Even as I write this piece, after critically examining the trajectory of the Covid-19 second wave, across various states in India, I cannot help but point out the obvious negative bias in the coverage of Covid management in Uttar Pradesh, perhaps stemming from a sense of Lutyen’s elitism or perhaps from sheer political opportunism, given the fact that elections are due in India’s most populous state next year in 2022, so it makes sense to amplify misgivings in Uttar Pradesh but ignore far greater lapses in states like Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab or Delhi.
First, let us put the facts together. In the last 24 hours, 3.58 lakh tests were done in UP as per UP government data. So far 4.84 crore tests have been done in the state, a sizeable number in the rural areas we are informed by data. There has been a continuous decrease in the number of positive cases down to a mere 2402 cases. There are about 52,244 total active cases in Uttar Pradesh.
According to new figures, there are no cases in 2 districts of the state. In 16 districts, cases are in single digits. There are cases in double digit in 53 districts and only 4 districts have cases in hundreds. Almost 1.8cr people have been vaccinated in Uttar Pradesh so far. UP is giving free vaccines to all above the age of 18.
Now, let me add some perspective to these numbers. While UP is doing about 3.5 lakh+ tests/day, Maharashtra did about 2.6 lakh tests/day. The total number of tests conducted till now I Maharashtra stands at 3.4cr as opposed to 4.84 crore tests done in UP( on the day I write this piece). Now, the population of UP is more than Maharashtra but the fact is that Maharashtra is much more economically prosperous than UP. For eg: The NSDP per capita ( nominal for 2019-2020 ) for Maharashtra is Rs 2,10,900 versus a mere Rs 65,704 for UP (almost 3 times that of UP). Maharashtra has the highest GSDP among 33 Indian States and Union Territories with Rs 28.18 lakh crore (US$400 billion) in 2019-20 and UP is at Rs 17.05 lakh crore.
What is also true is that in last 24 hours (on the day I write this), Maharashtra reported about 21,000 new COVID cases , Kerala about 24,000 new COVID cases, Tamilnadu about 33,000 new COVID cases and UP about 2400 odd new COVID cases. The population of UP at approximately 23cr is the same as the population of these three states combined! As of 27th May data, Maharashtra reported the highest number of cases and Covid-19 deaths so far at 56.5 lakhs and 91,341 respectively. Comparatively, UP reported 16.8 lakh cases and 19,712 cases. So Maharashtra with just 8.8% of the total population of India has contributed 28.9% of the total deaths in India and 20.6% of the cases. Now, it is likely that the Lutyen’s ecosystem will say that UP is under testing or even under-reporting deaths. Let us address these aspects too. The recovery rate in UP has increased to 95.40 per cent while the positivity rate is merely 1.1 per cent. Maharashtra’s positivity rate is at 10.4% as I write this. Clearly if UP was under-testing it would have a higher positivity rate. Let us take one more example- From May 21 to May 27, the health department of Rajasthan tested merely 3,52,829 samples in 7 days which means a state as large as Rajastha has done just 50,000 tests on average in the last week as per reports . In Rajasthan , the positivity rate is 9.6% which means it still needs to conduct more testing to ensure it is tracking the infection and its spread religiously in the state. The fact that UP is conducting more tests than Maharashtra and is still registering a far , far lesser positivity rate means that the UP-Yogi Model of 3 T’s-tracking, testing and treatment and his personal visit to every district is working.
Both the Niti Ayog and World Health Organization (WHO) have lauded the work of the Uttar Pradesh government for initiating a house to house active case finding of COVID in rural areas, across 97000 villages, to contain transmission by testing people with symptoms for rapid isolation disease management and contact tracing. “The UP government’s strategic response to COVID-19 by stepping up contact tracing efforts is exemplary and can serve as a good example for other states,” said Roderico Ofrin, WHO Country Representative, said in a statement issued by the state government.
As far as under-reporting of deaths is concerned, allegations were made about Uttar Pradesh fudging and falsifying Covid deaths, by certain sections of media, particularly using the visuals of bodies floating in the river Ganga. The narrative created, without basis and perspective, was that these were bodies of Covid-19 patients that had been dumped into the rivers to underplay the Covid deaths and also because there was enough capacity left in crematoriums to give these people a dignified death. Now, it turns out that the exact same story of hundreds of bodies floating in the river had also been reported by all media organizations in 2015 too and that it had nothing to do with Covid but with a tradition driven practice of water immersions for salvation, a practice that continues to be prevalent despite public awareness campaigns, in those parts of North India. Infact many a political-jeevis were caught circulating and passing off pictures of 2015 as pictures of 2021, only to drive home their political point of mismanagement of Covid in Uttar Pradesh.
While even one death not accounted for or not given a dignified send off is one too many the fact is that not even 10% attention was given to the massive scale of underreporting of deaths and lack of dignity in death in states like Rajasthan, Telangana or Maharashtra. Local news reports and credible surveys by a local news daily, listed 14,482 deaths caused by the disease in the state’s 25 rural districts between April 1 and May 20 this year alone, while the Rajasthan government’s record put the number of deaths in this period to just 3,918. But not a word was said on this by Rahul Gandhi, who has been vocal on under-reporting of deaths nor has the Lutyens media pursued this with the same gusto ad it pursued the “bodies floating in Ganga” story. One wonder’s why the dual standards? In Telangana the High court had ordered the state government “Don’t fudge Covid death numbers” in April end yet there was not much of hue and cry on this either. Punjab government did precious little to crackdown on the violation of lockdown norms and curbs, by so called Kisan andolans, which politically benefit the opposition and admittedly this has led to spread of Covid second wave in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi as per data but those who compained about Kumbh Mela and Panchayat elections in UP or state elections in Bengal remained mum on this too.
All state governments must be asked tough questions about the manner in which they have handed various aspects of Covid management in the second phase but when one state namely UP has scripted a success story in relative terms, despite its limitations and challenges, there is no hailing of the “UP Model” but states that have been contributing the most to the national tally of Covid-19 cases and deaths is hailed by a certain section as a model to be emulated, then it is obvious that such conclusions have been arrived at, not on basis of facts but political convenience and propaganda.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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