Yesterday was a moment of truth for the Kerala model, hailed worldwide as the one true model of healthcare. For the last several days, Kerala’s coronavirus numbers had been skyrocketing at close to 7000 per day. But a particularly significant milestone was reached yesterday.
As on date, Kerala has 1,79,923 confirmed cases of Corona virus. The state of Bihar has 1,80,032 confirmed cases. The difference between Kerala model of healthcare and the poorest most backward state in the country? Just 109 cases!
In fact, Kerala would have crossed Bihar yesterday, going by its recent trajectory. But Kerala aggressively reduced testing, doing just 33600 tests yesterday, resulting in 4538 confirmed cases. The test positive rate in Kerala is an alarming 13.5%.
Meanwhile, Bihar carried out some 1.2 lakh tests and reported 1150 cases, a positive rate of 0.9%.
Sadly, the media hasn’t followed up on what happened since they praised Kerala model to high heaven all the way from April to July. So a lot of people might be taken aback by the comparison between Bihar and Kerala.
Kerala and Bihar: Propaganda Vs reality
Let me update you on the facts. Bihar has been testing much more than Kerala, doing well over 1 lakh tests a day. Kerala has been lagging very far behind at just 50,000 or so per day. So far, Bihar has done 70 lakh tests and Kerala only 28 lakh. The test positive rate in Kerala is now among the highest in the country. And the test positive rate in Bihar is possibly the lowest.
What about number of deaths? Bihar has seen around 900 deaths and Kerala around 700. This is not a big gap. And remember that Bihar is testing much more than Kerala, with a much lower test positive rate. This means that Kerala is likely missing many more cases than Bihar is. So the small gap in number of deaths is easily explained by that.
That’s the Kerala model: global PR, global fame, international awards. But when it comes to delivery on the ground, Kerala’s healthcare stands at the same level as Bihar.
Let’s not forget: we are comparing Kerala and Bihar here. The poorest state in India versus the alleged global champion in healthcare. The Health Minister of Bihar never went to BBC mocking the rest of India for not having hospitals. Bihar didn’t win any awards for healthcare or HDI. Bihar didn’t mock anyone. But when it came to delivering on the ground, it did just as well as Kerala. Minus international awards, of course.
Side note on Uttar Pradesh. As of now, UP has some 54,000 active cases versus 58,000 active cases in Kerala. Congratulations to Kerala’s star Health Minister Shailaja Teacher for surpassing Uttar Pradesh, a state with 7 times the population of Kerala, in total number of active cases. Oh, and UP’s test positive rate is only around 2.5%.
An award from the UN might not be enough for the great ‘Teacher.’ Some special inter-galactic award might be in order for the best healthcare system in the universe.
There are many points to note here and I will make them one by one.
First, the intellectual cheerleaders of Kerala model have fallen completely silent. When the going was good, we heard so much about it. Now that Kerala has collapsed to the level of Bihar, these experts have simply gone silent, hidden under their desks or slipped out through the backdoor. This proves they were never experts, but simply politicians with a partisan operative mentality. What use do we have for experts who hide their faces and refuse to admit their mistakes when the facts go against their political bias? Can we ever trust them again?
Communist hold over media
Second, the stranglehold of the Communists over the media is scary. When the going was good, the Communists had the media eating out of their hands. When things went bad, they simply stopped the media coverage, like turning off a tap or clicking a switch. No apologies were offered for the publicity around Kerala model. The media just went dark. This is terrifying. The CPIM can get away with literally anything because their media network will not shine a light on their misdeeds no matter what.
The third point is that the people of Kerala are now in serious danger. There is a reason the media is called one of the pillars of democracy: it is supposed to highlight the failings of the government. But the media observes a mafia-like code of silence over the unfolding disaster of Kerala healthcare. For decades, the Communists have unleashed political massacres all across Kerala (ask a Bengali like me about what Communist rule is like). The political murders went unreported. The mafia-like code of silence in the media around Communist crimes makes people of Kerala less safe, not more. But this time, the stakes are much higher. This is a virus. It is capable of unleashing death and destruction on a scale that even Communists cannot match. And nobody will know what is happening in Kerala because the media will not talk about it.
Fourth, one should realize that the Communists have been fooling the masses of Kerala for a long time with a curious form of regional sub-nationalism. I’m sorry to break the facts, but Kerala just isn’t the star performer that Communist propaganda says that it is. In fact, it’s economy is a basket case and has always been so. The grip of political malaise in the state has been such that most enterprising folks have left. They had to use their talents to built businesses and wealth in the Gulf, instead of India. The genius of Kerala is making UAE richer, not Kerala and the rest of India. The state is reduced to operating a remittance economy.
The many disasters of the Kerala model have been swept under the rug by propaganda about regional pride. The regional pride plank rose to a crescendo when liberal ecosystem arranged all sorts of awards and interviews with BBC for Kerala’s Communist ministers. Now that Kerala’s healthcare system has proved no better than Bihar, the scales should fall away from everyone’s eyes. Those experts with connections at BBC and Al Jazeera were never friends of Kerala. They used Kerala as a marketing tool to push their political agenda. Now that Kerala is in peril, they are not willing to discuss the fate of real people.
Fifth, with the collapse of the Kerala healthcare model, the Communists are going back to the frightening basics of Stalinism. The Chief Minister and his star Health Minister have refused to take all responsibility. Instead, they say the surge of cases is because of the opposition protesting against the government in the gold scam. You get that? The cornered Communists know only one language: repression. They are not blaming themselves. They are blaming democratic expression for the failure of the Kerala model. They are coming for your liberties.
Finally, we have to note the story of Bihar and Kerala has many life lessons in it. This is like one of those Panchatantra stories we learned as kids. This is a tweet back in March from someone who has written in The Wire and Newsclick.
I will not speculate on what he wanted to say or what his tone was. You be the judge of that. I will just make some general observations, which may or may not be related to his tweet. Or the tweets of so many other liberals in the last several months.
Arrogance is wrong. Never look down on anyone. Especially, never look down on anyone because they are poor or underprivileged. They might have lessons for you. Be humble. Pride always comes before a fall. Life is a great leveler. Life is a great teacher. Even greater than Shailaja ‘Teacher.’