Lockdown 4.0: Understanding India With a Bucket, Mug & Katori  

Some states have fought COVID-19, some have not. Ordinary citizens have paid the price.

Updated20 May 2020, 04:23 PM IST
News Videos
3 min read

Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan
Video Producer: Hera Khan

This is India, all of its 1.3 billion people have been fighting the coronavirus through Lockdown 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Let’s use a row of containers, which we can assume to be India’s healthcare system – starting with a big mug right down to the small katoris (bowls). Why do we have containers of different sizes? Well they represent the healthcare system of various Indian states – the big mug is Kerala and the smaller katoris are states like Gujarat, Bengal, and Bihar.

The Theory of a Big Mug and Katori

So, why is Kerala a big mug?

Because Kerala contained the impact of the coronavirus brilliantly. Even as people got infected and entered hospitals, Kerala’s healthcare system did not get overwhelmed. People kept getting cured. Kerala has seen just four coronavirus deaths!

The reasons are well known – early acceptance of the pandemic, testing in large numbers, efficient contact tracing, efficient social distancing, efficient quarantining. All this made Kerala’s healthcare system a big mug.

Now let’s look at Gujarat. It’s a small katori because this is the story of Gujarat, where the healthcare system, hospitals, administration are completely overwhelmed by the coronavirus.

This overflowing water represents the 700 deaths Gujarat has seen. Second highest in the country. Over 500 dead in Ahmedabad itself. Clearly, Gujarat’s healthcare system could not cope. They started testing too late, started contact tracing, social distancing, quarantining– all too late. By then the virus had spread.

Today, it has almost 12,000 positive cases, as against just 600 in Kerala, almost all of whom have even recovered. While Gujarat is still struggling with 7,000 active cases.

And mind you, both Kerala and Gujarat have people who travel abroad a lot, both are densely populated, both have sizeable urban centres.

Corona & Politics in Bengal and Bihar

Unfortunately, we do have more Katori states – Bengal and Bihar.

Bihar with around 10 coronavirus deaths so far and Bengal with 3,000 positive cases. They may ask why are they being considered small bowls. But the answer is simple – low testing.

While the testing rate for coronavirus in India is 1,700 per million people, in Bengal it is below 900 and in Bihar it is below 400. What does that mean? It means we do not have the real picture in these states. If you don’t test enough, you don’t know who’s positive, if you don’t know who’s positive, you don’t know whom to quarantine, you can’t do any proper contact tracing. So, it's all Ram bharose out there.

Also, as migrant workers return to Bihar, many from high-infection cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, is Chief Minister Nitish Kumar testing enough of them? No!

And another thought – could the low testing here be deliberate? Bihar has Assembly elections in a few months, Bengal in a year. More coronavirus cases, more deaths linked to COVID-19 would make Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee look bad.

Why Are States Not Taking Back Migrants?

In fact, when it comes to low testing – UP at 700, Jharkhand at 875, MP at 1,200, Chattisgarh at 1,100 are all below the national average. Even in terms of ICU beds, ventilators, critical care capacity, they are all below the national average. Essentially katori states.

Could that be why most of these states have not been wanting their migrant workers to return?

Thousands of migrant workers trying to register for Shramik trains in Ghaziabad, workers protesting in Rajkot and Ahmedabad, workers on the road showing their travel registration papers.

But what’s been done in 60 days of lockdown to get them home? Almost nothing!

The Shramik trains that have just started have taken 15 lakh workers home says the government. But India has 6 crore migrant workers – 15 lakhs is just 2.5 percent of 6 crores! India has the capacity to run 13,000 trains a day, but we’re running just a few. Clearly most governments don’t want these workers. They’re afraid that these migrant workers will return and then their little containers will spill over. Their katoris or cups will be overwhelmed.

Yeh Jo India Hai Na… the netas and babus at the Centre and in most of our states, even after 60 days of lockdown, they know that their healthcare systems are just not ready.

Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

Published: 20 May 2020, 03:14 AM IST
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!