Send oxygen, not circularsOli's prime ministership has been riddled with a lethal combination of ignorance and arrogance.
Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic made its entry into Nepal, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has remained a coronavirus denier. He has applied a zero tolerance policy to the findings of scientific and public health research. The extent of his denial has ranged from outright dismissal of the virus as a normal flu to the pseudoscientific remedy of turmeric water, and from the potency of the virus to the depth of the crisis. It took 5,000 deaths for him to finally accept that his pseudoscientific claims about the immunity power of the Nepalis made no sense. Ignorance, coupled with arrogance, on the part of the prime minister and his inefficient government cost the nation too dearly.
Prime Minister Oli has, however, still failed to apologise to the nation for the deaths and illnesses his mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis has caused. It is the negligence and denial on the part of the Oli government, and the petty politics of the ruling and opposition parties, that we now face a crisis that could have been averted. This is a government that has consistently caused the dehumanisation of Nepali citizens. And that is evident in the way the citizens are made to run from pillar to post to get just a cylinder of oxygen or hospital bed.
The scarcity of oxygen is so acute today that hospitals are giving just a few hours of notice to patients to get discharged and go home or to a different hospital. That is as insensitive as it gets. There is no need for reiterating the fact that returning home while one is gasping for oxygen is akin to a death punishment. Finding a hospital is as Sisyphean an exercise as finding a needle in a haystack. In any case, there is hardly any hospital that is not reeling under an acute oxygen shortage. The government, on its part, is issuing circulars in the name of doctors and nurses not to ask them to manage oxygen on their own. It is also issuing circulars in the name of hospitals to ask them to set up oxygen plants of their own within 15 days.
On the surface, the government’s circulars give an impression that it is concerned about the patients and is putting the onus on medical professionals and hospitals to manage life-saving oxygen. Medical professionals and hospitals have their hands tied at the moment as there is little oxygen available in the market. The time limit the government has given the hospitals is awfully short, and hence impossible to adhere to, experts lament. In view of the ongoing crisis, the government is responsible for pulling out all the stops to ensure a steady supply of the life-saving gas to the hospitals instead of pressuring them to set up their own plants in an insanely short period of time. But the concerned government agencies continue to work in tandem and complement each other in making the lives of the citizens miserable rather than helping them out.
The helplessness of the common folks is heartbreaking for those who have even an ounce of sympathy for others. But the government has shown no such emotion in the past year and more. What is alarming is that the crisis is ongoing, and there could be many more deaths and illnesses before we get back to normal. The government is already too late in getting out of its deep slumber.