As corona cases spike, Gurdwaras run oxygen langars, provide free food
Syed Aamir Sharief Qadri
At this time, when all religious groups are silent, watching people die at hospital gates, inside wards, for the want of oxygen, the Sikh community, like always, took a lead to serve humanity by opening doors of Gurdwaras to provide free oxygen. This kind act of Sikhs won the hearts of those people whose relatives are battling for life due to shortness of breath. Where Muslim clerics and Hindu priests are busy making prayers at mosques and temples by chanting holy verses from sacred texts to ward off the pandemic crisis, the Sikhs are busy providing breath to breathless. Where distance is maintained in temples and mosques, the Gurdwara volunteers embrace the COVID19 patients and feel their pain. Where temples offer Prasad, masjids serve Iftaris; the Gurdwaras run Oxygen Langar to save precious lives of people. In Delhi and adjacent areas, Gurdwaras are providing free oxygen amid the COVID19 surge.
The enormous wealth of the country is concealed in religious institutions under the trusteeship of religious heads. People hesitate while paying taxes, but they happily give away wealth in the name of God. Bigger than the public account of the Indian government, huge riches are kept veiled in religious shrines. Both Hindus and Muslims have failed to utilize resources in a proper way. They failed in every way such as in mitigating poverty, establishing schools, colleges, hospitals, providing assistance to widows, relief to underprivileged class by extending kind hands, etc. They also remain unsuccessful in upbringing orphans and make arrangements for their food, shelter and education. Instead, these religious places encourage the poor to make begging a profession. The wealth in the name of God is used extravagantly in building spacious massive structures provided with lofty minarets, domes, arches, kiosks, chhatris, idols, and pleasing interior designs. They try to please God by decorating mosques and temples and have the least concern for his creation.
The Muslims and Hindus alike serve God by offering prayers and holding religious rituals. Here is one community that makes both God and his creation happy at the same time by serving humanity. That is why I admire this community like always when I talk about human values. I am greatly thankful to the Sikh community who always come forward to lead at the front without caring for their lives to serve humanity. They are always ready and one step ahead of other communities. Their religious places are beautifully designed attached with hygienic community kitchens. The shelter houses they built for itinerants are not less comfortable than hotel rooms. The Sikh Gurdwaras make appropriate use of wealth by balancing acts between God and his people. In a crisis like situation, they handle pressure and manage things in such a manner to make a way out of it and win millions of hearts. This time Sikh community is busy providing health care facilities, oxygen, ambulances, and other services to people in distress. They walk along with Hindu and Muslim brothers to crematories and graveyards and participate in last rites to bid a final adieu. Again they make it clear that Sikhs not only believe in the philosophy of humanity but they act whenever needed.
While India didn’t face the severe jolts of the first wave of Corona it created havoc with the onset of second wave. The country watched silently when the most developed nations of the world faced huge crises in the previous year. The same show as that of Delhi was seen in the streets of Europe where death had held a stage to display the worst sufferings. We have seen nation’s collapsing and in utter confusion the heads of state crying for divine help. At that time the least affected India got involved in corona politics. The leaders, claiming to represent the majority community, blamed Muslims for the spread of Coronavirus in India. They used many derogatory words like ‘COVID bomb’, ‘Corona Jehad’, etc. to defame the largest minority community of India. Instead of indulging in baseless arguments if the government had thought of mitigation measures the situation would have been better now. Medical experts all over the globe had already warned people and existing governments about the consequences of the second corona wave. Possibly it was declared earlier the second wave would be much disastrous than the first one. If India should have taken notice of this and had started working since then we must have achieved desired results.
To save the nation from external and internal threats, the architects of the Indian constitution have mentioned three types of emergencies in the constitution. What if, one more type of emergency i.e. Medical Emergency is included in the list by amending the constitution. In this way, the government may be able to control the situation from getting worse. We know our hospitals lack some basic facilities. Not every hospital has a facility of oxygen beds, ventilators, and some necessary staff. Since independence health sector witnessed slow growth and the successive governments were reluctant to spend much in this sector. Today we are paying for such kind of negligence and indefinite attitude of different governments. From 1947 onwards India has to fight many wars with its neighbouring countries and this thing continues in present also. For that reason, the defence receives the highest budget allocation. The public spending on health line and education has been low. That is why India strengthened its borders to a greater extent and became weak internally by neglecting other sectors. Though government mustn’t compromise on the defence of the country, there is a need to increase the health budget by a few percents so that people can avail better health facilities.
We are repeating the same mistakes the second time by accusing political parties of their participation in election rallies and curse the government’s decision for giving permission to held Kumbh Mela. We are running too late. The Oxygen Express trains carrying liquid oxygen containers will not last long. Though friendly countries are offering help in this bad time but India needs its own oxygen generating plants and that too in great numbers. To deal with this tough situation let us together share the burden. Being a responsible citizen, this is the best time to work with government agencies and save more and more lives. Don’t get started to criticize government policies on social media, mainstream media, and talk shows? Not Now? If possible provide valuable suggestions to get over it. The Sikh community took a lead. Let us join them and work together for the betterment of the country.
A poet and writer, Syed Aamir Sharief Qadri has done his MA in History from the University of Kashmir and MPhil from Punjabi University Patiala. Presently, he is a freelance columnist with a number of leading publications of J&K. You can contact him at [email protected]
Health Shocks versus Health Stimulants in COVID19
Dr Binish Qadri
The overpopulated and underdeveloped economies are characterised by the vicious circle of poverty having very low per capita income. It has been argued in the Critical Minimum Thesis of Harvey Leibenstein that underdeveloped economies are underdeveloped because there is a bad interface between the two forces of development viz shocks and stimulants. Since shocks are more intense in underdeveloped economies than stimulants, these economies are caught under a vicious circle of poverty. We must realize the fact that our health shocks are more than our health stimulants and, therefore, we are not in a position to come out of COVID19. What is required in this pandemic is that the economy should receive a stimulus to growth that is more necessary than a certain critical minimum size. To reduce the magnitude of health shocks and increase the magnitude of health stimulants all those forces which reduce the level of output, income, employment and investment etc. need to be suppressed and all those forces which increase the level of output, income, employment and investment etc. are to be boosted.
Shocks dampen the forces of development while stimulants boost the forces of development. Similarly, health shocks dampen the forces of health development parameters while health stimulants boost the forces of health development parameters. Health stimulants have the capacity to raise health levels in general and per capita income levels in particular above the equilibrium level. In backward and undeveloped countries as the magnitude of stimulants is quite small we can’t imagine long-run economic development. This further discourages the magnitude of health stimulants. Therefore, the efforts to evade economic backwardness (health in particular), impulsive or compulsory, are below the critical minimum effort needed for persistent growth that is all-inclusive. Even in our health departments, the efforts to do away with health disparities and COVID19 are very below the critical minimum effort needed for persistent holistic sustained health development.
According to Leibenstein, the attitudes and motivation of the people and the incentives given to them have a great bearing on the generation of stimulants. Nonetheless, the motivation and incentives have no worth without the key factors of economic development. The main factors that promote economic development are the inventors, the entrepreneurs, the discoverers, the innovators, those who have the capacity to accumulate and utilize wealth, and those who can accumulate skills and spread knowledge. COVID19 has depressed the masses to a great extent and reduced the motivation of the people to improve their immunity. Health authorities must give enough incentives to combat the detrimental impact of this virus, increase immunity, and generate health stimulants. No doubt the activities of health authorities and Frontline Health Workers are unending, but they must lay great thrust upon those activities which are in a position to generate health stimulants and promote economic development. COVID19 demands continuous efforts of various social, economic, and health agencies necessary for economic development. We need efficient human capital to produce other efficient human capital (particularly nurses, teachers, doctors, engineers). That is to say that we need a critical minimum amount of investment in human capital to produce more efficient human capital out of human resources. But, it necessitates an extraordinary type of human response towards motivations, attitudes, and incentives, which are created by a sound social and economic environment.
The author is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Kashmir. You can reach her at [email protected]
Third Wave: Precautions, not panic, please
Jammu and Kashmir is in the middle of what medical experts are calling the ‘third wave’ of Covid19. There has been a sharp increase in the number of Covid19 positive cases in the past one month or so. From 136 positive cases reported on December 19, 2021 to 5992 positive cases reported on January 20, 2022, the jump in the tally has been both significant and concerning. This has led to the imposition of a number of curbs across the Union Territory, including the closure of educational institutions for offline classes as well as the postponement of several examinations by universities.
While this increase in the number of positive cases has been concerning for both people and the authorities, the lethality vis-à-vis hospitalisations and deaths has been relatively very low when compared with the figures of deaths and hospitalisations during the second Covid19 wave when the Delta variant of the virus was at its peak.
Today, according to official versions, the bed occupancy is “very low” which is indicative of low levels of the lethality of the new variant called ‘Omicron’ despite the fact that scientists across the world have opined that its transmissibility is extremely high. Though there is no official data to support that the ongoing rise in Covid19 infections in Jammu and Kashmir is a result of the spread of the Omicron variant, nonetheless the rising levels of transmissibility are indicative of it. Truly, it is not possible for the government to go for mass testing for Omicron due to logistic requirements for genome sequencing, the levels of RTPCR testing for Covid19 have gone up significantly in the past few days, reaching as many as 80,000 tests/day on January 19.
Any complacency on part of people or authorities can have potentially dangerous consequences. The testing has to be ramped up. Furthermore, there has to be a close eye on the economic scenario and people’s daily livelihoods to ensure that the same are not jeopardised in any manner. Any decision on imposing lockdown has to be based on the levels of hospitalisations as against the number of daily cases, as some medical experts in J&K have already suggested.
At the public level too, the response to the fresh outbreak has been sagacious enough. Contrary to social stigma and ostracisation seen during the first and second wave of Covid19, when deaths and panic were at their peak, the situation today is far better. People appear to be handling the fresh outbreak with a fair degree of seriousness and maintaining the social cohesion that was seen in tatters in the first and second wave. That is a lesson that seems to have been learned the hard way at the public level, though it is important for the people to continue to mask up, maintain physical distancing and other Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) to halt the fresh outbreak in its tracks.
There is no clear scientific data to suggest that the Omicron variant is going to behave ‘mildly’ in the near future as it is behaving today. That should serve as an alarming sign for both the people as well as medical experts and health professionals dealing with Covid19. There must be no lowering of guard whatsoever. The hospitals have to be fully equipped with Oxygen supply and ICU beds to keep them ready for any eventuality. Dedicated Covid19 hospitals have to be put in a ‘ready mode’ for next few months till the ongoing wave—believed to go in a couple of months from now—ebbs. Any complacency on part of people or authorities can have potentially dangerous consequences. The testing has to be ramped up. Furthermore, there has to be a close eye on the economic scenario and people’s daily livelihoods to ensure that the same are not jeopardised in any manner. Any decision on imposing lockdown has to be based on the levels of hospitalisations as against the number of daily cases, as some medical experts in J&K have already suggested. A reckless lockdown has the potential to hit the livelihoods of people which they are yet to revive after taking a massive hit during the first and second wave of Covid19. Additionally, it is important to explore ways and means to see to it that the education sector doesn’t get impacted any further. It has already taken a heavy toll on children’s education and their socialising in schools and colleges. All decisions have to be weighed in with ground realities and medical advice for a fine and balanced approach. Both people and government need to work together to realise these objectives.
Covid19 reopening: A close watch needed
Jammu and Kashmir, like other parts of the country, continues to battle the Covid19 pandemic. Though the number of daily positive cases is not as alarming as it would be a few months earlier, yet there are some indications of a slow rise in positive cases in the past few weeks. This situation clearly calls for very careful handling of the situation, especially in view of the apprehensions of a possible third wave hitting the country in the months of October and November.
In a welcome move, the Jammu and Kashmir administration recently ordered phased reopening of educational institutions, including colleges and higher-level schools. It was a long-pending demand of all stakeholders, in the larger interest of the student community, to allow children to return to their on-campus classes after a long hiatus. The move coincided with the phased reopening of businesses in the Union Territory to infuse a fresh lease of life into the otherwise ‘dismal’ economy that was badly hit in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic.
The post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.
There is no denying the fact that the post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.
It was therefore imperative upon the administration to take care of the interests of this section of the society. It is equally a fact that the resumption of academic activities across Jammu and Kashmir was the need of the hour to enable students to interact with their teachers and peers, re-socialise on the campuses and heave a sigh of relief. To this extent, the administration took certain welcome decisions. However, the fact that the pandemic is still not over can’t be overlooked in such a scenario. It is therefore important to watch the situation very closely for its better management and minimal disruptions in case of any eventuality like the third Covid19 wave.
The onus to ensure a close watch on the situation certainly lies on the officials concerned, especially the Deputy Commissioners of various districts. In the past two months, the number of daily positive cases largely ranges from 100 to 200. This is not alarming if a comparison of these figures is made with the figures of the previous few months. But the level of unpredictability is too high to be taken casually. On September 22, the UT recorded the highest single-day tally of 204 Covid positive cases—up from 145 cases recorded a day earlier. This is where the situation demands utmost caution. At the official level, it is important to keep a track of these figures to decide on further reopening. If the rate of positivity surges, it would be in the fitness of things to reconsider the further process of reopening and reimpose the curbs, wherever necessary. Alongside, it is imperative to ensure that mass gatherings are disallowed and people adhere to the Covid Appropriate Behavior (CAB) in letter and spirit. The administration also requires to watch the Covid scenario in other states of the country and handle the inflow of tourists and visitors to the UT accordingly in strict adherence to the SOPs. The situation just cannot be allowed to go out of control any longer. Sustained and focused attention on the situation can go a long way in facilitating its better management at all levels.
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