By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
Dasara has arrived this year too like it has been doing over the centuries. Yes, it is our much- loved annual guest and it is also our State festival because it has long ago transcended much of its original religious identity and has now become an essential part of our cultural scene by which our State is identified worldwide. And, the Dasara that we Mysureans have been celebrating here in our city every year has been a special, spectacular show, unique to Namma Mysuru. It is a different matter that over the past four decades or so, after the fading away of our royalty, it has certainly lost much of its colour and charm thus having been reduced to just a grey shadow of what it once was.
With the entry of a different class of Super-Royals into the arena, comprising our leaders and their cronies, this event has now been reduced to a show of their power and pelf which also yields rich dividends to all those who toe their line without asking any inconvenient questions. But still, this year I would like to ask some very pertinent if not just inconvenient questions on behalf of all citizens who are concerned about safeguarding their own health and the health of everyone around us.
Yes, I’m afraid that this article is going to be full of questions with very few answers! But I wish some other souls too echo my sentiments if answers have to be forthcoming from our authorities. The way our State Government is trying to celebrate its supposedly low key Dasara is nothing but a sham; a classic case of Government doublespeak! It is a sad and sorry state of affairs at a time when the Covid-19 problem is extracting a very painful pound of flesh from our society. Otherwise, how do you explain all the restrictions it has placed on how many people can come to a wedding or even a funeral in your family and yet lighting up our entire city, an action which will naturally attract people from all the neighbouring towns and villages.
Our Government may say that it is only to cheer people’s spirits at a grim time when they are sad and depressed with their long incarceration in their homes. But how will the Government prevent people from zeroing in on the city with their families by every mode of conveyance, starting from two-wheelers, autorickshaws, cars, trucks, tempos and even tractors just for a little while to take a quick look which is a very natural human tendency?
And, having come to take a quick look can they just go away without stopping at the wayside eateries to have a quick bite, which is again a natural human tendency? And knowing that people are going to flock to our city, can our street food vendors stay away from the streets without plying their trade?
After all, they have been without any business for months now. It is exactly like smearing honey on our streets and expecting the honey bees to stay away from it.
The Government may say that it will strictly regulate footfalls during this Dasara. But then how do you explain the statement from the Managing Director of the KSRTC that at the Government’s behest, special buses have been kept in readiness to ferry people from far and wide to Mysuru, the hub of our Dasara? He has stated that with this state of readiness his team needs just 78 hours of notice to swing into action; a statement that would have made me proud if it had come from one of our military generals !
Why has our Government asked the Centre to accord permission to allow 2,000 people into the Palace premises for the Jumboo Savari and a staggering 1,500 people into the Palace itself, on all nine days of the Dasara, to witness the cultural programmes that it plans to conduct there? These are not just my assumptions. They are all facts and figures that the Government itself has released in black and white through the media.
Could we not have restricted this year’s Dasara to just the essential rituals at Sri Chamundeshwari Temple atop the Chamundi Hill and the private ceremony at the Palace? And, just take a peek at the still enormous budget released for our so-called toned down Dasara.
Do we need to spill this kind of money on our streets when people are dying on the same streets for want of Hospital beds and COVID care all over our country? Just think of what we could have accomplished in our raging battle with COVID-19 with the same crores of rupees that are now just going to go down the drain. Think of how many Hospital beds with oxygen support we could have established and how much staff we could have recruited by paying attractive salaries at a time when our helpless people are groping in the dark for the proverbial ray of hope.
Our Governments have all been blaming private health care providers across the country for not keeping aside the stipulated percentage of their beds for treating COVID-19 patients. They have even been tarring them mercilessly in the media as exploiters who are making money while the pandemic is raging. The morale of private health care providers across the country is so low now with all these accusations and indictments that they are actually willing to hand over their establishments to be run entirely by the Government if it thinks capable of doing it.
But I do not think it can because apart from the frantic COVID testing that it is doing and the dismally low end medical facilities it is providing in Government Hospitals that are almost doing no good to our COVID-19, there’s absolutely nothing it can show. And, if I am wrong, is the Government ready to release a white paper showing the total number of beds in its Hospitals and the percentage of them that are equipped with high flow oxygen and ventilators? I’m sure it will not.
If you disagree with me just ask the man on the street where he prefers to go for treatment if struck by the virus. He may be a humble villager but he is the best judge and his answer is bound to be loud and clear though not surprising. But does the Government have the courage to stand and listen to it?
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