UP CM Yogi Adityanath came on RITAM LIVE on May 24 to describe how UP was handling the COVID challenge. The virus became quite a challenge for an overpopulated country like India & more so for Uttarpradesh, as it’s the biggest State of India with largest estimated population, 23.15 crores. Uttarpradesh can rightly be said Mini India as the State represents India in terms of demographic variety & homes 16.77% of total Indian population. With regard to geographical span, diversity of culture & public-psyche along with demography, UP is a representative sample of India.

In such a State, checking a contagious, droplet-borne viral infection is a tough challenge. Moreover, UP was home to different other vector-borne disorders too like Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, Japanese Encephalitis, Dengue, Malaria, Kala-azar (Leishmaniasis) etc. Hence, from the State’s health antecedents, it was expected that Covid Scenario of Uttarpradesh would be pretty challenging for the State Administration. However, in reality, UP’s COVID scenario has been quite in contrast to such speculations. While Gujarat, Maharashtra & Delhi have been staggering to face the Covid challenge, largest population State, UP, managed it fairly well. As of June 1, 2020:

Confirmed Covid Cases: 67,655
Recovered: 29329
Death: 2286
Active: 36040
Death as % of Closed Cases: 7.23%

Confirmed Cases: 16794
Recovered Cases: 9919
Death: 1038
Active Cases: 5837
Death as % of Closed Cases: 9.46%

Confirmed Cases: 19844
Recovered Cases: 8478
Death: 473
Active Cases: 10893
Death as % of Closed Cases: 5.28%

Confirmed Cases: 8075
Recovered Cases: 4843
Death: 217
Active Cases: 3015
Death as % of Closed Cases: 4.29%

West Bengal
Confirmed Cases: 5501
Recovered Cases: 2157
Death: 317
Active Cases: 3027
Death as % of Closed Cases: 12.81%

On May 24, Yogi Adityanath on RITAM Live mentioned UP Covid statistics to be around 6000 total cases & 3400 patients to have recovered. Questions were there about the procedure UP had followed to contain the disease. UP CM described that sitting on his chair at a stretch for an hour without looking at any paper or having anyone sitting beside him to prompt with any data. This gesture of UP CM is in strict contrast with WB CM’s who sits on Press Meets with her full him of Bureaucrats, Doctors & other aides around. Her aides prompt her with data, info & even correct linguistic expressions.

Comparison of UP CM’s single-handed, non-stop Press Live with those of WB CM, automatically flashed in my (a person from West Bengal) mind. UP CM’s PRESS LIVE showed that CM himself was integrally involved in each part of the State’s administration while WB CM remains more engaged in power politics. While Mamata Banerjee is predominantly a politician, Yogi Adityanath appeared to be a man of Administration. Did his experience of working as Mahanta of Gorakhnath Temple add to his administrative capabilities? The clarity & detail of his administrative approach indicated that the Graduate of Mathematics was perhaps applying his studies into work.

UP took Covid challenge as an opportunity, said the CM, giving sole credit to PM Modi’s vision & his sessions of guidance. UP started lockdown from March 13 starting with Schools & Educational Institutions, graduating it up to total lockdown from March 25.

In order to check Covid spread within UP, the State formed different Committees under leadership of different Ministers & Bureaucrats. Ministers took policy decisions & Bureaucrats decided implementation modalities thereof, said UP CM. To ensure Governmental Services reach every section of the society, several Governmental Committees were formed under the leadership of senior bureaucrats.

—One committee to look after the comprehensive requirements & issues related to construction workers of the State whose work got stopped due to lockdown.

—One committee to look after the necessities of the State’s thela-walas, patri-walas & various such other service-providers.

—One to look after requirements of self-employed professionals like rajmistris, carpenters, saloons, tailors, etc who provided essential services in both rural & urban lives.

—A committee under the Directorate of Infrastructure & Industrial Development looked after the requirements of the State’s Enterpreneurs, Industrialists as well as the workers thereof.

—This Committee worked to ensure that people working under different enterprises & industries got their salaries during lockdown & also got catered with ration & other essentials.

UP thus divided the whole State Population into professional categories. This may remind the reader that VARNASHRAM system of our society was originally based on people’s professions. UP too did profession-based categorization of the whole State for administrative ease. This work appears primary, not only for Covid control but for any policy decision of a State. No wonder UP CM said the State looked at Covid challenge as an opportunity. He seems to be working heart n soul to turn the challenge into a success that sustains in post-Covid future.

—One committee under Agriculture Department ensured home delivery of essential commodities to every door step. This step taken by UP Govt was a pre-requisite to make lockdown a success. This Committee extended its sub-committees at every level of the State like District, Block, Ward & Village.

In a huge State like UP, this single work perhaps did half of effective Covid Control. Without ensuring availability of necessary stuff to people’s doorsteps, lockdown was indeed a draconian idea. But UP Govt. didn’t make it draconian by ensuring home delivery of essentials. This is what we expect a Government to do. On the contrary, we have seen mockery of lockdown in West Bengal as people huddled in open market everyday with apparent support of WB Government till Inter-ministerial team arrived in West Bengal for inspection of the State’s Covid scenario.

However, lockdown remained half-hearted in West Bengal all through as certain minority dominated areas didn’t observe lockdown rules at all. Minority people kicked Howrah City Police in Tikiapara as Police tried to enforce lockdown upon them. West Bengal CM had to pray with folded hands in Rajabajar so that people there followed lockdown rules while IMCT would visit that area for inspection.

While such chaotic is the administrative scenario of West Bengal, UP CM, in reply to my specific question, said that nobody in UP ever violated lockdown rules as UP administration was strict enough. This distinct contrast exists between administrative approaches of WB & UP.

While the population of Maharashtra is less than half of UP, number of Covid patients in Maharashtra is almost 8 and a half times that of UP. Population of Gujarat being a little more than one-forth of that of UP, number of Covid patients in Gujarat is more than double that of UP. As of 1st June, only 4.29% of closed COVID cases of UP had died whereas in West Bengal, death percentage of closed COVID cases is 12.81%, almost 3 times higher than that in UP. Proportionately 3 times higher death percentage in WB perhaps indicates quality of treatment provided in WB to be worse than that in UP. However, this figure is as per Official Data of West Bengal which has consistently exhibited statistical anomalies in several parameters. Unofficially, number of Covid affected patients & number of death thereby are much higher in WB. There are no such anomalies in UP.

—In UP Covid Model, one Committee worked under Principal Secretary, Rural Development & Panchayati Raj to facilitate effective prevention of various vector-borne disorders like Dengue, Malaria, Kala-azar etc. well in advance. These diseases affect UP every year during rainy season. UP Govt, along with fighting COVID, became pro-active to prevent these diseases by emphasizing on SWACHHTA (cleanliness) & sanitation of susceptible places from now on. The State utilized the opportunity of tackling Covid to tackle other diseases too.

We have never seen this pro-activity in West Bengal. West Bengal is the only State of India which is hiding its Dengue data from GOI for last two years. National Vector Borne Disease Control Program’s (NVBDCP) site did not record WB’s Dengue data from 2018. WB gets tremendously affected by Dengue every year. The reason thereof is perhaps lack of cleanliness with respect to the State’s huge population density. Instead of sanitizing & cleaning Dengue-prone areas, WB Govt hides cases by instructing doctors not to certify the disease as ‘Dengue’ but as ‘Acute Febrile Disorder’. UP, on the other hand, took Covid Control Program as a scope to be pro-active to prevent vector-borne diseases too which would affect UP shortly after summer, during rainy season. West Bengal however, preferred to hide its COVID data just as it had hidden its Dengue data since 2018.

This paradigm shift is making a world of difference between UP & WB. UP is in fast progress while Bengal eroding steadily.

Debjani Bhattacharyya

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