To be frank, let’s admit that there are no policy solutions to the problems that we are faced with. It is simply because there is no policy, nor we were interested in having one. That would have demanded a lot of human effort in collecting data, its analysis in terms of the needs of the whole of J&K, its regions and sub regions, environment, accessibility and connectivity. That spirit was not there. Now with the pandemic of Covid-19 having stormed into our homes, we are choked by the psychological asphyxiation.
The most convenient excuse is to attribute everything to the ongoing conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. This cannot happen, because there is a conflict. When there is a militant activity and the counter-insurgency operations on daily basis, how could the attention be devoted to the issues of public welfare; this argument is seen for keeping things in a standstill mode. This very attitude raises very serious question, why is the conflict continuing and why it is seen as a subversion in building institutions. Does a gunfight in Pulwama or Shopian halt our efforts in working in the rest of J&K? It is not difficult to find an answer – there are vested interests at work who gain by such excuses. That was in the past, present and , I am afraid that would be in future, too, unless there is a very strong antidote to such self-serving interests.
The virus problem is getting more serious. No escape routes are available. There is a limited or little hope of recovery in ill-equipped hospitals where even the availability of oxygen and the basic medicines are running in a short supply. It is not a commentary on the commitment of doctors and nurses who have served by laying their lives on the line of duty while serving the Covid patients.
Fake things do not give life nor everlasting solution to the problems. When was the last when we heard about the health policy in Jammu and Kashmir. Not in my living memory? There were fire-fighting and money making efforts, but there was no genuine effort to put a policy and its implementation on the track.
Sorry, I won’t entertain any excuse that the pandemic caught us all by surprise. That is simply to suggest that we never anticipated any examination or test of our health system at any point in time. The history is replete with pandemics – Spanish flu , I think we are aware of it by now. The playing of victim card is an obsolete game. Signals were there toward the end of 2019 , but we were not picking up the signals. Even if this argument is taken at its face value that this was an unanticipated disaster that struck the world, the question is, were we having even the basic health care infrastructure in place? The answer is a clear no.
Two arguments are advanced that while the most of the developed world- the translation of which is the United States and the Europe – could not do much, what could J&K have done to mitigate the effects of the pandemic Obviously the answer is, yes. J&K, the part of the poverty-stricken country like India could not have done much .
Second argument is that lockdowns were not effective or they were ill-timed. This argument has no expiry date. No one can dismiss the fact that there was no attempt to understand the damage the pandemic could cause to India. The lockdowns were severe, but these did not restrict spread of the disease. This fact is impossible to ignore.
But where were the health institutions and the policy?
Even today much of our attention span has been encroached by the political issues. We, too, are guilty . At the time when there should have been a single-lens focus on preventing spread of the pandemic and saving lives, there is a collision of narratives that has nothing to do with the deadly disease .
There is an endless broadcast that how the August 5 decision of last year has transformed lives in J&K. There is a feeble contesting discourse that the things were worse off. Keeping political leaders in detention and claiming that everything is calm and quiet because the statistics of militants versus security forces are higher on the one side . This arithmetic is incomprehensible, to say the least. The game of pluses and minuses doesn’t add up to peace. It is a chase of an illusion. Guns cannot kill the pandemic of frustration and hopelessness.
Another narrative that the things are worse off also is a spinoff of statistics. In a way that is seeking legitimacy in the lethal weapons that are at work. Such collision of the narratives is suicidal for any policy making effort. And this is offering excuses to those who should have had framed a people-friendly policy long ago.