Saturday, 01 May 2021 | Paritosh Kimothi | Dehradun
The media and social media are awash with ‘reports’ and views of people being experts in hindsight, which is not an impressive feat at all. The central government has definitely made serious errors and various state governments too have not done any better. However, with constructive criticism lacking, more space is being grabbed by very petty comments and views which are only perpetuating the error instead of pointing towards a solution.
Firstly, our concept of public health needs to be corrected. Many now opine that we need more hospitals and better access to medicines but actually that is not what good health of the public is all about. As William Osler, considered to be the father of modern medicine had said, “One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicines.” This is obviously not meant for an emergency scenario like now but for those times when the foundation of public health is laid. The majority of our actions- both of the government and the public- are focused on doing the very things that deteriorate public health. Successive governments and societies have encouraged and celebrated ‘developments’ that have increased lifestyle diseases. We have increased pollution to such an extent that our lungs are weaker and a large number of people die from breathing polluted air. Urban planning is such a mess that aspects which actually contribute to good health- trees, open spaces and clean air have been systematically destroyed. Fresh air has been replaced by air-conditioned boxes of concrete in which people spend hours, becoming weaker and sickly. Basically, most of the steps we have welcomed in the past few decades have contributed to lowering our immunity and deterioration in the level of public health- which can also be considered a factor exacerbating the damage being wreaked by Covid. The worst part is that we still think that all this is good as long as we have more hospitals to treat the diseases we are bound to suffer from simply by living under the conditions we have created.
When it comes to the government, the recent surge in Covid has made people question various aspects. However, does one wonder how can a system used to corruption and inefficiency for decades turn efficient and clean overnight? The corrupt establishment and society are not really different entities. Barring a few, most people are directly or indirectly involved in the follies of the system, people exploit the weaknesses and corruption of the system when it suits them and criticise the same when it doesn’t suit them. This attitude is highly illogical to say the least. Another major attitudinal problem is our failure to rise above petty bias even in such dire circumstances. While some people are actually using the social media to help people in need, there are many who are flooding it with ‘witty’ remarks, biased criticism, plain hate and misinformation- mainly because they can’t let go of an opportunity to say ‘I told you so’ or just because this seems to be a good time to vindicate their dislike for a particular politician or a party. Criticism based on logical analysis by unbiased subject experts is useful and should be welcomed. However, the real experts also know that it will take some time before those who are ready to understand will realise that not all is known to the public about the situation we are facing and the factors really involved.
Basically, we are in a terrible mess, facing uncertainty, sickness and the pain of helplessness and loss. Logically, even this shall pass. Many are now stating that all this should be remembered by the people the next time they go to vote. However, one believes that public memory and priorities being as odd as they are, a few major ‘impressive’ works and other distractions will make the people forget what they had gone through. To try and forget what caused pain is not an uncommon tendency. However, at least two aspects really need to be worked upon if we are to really prosper as a nation.The first is to understand what public health really means and then to take actions which actually improve the health of the people instead of making them sick and treating them in hospitals. The second aspect is the government. To varying degrees all politicians focus on what the people want or what impresses the people. It is up to us to decide whether we want recurring problems and expensive solutions to them or real solutions which prevent problems from recurring. We can only afford to sleep through some wake-up calls, not all.