The spread of Covid-19 may have entered the critical third phase and yet going by the Cabinet Secretary’s assurance on Monday, the 21- day lockdown is scheduled to be lifted on 14 April, Poila Baisakh. Yet the cache of sweeping measures unveiled by West Bengal’s Chief Minister on Monday point both to a robust effort and an anxiety not to be caught with all defences down.
Chief among the decisions announced in course of a video-conference with District Magistrates is that “dedicated Covid hospitals” are to be set up in the districts as part of the public-private partnership, which indeed is a novel feature of the novel coronavirus.
This will be supplemented by “isolation hospitals” at the block level. The network thus devised will hopefully afford a boost to Bengal’s traditionally decrepit rural healthcare system, in which even doctors are loathe to serve. As case-studies in public policy, it is fervently to be hoped that the new hospitals will come to the aid of the sick and the dying long after coronavirus ceases to hit the headlines the world over.
Regretfully though, the authorities of Jhargram and West Midnapore districts ~ both in the basket region of grinding poverty ~ are yet to earmark designated hospitals that can attend to Covid-19 patients, let alone the isolation buildings, so-called.
More accurately, the two languish in unsplendid isolation among the 23 districts of Bengal. In comparison, Purulia, another hotbed of Left radical activity, fares better going by the trend of the discussions at the question-and-answer session. Which is the primary reason why the populace of this region, predominantly the subaltern class, are most particularly vulnerable.
The state government is yet to draw up a pie-chart on the number of afflicted in the subaltern belt, a document that ought to be at the core of the public health initiative in the hitherto neglected districts. In terms of societal welfare the increase in health insurance coverage from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh will be generally welcomed.
The ancillary units have over the past fortnight put their best foot forward and richly deserve the enhanced value of health insurance policies. Having said that, the targeted beneficiaries are as yet an indeterminate group just as the nonbudgetary outlay remains to be worked out.
Transcending such measures of benevolence is the migrants issue and the long march from the workplace to home. It beggars belief that workers in Bengaluru have started walking the miles between the Karnataka capital and Jalore in Rajasthan. An experience such as this serves to deepen the enormity of the tragedy caused by Covid-19.
Closely related is the decision to seal the Bengal’s borders and to reject requests by MPs and MLAs to allow people to enter the state. The government is yet to work out the puzzle of how 200 people could enter Islampur in North Dinajpur from Bihar. But these issues aside, West Bengal’s administration is quite clearly on its toes.