In the past few weeks, the Covid-19 situation in India has deteriorated significantly, which received adequate attention from the Bangladeshi media. The news of the deaths of patients in various media has made everyone puzzled.
We have already noticed that the Covid-19 situation in India is largely out of control. The scenes of human sufferings and deaths portrayed in different media have created a sense of horror. I was taken aback by a viral image showing that a wife was blowing air into her husband's mouth to save his life, risking her own.
In thousands of cases like this, the families of patients infected with Coronavirus tried hard to save their lives even though they knew that it is a highly infectious disease. Yet, they wanted to rescue their family members and relatives by fighting all sorts of horrors.
India was not much affected by the first wave of Coronavirus like Bangladesh. As a result, after a few months, life became normal. Elections have been held in various states, including West Bengal, due to constitutional obligation. However, the Madras and Calcutta High Courts have criticised the Election Commission's decision to hold elections at this time. Also, many feel that the insanity of people attending various religious ceremonies has exacerbated the situation. As a result, the situation has reached a point where it is very difficult to control.
Now, many are trying to find out the reasons for the deterioration of Covid-19 situations in India. Some argued that the reluctance of people to comply with Coronavirus safety protocols and elections are to blame. Again, many said that the double and triple mutant viruses have been found in India though neither the World Health Organization nor public health experts have yet recognised such claim. If a triple mutant virus were to be found, it would be extremely dangerous because it is much more powerful than the previous strains. It can infect people at much higher speeds.
Countries around the world have responded positively to help India in this situation. Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, are helping India with various supplies and equipment.
We all know that oxygen is the most important requirement for Coronavirus treatment. India already has a shortage of oxygen. We have seen how people of different professions and classes have come forward to support the government there. Various business groups based in India are helping the government with money and goods. Also, some business groups are working to produce oxygen by changing the focus of their businesses. This is a great sign of true patriotism.
Giant business organisations in Bangladesh have not engaged themselves in serving the people. Although some non-governmental organisations and industries assisted people in the first wave of Corona, not many organisations have come forward with the kind of assistance that we have seen in India during the second wave.
As India is our very neighbouring country, if the situation there gets worse, Bangladesh will remain susceptible to a more deteriorating situation. If the triple mutant virus that is plaguing India enters our country, the situation will get out of control. Comprehending the propensity of the further deterioration, Bangladesh government has rightly decided to close all borders with India for fourteen days.
Now a pertinent question is, are we really learning anything observing the deterioration of the Covid-19 situation in India? Analysing the situation as a whole, I do not think we are actually learning anything at all. So far, the tendency of people to go out and their reluctance to follow the Covid-19 protocols seem to suggest that the vast majority of the countrymen don't have any thoughts on the horrors of Corona.
At the same time, we have noticed that even though the government is providing maximum assistance to the citizens during the Covid-19 period, giant business organisations in Bangladesh have not engaged themselves in serving the people. Although some non-governmental organisations and industries assisted people in the first wave of Corona, not many organisations have come forward with the kind of assistance that we have seen in India during the second wave.
On the contrary, business people in Bangladesh are always trying to figure out how to get incentives from the government. This kind of mentality can never be an indication of patriotism. Of course, they might have some good reasons as they are suffering greatly due to business closure.
Still, they could come forward to extend their support to the government in helping the people in need. Moreover, there is a mentality among a large group of people in our country that all the responsibilities to protect the country from any pandemic lie within the government. Such a mental setup is never desirable.
A country will reach the pinnacle of development only when an environment is created where the various catalysts, including the government, the people and the business community work together. This has not yet developed in Bangladesh. Rather, the practice of a kind of blame-game has always existed here.
The opposition parties have always remained busy criticising all decisions of the government. If the political parties move forward with such a mindset, it will be difficult for the government to deal with the pandemic alone.
Realising the essence of such cooperation, the general secretary of the Bangladesh Awami League recently urged all the parties to reach to a national consensus during the worst time this century has come across. Unfortunately, we have not heard anything positive from the opposition parties yet.
The most important thing right now is to raise awareness about the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic and comply with safety regulations. It has already been mentioned that if the situation in Bangladesh worsens, the most urgent need will be to ensure an adequate supply of oxygen. The situation will be very difficult to deal with if there is a scarcity in the oxygen supply.
We know that Bangladesh imports oxygen from India. However, India's current shortage of oxygen is so acute that the country has been forced to stop exporting. So, Bangladesh government's main task will be to ensure the supply of oxygen from various private agencies overseas. India has already started importing oxygen plants from Germany and placed them nationwide.
Similarly, the Government of Bangladesh should find an alternative source of the supply of oxygen to ensure its adequate supply in the country. What we need now is the spontaneous participation of the people in the fight against the Coronavirus.
The government has repeatedly urged the countrymen that the most important thing in dealing with Coronavirus is to stay at home, wear face masks while going out, and maintain social distance. During the pandemic, the citizens must bear equal responsibility like the government.
However, it is unfortunate that we are still observing a kind of reluctance among the majority of the people to comply with the safety measures. Such an attitude from the citizens may further worsen the Covid-19 situation in the country. The most important thing right now is to raise awareness among the people and work together.
We all have to work together to deal with this situation by learning a lesson from India's experience. We must bear in mind that we need to stop things from getting worse before things actually get worse. If we fail to do this, the situation will get out of control. Then we will have to fight to save people's lives.
Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.