Out of controlIt is the coronavirus pandemic, and not the media narrative, that should be under control.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli thinks everything is under control, just the way Emperor Nero thought everything was under control even as Rome burned, the way Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar thought everything was under control even as Company forces reclaimed Delhi. The situation is under control, except that dozens of people are dying due to the virus every day and thousands of people are being infected. The situation is under control, except that for a patient to get an ICU bed, another patient must either recover or die altogether. It is the coronavirus situation, and not the media narrative, that is expected to be under control, Mr Prime Minister.
If the situation was under control, the PCR test results of dozens of parliamentarians and staff at Parliament Secretariat would not come back positive. If everything was under control, Oli’s own henchmen inside Baluwatar would not test positive for a second time. If everything was under control, ambulances would not be speeding on empty roads blaring their melancholic sirens, social media walls would not be full of condolence posts and desperate calls for help in securing hospital beds and oxygen supplies, international media would expend their precious space raising alarms that Nepal was headed the India way in pandemic management.
Hospitals are reported to have stopped admitting patients as they are running short of beds and oxygen cylinders. Friends and relatives of the patients are running from pillar to post trying to manage ICU and ventilator beds for their loved ones. Philanthropically-oriented individuals are donating blood, money and food to strangers so that humanity continues to thrive despite the crisis. And yet, the prime minister, sitting in his cosy bubble inside Baluwatar, tells the international media that everything is under control.
What’s more, if the denial of the coronavirus crisis and control of the media narrative were not enough, the prime minister had the audacity to blame the people for spreading the virus. First, he blamed the opposition for not letting him do his work. Then he blamed the Pushpa Kamal Dahal faction of his erstwhile Nepal Communist Party (NCP) for jeopardising their political future. Then he charged his own comrades supporting the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction with pushing the party towards a split by conducting parallel activities under the CPN-UML. And now, it is the people who are to blame for making a mess of the pandemic.
Perhaps the people did not gargle with guava leaf water enough. Perhaps they did not drink turmeric water enough. Perhaps they did not sneeze enough. Perhaps they did not follow any of the remedies he had prescribed to fight the virus.
If Prime Minister Oli’s method of assessing the coronavirus situation is not entirely different from the globally accepted methods, then he should have seen clearly that the situation has been out of control for weeks now. It could actually have been under control had the government tried to control its desperation for staying in power and focused on the virus. It could have been under control had the prime minister not focused only on putting a leash on his party comrades. It could have been under control had he been considerate enough to check if hospitals were prepared to deal with the second wave and if the vaccine procurement plan was on track.
It is the prime minister’s ineptitude, and that of his friends and foes, that has resulted in hospitals overflowing with patients, and cremation grounds overflowing with dead bodies.