First they clapped their hands and clanged their utensils to cheer the medics who left the comfort of their homes and are fighting the coronavirus at great risk. And then they abused and assaulted them and pelted them with stones. The government had not provided the medical personnel with PPE suits, so they went to battle in helmets and raincoats. Yet the very ones they strove to save turned upon them.
In town after town, city after city, health workers trying to collect samples for coronavirus tests are being castigated and turned away. Nurses and doctors in Delhi and Kolkata have faced eviction threats. Two doctors were injured in Indore when they went to a neighbourhood to trace a Covid-19 suspect and were chased away. In Bengaluru, Asha workers had their phones snatched away while conducting a survey of people who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin. In Delhi, Covid-19 suspects from the Jamaat spat at Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital doctors. In Munger, a police jeep that accompanied personnel out to collect samples was damaged. In Hyderabad, a Covid-19 patient went berserk and attacked an on-duty doctor following the death of his brother due to the virus.
Taking note of these incidents, the Home Ministry has now asked states to provide paramilitary cover to medical teams, if necessary, when they visit hotspots. All this would have beggared both belief and rationality, even under normal circumstances.
While in the UK five lakh people voluntarily joined the National Health Service in this time of crisis, in India doctors on the way to work were harassed and beaten up by police and threatened with arrest, but they still went back and completed their 12-hour shifts. But how well are their colleagues going to hold up? Has the new coronavirus pandemic exposed the anomie in our society? Does India deserve its doctors?