BookmarkMORADABAD, India: People in India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh are fighting not just a raging pandemic but also a prickly Hindu nationalist local government that many say is in denial.The state authorities, headed by a monk touted by some as a successor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, insist there are no shortages and take a dim view of those"spreading fear".
AdvertisementAdvertisementBut the virus is clearly wreaking havoc as it spreads beyond big cities into the towns and villages not only of Uttar Pradesh, home to 240 million people, but elsewhere in India's colossal hinterland.READ: India hits 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in a day as cases surge in southern states
Brijesh Pandey spends hours every day in the hot sun jostling with others for medical oxygen for his brother-in-law, who is now at home struggling to breathe.Even though his relative clearly needs hospital treatment, he was unable to get a bed because of government red tape. headtopics.com
AdvertisementAdvertisement"We could only get a rapid antigen test done which is not accepted by hospitals for admission," Panday told AFP as he waited outside an oxygen cylinder filling station in Moradabad district.People queue to refill their oxygen cylinders for COVID-19 patients at a centre in Moradabad. (Photo: AFP/Prakash SINGH)
"They are demanding an RT-PCR (test), and that is not available," he said, referring to a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test.The 42-year-old said the family spent an astronomical 40,000 rupees (US$545) to arrange an empty oxygen cylinder.
Advertisement"The government says that there is ample supply of medicines and oxygen. But look how hundreds of desperate people are struggling to save their brothers, sisters and parents," he said.READ: India's COVID-19 oxygen crisis - Why is there a deadly crunch?
Police are on guard at the filling station, allowing only those with doctor's prescriptions to get oxygen. The aim, authorities say, is to stop black marketeers."But we know many people are unable to get tested and are sick. But they can't get oxygen," said manager R K Yadav. headtopics.com
"GENOCIDE"A regional court on Wednesday said that deaths in Uttar Pradesh due to oxygen shortages were"criminal acts and not less than a genocide".But complaining can land ordinary people in trouble under chief minister Yogi Adityanath, 48.
Last week the firebrand monk declared that those making"false" claims about shortages would be prosecuted and their properties seized.At least two people and a hospital have been charged by police for"spreading rumours and fear". One was arrested for appealing on Twitter for oxygen.
READ: Tweets from India paint desperate picture of COVID-19 crisisUttar Pradesh's official death toll is 14,500, about 6,000 of them since late March. But like elsewhere many experts suspect this is a major underestimate.In the state capital Lucknow, the official death toll for April is 830. But two crematoriums say they handled more than 1,900 bodies while 500 others were buried in the Muslim graveyard.
Uttar Pradesh's official death toll is 14,500, about 6,000 of them since late March 2021. But like elsewhere many experts suspect this is a major underestimate. (Photo: AFP/Prakash SINGH)BURNING PROOFVivek Awasthi, founder of the non-profit Uttar Pradesh Voluntary Health Association, told AFP that villagers were sometimes treating the virus like a common cold and not taking proper precautions to stop it spreading. headtopics.com
Their nearest hospital is also often far away.Ramchandra Nirmal, 49, who works as a security guard in Mumbai said that people back in his village in Uttar Pradesh could travel to small nearby clinics."But if you want to get oxygen you have to go to a hospital which is around 110km away," Nirmal told AFP.Read more: CNA »