Rajesh Kumar Singh
DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.