India is under lockdown to arrest the spread of Wuhan Coronavirus. Inter-state travel has been halted. Even courts are not accepting cases unless absolutely necessary. This is for the safety and well being of all of us. But imagine this. Apparently, people had to regularly leave behind the famed healthcare system of Kerala and seek treatment in the neighbouring Karnataka. With inter-state travel now blocked due to the Coronavirus lockdown, people of Kerala are facing enormous hardships. Hence this order from the Hon. High Court of Kerala.
One of the handfuls of positives about a crisis is that it helps cut through clouds of confusion and see things clearly. For instance, the Nizamuddin fiasco revealed a vast network of foreign preachers who openly flout visa rules, take part in huge gatherings in the heart of the national capital and then fan out to every corner of India.
Similarly, the situation on the inter-state border between Kerala and Karnataka has lifted the covers on another pile of confusion. For a lot of people, it might come as a shock that people actually have to leave Kerala and seek healthcare in other, better-managed states. Years of media drumbeat about Kerala’s great healthcare have come to nought.
Remember that the people of Kerala, who have to seek treatment in other states, are the biggest victims of these decades of media drumbeat. The drumbeat has put their suffering out of focus and destroyed all incentive for the state government to actually do something for its people. Why would politicians care if they know they will get good PR?
Given that Kerala is currently on edge with hundreds of cases of Wuhan Coronavirus, it might surprise you to learn that as of Feb 14, 2020, Kerala had “successfully fought and contained” the problem.
By early March, the news of Kerala’s momentous victory had spread worldwide, earning praise from a BBC panel.
Meanwhile, the virus, which cares neither for political agendas nor media sentiments, kept working its way. Reality kept trickling in. The numbers kept ticking upwards. The state government hurried up and announced a package of Rs 20,000 crore.
Then something unprecedented happened. For the first time in years, cracks appeared in the PR machine of the Kerala government. People actually began asking if the money was really there and where it would come from. Under scrutiny for the first time ever, the myth of the state government’s “20,000 crore package” crumbled.
Meanwhile, the politicians of Kerala, from both major formations in the state, continue to thrive on strange accusations against the Central government in Delhi. Fantastic source-based stories appear, about foreign aid for the pandemic. India has generally been refusing aid from other sovereign countries since the time of the 2004 tsunami, including at the time of 2018 Kerala floods. Old myths about foreign aid from UAE are dug up and circulated. Most ironically, by folks who just had to go to Geneva to bring help at the time of Kerala floods. Presumably, because it would have been impossible to contact people in Geneva using either the internet or the telephone.
The people of Kerala continue to suffer, being offered ideology instead of healthcare.
We know that India doesn’t have the best healthcare system. This is a problem hardly limited to Kerala. There are numerous difficulties running a country of our size, with its widespread poverty. But it certainly doesn’t help when a state government spends its time taking jibes at others, say Uttar Pradesh, instead of trying to improve the lives of its own people.
For those who knew better, it was always apparent that Kerala govt’s propaganda on healthcare was a sham. In fact, trucks from Kerala had been dumping toxic medical waste in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for years. This is simply not what a good neighbour does, let alone a famously literate one.
There will be difficult choices now. Should Karnataka open its borders to people desperately seeking medical help? On one hand, how can we say no to fellow citizens in need? On the other, the lockdown is absolutely crucial to contain the spread of the virus.
In the current fight against the virus, we are all in it together. All the way from the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in the north to the state of Kerala in the south. We have to look out for each other. And a bit of humility on all sides will help.
Will the situation with Wuhan Coronavirus finally blow the lid off the Kerala government’s propaganda on its ‘famous’ healthcare? For the sake of the people of Kerala, let us hope so.