The past two months have left the residents of the north Indian state of Bihar reel under the impact of the second wave of Covid-19 as the death toll mounted to record-breaking levels. In this TCN Ground Report, we recount the “trauma and shock” that the citizens went through.
Nafis Haider and Shaheen Muddassir | TwoCircles.net
BIHAR – Panic, confusion and trauma are rife among people in the north Indian state of Bihar amid the second wave of coronavirus that has devastated the country. Locals said that the poor response mechanism of the state government and surge in deaths that the state witnessed due to Covid-19 has left them in “shock and trauma.”
Even though the government on June 15 announced relaxations in the lockdown-related restrictions and extended the night curfew for another one week – from June 16 to 22, the locals said that the “period of trauma is far from over.”
The past two months have left the residents of Bihar reel under the impact of the second wave of Covid-19 as the death toll mounted to record-breaking levels in the state and across the country.
Reflecting on the Covid-19 situation in the state seen in the last few months, Moin Ansari, from Phulwari Sharif Patna, told TwoCircles.net, “We are left with nothing here. Our locality does not have a good hospital and the nearby hospitals which provide good medical service are charging hefty amounts from patients.”
“We are not even able to find the necessary medicines for Covid-19. The condition of my locality “is really bad.” Ansari, who owns a shop in the local market said.
Ansari said that due to the Covid-19 lockdown the market has been severely impacted. “There is no other means of livelihood for me. Most of the people here are like that,” he said.
Ansari added that “it is becoming difficult even to find bread and butter for my family.”
Days after the Bihar government found 71 dead bodies in the river Ganga in the Buxar district of the state in May, more bodies were also fished out near the Gulabi ghat in Patna, which also included the dead body of a child. With the corpses found floating in the Ganga ghat in Patna suspected of victims of Covid-19, the residents living in the nearby colonies were left traumatized. The residents are still reeling from the trauma.
Shadaab Khan, a resident of Haroon Nagar colony explained the chaotic state of things. “People were not coming out of their homes to give medicines to those suffering from Covid-19. You cannot depend on even your neighbours as everyone is afraid they will catch the disease. The old people were the first to die during the month of Ramadan. People were so traumatized by the number of deaths from this colony alone that we had to call off the practice of announcement of death from the mosque,” Khan said.
People from the region are blaming the “inefficiency of the Bihar government” for failing to test people arriving from other states.
Locals said that many villages which had zero cases later witnessed a rise in Covid-19 positive patients and subsequent deaths.
In a high-level meeting last month, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar showed concern about proper testing and quarantine of migrants who are coming back to Bihar amid the second wave of Covid-19, but, as per locals, “nothing concrete happened on the ground.”
Locals who spoke to TwoCircles.net also complained of “poor testing” at government hospitals.
Tasneem Malik, who recovered from Covid-19 in late May told TwoCircles.net that in early May he developed high fever, diarrhoea and had other symptoms associated with the coronavirus. “I, obviously, went for a Covid-19 test, but the report came negative,” adding, “However, after two days when my health condition worsened, I went for another test and I came Covid-19 positive.”
Locals said that the government is downplaying the count of Covid-19 positive cases “by pronouncing people negative even though they are positive.”
Between May 5 and May 15, the positivity rate has come down from around 15% to 5%. The decline in positivity rate can be attributed to the effect of lockdown but such a sharp decline has raised “suspicions of data manipulation.’
On March 18, Bihar recorded the highest single-day Covid-19 deaths as 111 persons succumbed to the virus. Locals, however, maintained that the death toll is much higher than what is projected in the official data.
The claim of the locals is substantiated by the inconsistencies in the death toll of Buxar district reported by Bihar’s chief secretary and the Patna divisional commissioner. The chief secretary submitted a report in the Patna High Court in May that since March 1 only six deaths due to Covid-19 had taken place in Buxar, while the divisional commissioner’s affidavit mentioned between 5 May and 14 May, 789 cremations were conducted at just one cremation ground of the district.
Bihar is worst state for healthcare workers
Due to the inadequate health infrastructure in the state, the exponential rise in Covid-19 cases has only made the situation worse.
Reports said that the exhausted healthcare workers, including doctors at the hospital, are made to work in a “severe infectious environment without proper equipment.”
The Indian Medical Association in its report in May said that out of 269 doctors who died in the second wave of Covid-19, as many as 78 were from Bihar. The required strength of doctors in Bihar is around 17,000, but there are only 8,000 doctors in the state.
The death of doctors due to Covid-19 was accompanied by an already shortage of staff. The Indian army created two field hospitals to assist the Bihar government in fighting the rising number of cases but compared to the rising demands of doctors and beds in the city, locals said that “they are a mere eyewash.”
Although, on June 11, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that, “1.30 crore people have been vaccinated for Covid-19 across the state,” locals reeling from Covid-19 trauma said that the state will take some time to “get back to normal life.”
Shaheen Muddassir studies History at Jamia Millia Islamia and Nafis Haider studies Political Science at Aligarh Muslim University.