Ever since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in India on 30 January 2020 in a medical student who returned home to Kerala from China’s Wuhan, the Corona Virus has had the country by the scruff of her neck by infecting 39,980 and claiming 1,301 lives. This isn’t much considering India’s burgeoning population of 135.26 crore, with large numbers living in cramped conditions favourable for rampant viral transmission. India has been able to keep the virus in check due to;
- The national lockdown declared by Prime Minister Modi on 24 March 2020 for 21 days, which has been extended twice at the recommendation of various states and advisory committees.
- A gamut of personnel from various sectors joining hands to collectively take on the virus like healthcare providers viz; doctors, nurses, paramedics, laboratory technicians, and even prisoners(who chipped in by manufacturing masks, improvised PPEs and food), the police, local self-governing bodies, various NGOs, volunteers and sanitation workers, collectively called ‘Corona Warriors’. Among this vast section, the healthcare personnel stood out for their involvement considered crucial, and risk-ridden. This group was considered the most vulnerable because of close contact with patients, their contacts, and asymptomatic carriers of the virus. Their predicament was compounded by the vagaries of the virus viz;(1) people testing positive for the virus well beyond its incubation period,(2) confusing results thrown up by various testing methods,(3) unavailability of vaccine,(4) conflicting reports and possibility of reinfection,(5) paucity of PPEs, exposing them and their families indirectly to the infection, and (6) healthcare facilities downing shutters as in Mumbai. They are also hamstrung by tendency among patients not to divulge travel and contact history.
- Wholehearted compliance of citizens in observing measures to limit viral spread viz;(1) physical distancing, (2) use of masks, (3) respiratory etiquette, (4) hand hygiene, and (5) willingness to subject themselves to viral testing.
As involvement of healthcare personnel in viral containment increased, they were increasingly considered by the public as petri dishes of the virus- a source of viral dissemination. A new genus of ‘untouchables’ was thus born in India. This added to the rising and unhealthy tendency in the country to physically and verbally attack healthcare facilitators. Those involved in the ‘war against the Corona Virus’ were singled out for mistreatment by a panicky public across India.
- A lady doctor in Surat was verbally abused by her neighbour, the video of which went viral on the social media. Attempts were made to have her move residence.
- An angry mob of locals attacked a team of healthcare workers and civic officials, who had gone to screen residents in Indore. They were stoned and spat upon in Ranipura area of the city
- An Auxiliary Nurse Midwife was obstructed from entering her house and manhandled in Bareilly.
- A team of doctors and medical staff were stoned in Moradabad’s Nawabganj area. Their ambulance and crew were stoned.
- A group of ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers on duty conducting survey on symptomatic people were assaulted in the Sadiq layout area of Bangalore
- A mob of 200 locals manhandled health officials who attempted to quarantine COVID-19 positive suspects in Bangalore
- A neurosurgeon in Chennai who contracted the disease while treating COVID patients was denied decent burial. The funeral entourage was stoned, and the body mutilated. His children who also contracted the disease rom him had to flee from the scene when the ambulance which carried the body and its crew were stoned and wounded. An orthopaedic colleague of the doctor who sacrificed his life treating COVID-positive patients almost singlehandedly buried him ultimately.
- Private hospitals, especially those belonging to the corporate sector in Kerala’s Kochi has withheld incentives and salaries drawn by doctors halved. The already paltry salaries of nurses and paramedics have also been slashed on the excuse of ‘hospitals running at a loss due to the COVID-19 crisis’.
Such blatant and naked show of disrespect and Ingratitude to ‘frontline corona warriors’ swept the nation as the country, exhorted by the Prime Minister indulged in various modes of expression of gratitude and honour to the ‘Corona Warriors’
- On 22 March 2020, as part of the Janata Curfew, citizens clapped their hands, made sound by clanging metal with metal for 5 minutes at 5 pm from balconies and doorsteps. A great sound arose out of India in gratitude to the ‘Corona Warriors’
- Indians attempted to dispel the darkness caused by the Corona crisis and expressed solidarity with the ‘Corona Warriors’ by lighting whatever produced light from balconies and doorsteps by switching off lights for 5 minutes at 9 pm on 5 April 2020.
- Today (3 May 2020), it was the turn of Indian armed forces to express gratitude for the ‘Corona Warriors’. The Air Force conducted flypast across the country. Naval Warships along the coastline were illuminated. Helicopters showered petals on hospitals, and the military band played.
The ‘Corona Warriors’ are simply unimpressed and sick of these ritualistic kneejerk expressions of solidarity and gratitude. All they request the government is to restore their salaries, perks and incentives, to ensure incident-free last rites of their fallen, and to spare them of physical and verbal assaults, as well as empty and outlandish demonstration of gratitude and solidarity, that doesn’t come straight from the heart. Please do not douse the spirit and the grit of the ‘Corona Warriors’. The last they want is light and sound shows which doesn’t have any bearing on the Corona Virus!