A Pandemic and an election: Covid19-led migration to test Bihar alliance

Rakesh Kumar was selling plants and plants on his cart in Gurugram. The day after Janata’s curfew was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he decided to sell these plants and plants at disposable prices, to no avail. “I couldn’t sell a single factory. I would go back to my village… I have no money to feed my family. The way things are going, the situation will only get worse in the coming days, “said Kumar, from Samastipur district in Bihar.

His fears became reality: Tuesday evening, Modi announced a national lockdown of 21 days to limit the spread of the coronavirus. With trains and other modes of transportation closed, Kumar – who found himself with little money – decided to go home on his bicycle cart.

He is one of the many migrants across the country who have no choice but to walk or cycle hundreds of kilometers on the highways to return to their hometowns and villages. Many of them are heading to Bihar – without food or water and without a safety net from the state government, which will soon be linked to the ballot boxes. Therefore, the political impact of this crisis cannot be overlooked.

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Crisis

At the time of writing, more than 500 people have been tested in Bihar. The state also reported 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and recorded one death.

As the situation worsened across the country, during the first two weeks of March, the state government did not seem to be disturbed by the developing crisis.

The death of a 38-year-old Munger resident, who was admitted to the Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Patna, for kidney disease and tested positive for COVID-19, ultimately forced the government of the ‘State to sound the alarm. He stopped bus services across the state to restrict the movement of people. At that time, thousands of migrants were already confined to their homes on trains or buses.

The state government announced a rescue plan on March 22. “1,000 rupees per family will be paid to all families of ration card holders in the state. The amount will be transferred directly to their bank accounts, “said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in a video message. The state government also announced a month’s base salary to all doctors and nurses as an incentive. In addition, he decided to pay social pensions three months in advance.

A day later, the state government announced a crore of 100 rupees to support the expenses of migrant workers stranded in other states.

The government also announced a crown eradication fund and has decided to deduct a minimum of Rs 50 lakh from the funds of the MLA and MLC Local Area Development Scheme.

But that is not enough, experts say.

Gaps in history

“Since the beginning of this crisis, thousands of people have returned to Bihar,” said Dr Arun Shah, based in Muzaffarpur, adding, “Most of them have been inadequately documented by the state government “Thousands are on their way. It’s horrible. There is every chance of a COVID -19 epidemic in Bihar and the state government is not ready.” Dr. Shah is a renowned pediatrician , known for his work on acute encephalitis syndrome (AES).

The state government has already accepted that six confirmed cases have no travel history.

The combination of an epidemic and a ruined health infrastructure makes most health experts fear the worst. “The network of primary health centers and community health centers is virtually nonexistent in the state. As a result, all of the major public hospitals in the state are constantly overcrowded and overcrowded, ”said a senior doctor at a large public hospital in Patna.

Bihar, along with neighboring Uttar Pradesh, obtained the lowest score in the NITI Aayog-2019 health index. According to an affidavit filed by the state government last July before the Supreme Court, there was a shortage of doctors at 57%, 71% nurses, 72% laboratory technicians and 50% nurses- auxiliary women. The affidavit was filed by the state government in response to a Supreme Court opinion after the deaths of hundreds of children due to AES.

Amit Shah, Nitish Kumar

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (left) greets BJP President Amit Shah in Patna on Thursday PTI

This is the condition of Patna Medical College and Hospital that doctors had to rely on contributions to buy masks. It is then that the hospital has an annual budget of almost Rs 300 crore.

Dr Shah said, “The state does not even have enough masks and gloves, let alone personal protective equipment, for frontline health workers. Only one laboratory in Patna, the Rajendra Medical Research Institute, is equipped to test COVID-19 samples. After initial confirmation, samples are sent to the Pune National Virology Laboratory for secondary confirmation. It takes a week for this confirmation. There are not enough kits. There would not be more than 200 to 250 fans for a population of 110 million inhabitants. There are simply not enough beds in hospitals. “

Look at the election

As opposition parties extended their support for the fight against the epidemic, they kept an eye on the upcoming assembly elections slated for later this year. Rashtriya Janata Dal has offered to make its headquarters a quarantine center or an isolation ward. Tejashwi Yadav sent a check of Rs 1.25 crore for the CM Relief Fund and asked his deputies to provide all possible help.

“The health care situation in India is already worrying. And, Bihar is at the bottom of that. The recent crisis indicates that we have not learned from the mistakes of other countries. Large numbers of people in districts such as Gopalganj, Siwan, Katihar and Patna are traveling to the Gulf countries for a living and many have returned in recent days. But there was virtually no control over them and their movement was not followed. The state government has not even implemented a separate meter for patients with symptoms of COVID-19 infection. While the CMs of Kerala and West Bengal are on the streets to take charge of the leadership, Nitish Kumar has not left his home, “said Shivanand Tiwary, chief of the RJD.

Saturday and Sunday, as thousands of Bihar migrant workers were lining up at Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus station, hoping to return home, Nitish Kumar denounced state decisions to send them back on buses . “The very purpose of isolation will be defeated if thousands of migrants are returned to Bihar on buses. My government has asked the resident commissioner of Bihar in Delhi to coordinate with various state governments and reimburse the cost of their food and of their stay, “said Kumar. Interestingly, it was his deputy and senior officer of the BJP, Sushil Kumar Modi, who sought the help of UP CM Yogi Adityanath in this matter.

Despite the truce following the recent crisis, political analysts say the situation could become a problem during the campaign. They underline the fact that most of the migrants who return to Bihar belong to backward communities.

“They already have the impression that the government of India has sent planes to evacuate the wealthy Indians stranded abroad, but it has no money for them. The high unemployment rate in Bihar and the lack of industrial growth forced them to venture outside the state. Most of these workers belong to marginalized strata of society. The lockdown, although necessary, has broken their economic backbone, “said an analyst.

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