Edappadi Palaniswami, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, is clueless about tackling the spread of coronavirus in the State.
A firm believer in the efficacy of lockdown, he has made it an end in itself rather than the means to an end. Lockdown by itself has never eradicated any epidemic or pandemic anywhere in the world.
When the Union government ordered unlocking from 1 June, Palaniswami introduced a novel system of simultaneous lockdown and unlocking and fell between two stools.
He will, however, never give up lockdowns voluntarily for it enabled him to create a new breed of “corona crorepatis” in the State. Conspicuous consumption of the newly rich is visible all around.
A senior officer of the State government involved with health has reportedly during this period built an idyllic castle as a private residence which is drawing a number of visitors.
As the number of coronavirus cases crossed 1.3 lakh on 10 July, with Chennai City alone accounting for 75,000, Palaniswami assured people that he would establish a plasma bank in Chennai soon.
A Central team led by Arti Ahuja, additional secretary in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to take stock of the Covid-19 situation in Tamil Nadu, reportedly expressed concern about the low number of cases in certain districts and told respective collectors about the significance of death audits.
The number of cases is low in the districts because people followed local remedies instead of waiting for the government protocol, which is largely based on the Western system of medicine.
Tamil Nadu has more than the 2,000-year-old Siddha system of medicine. The Siddha Medical Council, Chennai, and the National Institute of Siddha, Tambaram, are recognised by the Ayush Ministry of the Union government.
Palaniswami is reluctant to utilise the services of qualified Siddha doctors. In rural Tamil Nadu, medicine is mostly left to traditional vaidyars who learn the art and science of healing from their forefathers. It is their presence in every village that has helped control the spread.
One such rural vaidyar, Thanikkachallam, set up a roaring practice in Chennai at the outset of the corona epidemic and threw up a challenge to the Chief Minister to send the worst case of coronavirus to his clinic for treatment. The government got him arrested under the Goondas Act.
He is still under detention and other indigenous medicine men have gone underground fearing similar fate when they could play a vital role.
Veerababu, a qualified doctor, had set up a 200-bed Siiddha hospital in Chennai and admitted 130 patients ranging between 30 and 70 years, who had tested positive for Covid-19 with multiple morbidities like BP, CKD, TB, diabetes, and treated them exclusively with Siddha medicines made of herbs and roots.
All of them have been cured. Eventually, the Madras High Court intervened on 10 July, highlighting the importance of Siddha medicine and raised a series of questions to the Union and Tamil Nadu governments, answerable by 23 July