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Arvind Kejriwal has run out of excuses over his Covid failures in Delhi

The AAP government thought it could control the Covid narrative by manipulating data, but when bodies pile up, data doesn’t matter anymore.

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March has turned into June in the life of a pandemic and the Arvind Kejriwal-led government in Delhi is woefully unprepared to save lives. Worse, it is now deflecting blame on all and sundry, and fudging Covid-19 data to pretend all is well.

The whole point of a lockdown was to prepare the medical infrastructure for the coming onslaught of Covid-19 patients. We had seen as early as in March-April what things were like in Italy, Spain, and the UK.

We had long been warned of what happens in such situations: lives can’t be saved. Lives can’t be saved because there aren’t enough doctors, nurses, ward persons, oxygen cylinders, ventilators, ICUs, or simply beds. And when people die, there’s a shortage of hearse vans and funeral facilities.

On all these counts, we are forced to ask: what was Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal doing?

Delhi wasn’t even the first to be this badly hit, it was Mumbai. If not other countries, Kejriwal could at least have looked at what was happening in Mumbai and prepared accordingly. Today, we don’t have a single makeshift hospital solely for Covid-19 patients. Mumbai has converted NSCI Dome into one, where’s Delhi’s equivalent of that?

Also read: As Covid goes out of hand, Modi goes back to yoga, acronyms and nationalism

Delhi’s wasted lockdown

Thanks to Arvind Kejriwal’s indolence, Delhi has wasted its lockdown. All that suffering the city went through was pointless. All those labourers who were being fired from their jobs and leaving for home — they needn’t have gone through all that pain. Delhi is in the thick of community transmission anyway — the ICMR can keep repeating that there is no community spread in India yet and Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia can use that to claim the same. But the Kejriwal government’s admission that it could not detect the source of infection in nearly 50 per cent of the coronavirus cases in Delhi tells us what no one would officially admit. The Delhi government hasn’t been able to mount a medical fight against an onslaught it knew was coming.

If Delhi’s preparedness has been a setback for want of co-operation by the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre or the BJP-run municipal corporations in the city, then Arvind Kejriwal should publicly say so. If this was happening five years ago, he would have blamed Modi without a hitch. Today, he has surrendered himself before the Modi government and finds other scapegoats, such as the ‘outsiders’ and the private hospitals.

If private hospitals today are overcharging Covid-19 patients or turning them away or deliberately not using their facilities to treat them, then blame Arvind Kejriwal for not sorting out these issues long ago because he was sleeping at the wheel.

At a time when he needs the co-operation of private hospitals, he is turning them into the enemy for political purposes. While private hospitals run by business houses do have a bad name, Kejriwal took out all his spite against the best private hospital in Delhi run not by any business house but a charitable trust: Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

When Delhi’s Covid-19 hospitals became a mess, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government quickly issued a mobile app, Delhi Corona. Enforcing new technological interventions comes with teething troubles. So the app doesn’t work. It shows beds but the hospital says beds are not available.

The problem here is Kejriwal’s inability to comprehend that the issue is not beds but all the special Covid facilities that come with it, such as air handling units. It takes at least a few days to convert a hospital ward into one that can deal with Covid, treating patients without infecting medical staff.

Also read: It’s time Arvind Kejriwal joined the NDA, à la Nitish Kumar

Data fudging

Part of the reason why Arvind Kejriwal didn’t think he would have a problem at hand is because he was initially able to get away with data fudging. When you can hide the data, you can pretend the situation is under control.

From early May, we have been seeing news reports of how the Covid death numbers from crematoria and burial grounds don’t match the official numbers put out by the Delhi government. For every two Covid deaths, the AAP says one has died. Similarly, on testing, as the positive numbers rose, the Delhi government lashed out at private testing labs and banned some, including the one at Ganga Ram Hospital.

We have also seen deliberate under-testing. On Twitter, a citizen complained that his sister-in-law, a doctor, couldn’t get a test for herself. The testing lab she went to was told to do only ten tests a day — ten.

In other words, even frontline workers are being denied tests. The AAP government has diabolically made the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) the scapegoat on the testing issue. It presents itself as a hapless implementing agency enforcing the ICMR guidelines on testing. 

The truth is that health is a state subject and far from opposing the narrow ICMR guidelines, the Kejriwal government issued its own, making them even narrower, denying symptomatic contacts of conformed Covid patients the right to have a test.

This brazen violation of the Indian Constitution’s promise of the right to life was overturned by Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, and a politically neutered Kejriwal didn’t speak against the LG as he would have five years ago.

Kejriwal has made data fudging central to his Covid-19 policy, because in the past, data manipulation has reaped rich rewards for him in education.

In Delhi’s government schools, students not doing too well in academics are not allowed to take board exams, and told to pursue their studies through correspondence instead. This has helped Delhi government schools improve their pass percentage to an extent that it is able to put out self-congratulatory newspaper ads claiming government school students are performing better than those of private schools. Such skullduggery has gone unquestioned in Delhi politics. So why would data manipulation not reap Kejriwal similar rewards when it comes to Covid?

The answer lies not in data but outside the reality of graphs, charts and meaningless percentages. We have moved beyond lies — white lies — and statistics. When dead bodies pile up in hearse vans, nobody cares about data.

Hapless citizens have to run from pillar to post, first to get a test, then to get a hospital bed, then to get a funeral. The Supreme Court says Covid patients in Delhi are being treated worse than animals. None of this has anything to do with data. Arvind Kejriwal will soon run out of excuses. He has created a mess and this time the blowback is certain.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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  1. Jounalists should be neither be haters or cheer leaders. Shivam Vij is trying to hide his hate between English sentences.

  2. What a biased and uncanny piece of journalism! May be not even worth being called that.

    It is just becoming a trend with the print.

  3. Sorry to say that the writer of this piece is biased and is taking a blinkered view of the situation. I think in this pandemic the easiest thing for anyone is to be a writer and write about things they do not know sitting in the comforts of their homes. As I have been saying earlier The is also going the same way. It is only very clear that this writer has no clue about the pandemic and how it is spread and what is the treatment options available. He only finds it very easy to blame Kejriwal for everything. He goes on to make some very serious allegations about the government fudging data. What is the fact. Does he have evidence. Lets understand that no one saw this pandemic coming and in such a large scale. Our healthcare system is crumbling and in most cases exists only on paper. Everyone talks about ICUs and ventilators and that is not the solution. It will be nice for Shivam Vij to keep quiet and not talk about issues that he has no clue about. It is easy to find faults and give suggestions but being on the ground and doing something is difficult. I am sorry that Shivam is another bak, bak, bakwas writer and I do not know why he is singling out Kejriwal whereas the overall picture as regarding the handling of the Corona virus is in a default mode allowing nature to take its own course. Change your glasses Shivam if you want to see the truth as it is.

  4. Shivam Vij has done a better job in analyzing the deficiencies of the Kejriwal govt as compare to the by Ms Taskin .All of our politicians should humbly be saying now that their capacities were not enough for a virus .This is a terrible crisis for everyone involved and there are unfortunately no easy solutions .Places like Delhi and Mumbai due to their nature are Covid Hot spots .Any Politician would have struggled do all that much .While journalists can argue for a hospital to be set up a la Wuhan , I always wonder how the manpower would be obtained for such endeavors .Put simply , this is not as easy as giving away free electricity or free bus rides but Kejriwal and other politicians should take this crisis as an opportunity to prepare for the next one .

  5. Thank god it was classified under opinions. Otherwise it would have been my last read on theprint.

  6. The problem here is Kejriwal’s inability to comprehend. This one line says it ALL. Kejri does not a clue and his people are all looters and none of them know how to handle anything.People of Delhi were fooled by Kejri and his corrupt friends and we are left having to fix it.

  7. Really? Seriously? Is Delhi suffering that much, or should I say that is Delhi suffering alone? Are your eyes shut blind to other states or is it what it always has been? Delhi is failing, true. But as is Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, and other states, nothing less, nothing more.
    Ohh, or is it that ThePrint, also…..? Don’t worry, doesn’t feel bad anymore about this drowning pillar.

  8. It is fun to see the luddite liberal and selectively secular media rail against Shri Kejriwal. As long as it suited each other, media and Shri Kejriwal were joined at the hip. Apparently he was the best Chief Minister of a state, while in truth he was nothing more than a Mayor of a city. Now that the chickens have come home to roost, the media is backtracking furiously, lest it also gets the blame for backing the wrong horse.

  9. If a Bureaucrat turned Magsaysay award winning NGO worker turned Politician fails like this in administration, one wonders if people really count for our so called leaders. This is sheer lack of will from Kejriwal.

  10. Between Modi at the Union level and Kejriwal at the state level, Delhi is in a sorry state. As many govt have discovered to their peril, health infrastructure cannot be created in a day – Kejriwal had 6 years, Modi had 13 years, yet both have scored zero on the health front. Fudging figures is tough in health hence Modi is also keeping quite and not claiming that Ayushman Bharat will save Indians from covid. Interestingly situation is equally bad in Ahmedabad but then the national media is quite forgiving to BJP ruled states. Even Shiv Sena is paying the price for chronically underfunding and understaffing the health infrastructure of BMC – result is showing in Mumbai.

  11. Amidst all this mismanagement, Sri Raghav Chaddha, the AAP spokesperson claimed emphatically at least on 3 channels over 2/ 3 days that the entire AAP team was working day & night to fight the corona crisis. Poor boy, he does not know nobody is interested in how hard a work one has put in but only in RESULTS. And the scoresheet shows AAP has been a miserable failure in controlling the pandemic even in a small UT like Delhi.
    AAP has proved to be totally immature, inexperienced and possibly incompetent as well.

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