Even Azad admits COVID situation in Jammu grave

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Prof Hari Om

It has happened. Even former J&K CM and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has admitted that COVID situation in Jammu is very grave. Actually, on May 15, he, among other things, reflected on the prevailing COVID situation in J&K, expressed concerned over the ‘high number of casualties in Jammu and loss of several lives in Kashmir’ and urged for ‘immediate measures to save the lives’.
Jammu witnessed a whopping 510 deaths due to corona virus between May 1 and 15. In Kashmir also, 287 persons lost their lives due to the virus during the same period.
What Azad spoke for Jammu was significant. Significant in the sense that it was his regime, which applied Wazir Commission report in a wrong way in 2007 to hurt Jammu and sought to defeat age-old demand in Jammu for a fair share of representation in Assembly the same year. His administration created four new districts in Kashmir, as against one recommended by the Commission, and four districts in Jammu, as against the recommended three, and sought to increase the share of both Jammu province and Kashmir by 25 per cent, saying he ‘believed in the principle of justice and equity’.
It was also during his time that the J&K Government violated the unambiguous directions of J&K High Court on Baltal land allotted temporarily to the Shri Amarnath Shrine in 2008 for creating additional facilities for the pilgrims. Not just this, it was also during his regime that the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh tried his best to create ‘consensus’ on the demands in Kashmir for self-rule and autonomy (read a step short of complete independence) for whole J&K, including Ladakh.
It’s a good gesture that Azad, who also headed the Ministry of Health at the Centre for years and who is seemingly well-versed in health-relating matters, highlighted fact that Jammu province was suffering huge loss of lives due to deadly coronavirus. However, it would have been better had he also pinpointed some of the major factors responsible for the loss of so many deaths in Jammu province. Such an approach would have opened the eyes of the concerned authorities and made them to do, what was required in Jammu province on war-footing to save lives of corona victims.
According to one study, one of the major causes responsible for so many deaths in Jammu province could be the paucity of life-saving Oxygen. The study, inter-alia, reads like this, ‘In Jammu region (read province), spread over 26,000 sq km, Oxygen Generating Plants (OGPs) are available only in Jammu and some district headquarters in six of 10 districts of the region. In comparison, OGPs are available in 34 government hospitals in Kashmir dotting an area less than 16,000 sq km. Every single district in Kashmir, 10 in all, has more than one OGP in the government sector. A very small district of Kulgam, carved out of Anantnag, has two OGPs of 1,000 LPM capacity and 350 LPM capacity. Srinagar district, spread over just 294 sq km (and having a population of nearly 14 lakh), has at least a dozen (12) functional OGPS, with a total Oxygen generation capacity of 15,175 LPM, spread over eight hospitals. That also means that Srinagar district alone has 15,175 LPM capacity as compared to 13,800 LPM capacity created over the entire Jammu region’ housing no less than 60 lakh people.
The study further said, ‘According to official data, at least 52 new generation plants are being set-up throughout J&K. Of these, 29 are being set up in Jammu region and 23 in Kashmir. When became operational, Kashmir will have 57 and Jammu 41. Kashmir-based plants will generate 57,000 LPM spread over 57 government hospitals and Jammu province will generate around 47,000 LPM – 10,000 LPM lesser than Kashmir — and spread over 41 locations only as compared to 57 in Kashmir’.
The available data also shows that while Kashmir has 15 out of 23 ‘designated hospitals’ for COVID-19 patients, Jammu province has only eight. In other words, the number of such hospitals in Kashmir is two-time that of Jammu province. Besides, as of today, Kashmir has 34 OGPs and Jammu has only 12. To be more precise, the number of OGPs in Kashmir is almost three-time that of Jammu.
Not just this, the Army has also set up 250-bedded COVID-19 hospital in Srinagar’s Rangreth area. Besides, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is establishing 500-bedded Corona hospital at Khomoh in Kashmir. And on May 15, J&K Government designated 1st and 2nd referral hospitals across Kashmir to cater to the needs of COVID patients. The authorities directed the concerned officers in all the 10 districts to ‘refer the patients in case of dire emergency aiming at avoiding overwhelming the tertiary care system’.
What does all this suggest? It suggests a discrimination of another type with Jammu province and it could be construed as a sin against the humanity. The authorities must review their whole medical policy on a priority basis so that people of Jammu province do not die due to paucity of life-saving medicines, air and lack of infrastructure. They cannot treat the people of Jammu province like cattle.