IRONIC: Even during both the first lockdowns and last Friday’s lockdown the movement of coal and ore was freely permitted during what was claimed to be complete lockdown
By Rajan Narayan
The rapid spread of Covid-19 cases to over 3,000 active positive infections is primarily due to the failure of the government to lockdown the taluka of Mormugoa including Mormugao Port Trust which is closely linked to exports of ore to China, from where Covid-19 originated. Governor Sataya Pal Malik, contrary to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, has praised the media for its unbiased coverage which helps the fight against Covid-19……
CHIEF Minister Pramod Sawant has accused the media of misrepresenting and distorting the efforts of his government in controlling Covid-19. Indeed, even after a meeting with the governor, Satya Pal Malik, the CM lied to the media that the governor had agreed with him on his charges against the media. The governor was quick to clarify that he did not blame the media in any way his meeting with the CM to discuss the worsening Covid-19 crises in Goa.
malik cm war
On the contrary Governor Satya Pal Malik had praised the media and called it the backbone of the State in the country. In an interview to Prudent Media he acknowledged the key role played by media in bringing to his notice the sins of omission and commission by the State government. Not only the governor of Goa but the vice-president of the country, M Venkaiah Naidu, has also reportedly praised the contribution of the media for creating awareness on Covid-19 and wholeheartedly joining the war against Covid-19.
The governor has not made any secret of the fact that he considers Pramod Sawant and his Health Minister Vishwajit Rane incompetent. The State has been unable to contain the rapid spread and growth of Covid-19. A statistical analysis reveals that the percentage of Covid-19 cases in relation to the population of Goa of around 15 lakh is much higher than the national average. Similarly, the mortality rate per lakh of population is higher than the national average. Unlike states like Delhi and even Mumbai which have managed to flatten the curve after days of an increasing number of Covid-19 cases on a daily basis, Goa has not been able to control the spread of the deadly contagion at an exponential rate. An example is the case of Tulip Diagnostics where even after 86 workers were found positive, the health authorities could not prevent its further increase to 136. This was primarily because of faulty contact tracing with the origin of the cases attributed to the Verna Industrial Estate and not Mongor Hill where it actually originated.
More than 50% of the Covid-19 cases reported in Goa are from the port town of Vasco da Gama city with a reported 294 cases and Cortalim, the assembly represented by Mauvin Goudinho, registering 355 cases. If you add the Tulip Diagnostic cases in Verna linked to Mongor Hill cases the proportion goes up almost to 70%.
ore coal exempted
Forget about the recent lockdown, even during the original lockdown in March 22, 2020 the MPT which is the main source of Covid-19 was exempted from the lockdown under pressure from the industrial lobby. Ever since the BJP government hijacked political power in Goa in 2017, the coal handling capacity of the Adani berth has been hugely increased. The situation is being aggravated by the resumption of the transport of ore.
During the current lockdown again it was not applied to the MPT or to transportation of ore. Ironically, the notification issued by the government of Goa absurdly claimed that coal and ore were essential commodities. Which is perhaps why the residents of Vasco are compelled to inhale coal and ore dust because the government of Goa probably believe that this improves the immunity of the residents of Vasco! There have been repeated demands from the MLA of Mormugoa taluka and chairperson and councillor of the Municipal Council to lockdown MPT and stop the movement of coal and ore transported in trucks through the city of Vasco. The brother of former MLA of Vasco and president of the National Congress, the late Pascoal D’Souza who was a panch, died of Covid-19. Now the former MLA himself and his entire family have been found positive. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the spread of Covid-19 could have been stopped almost immediately, the lockdown had applied to MPT and city of Vasco the moment the first case was reported.
Admittedly the first three cases to be registered as positive in Goa were imports involving the family of a doctor who entered Goa in a car. But the steep increase in the Covid-19 cases began with Mongor Hill. From Mongor Hill it spread to the whole of Vasco da Gama. It is the politicians and business lobby of Goa who are responsible for converting Green Goa into a virulent “Red Goa” (the colour of the virus). The other epicentres of the pandemic are the vote banks of Goa’s politicians. It has not been widely registered that among the constituencies which have registered very large numbers of cases is Sanquelim, the CM’s constituency. The super-spreaders include Cortalim, Power Minister Godinho’s constituency, where 355 cases have been registered. The coronavirus spread to Moti Dongor and Margao which happens to be the vote bank of former chief minister and present leader of the Opposition Digambar Kamat.
In North Goa the worst Covid-19 affected are in Chimbel with 94 cases, this is the slum vote bank of Santa Cruz MLA Tony Fernandes, earlier dominated by present Panaji MLA Babush Monserrate. Relatively, urban areas including capital city Panaji with 18 cases and Mapusa and Margao with 40 cases each have been able to contain the spread of the epidemic.
In the week preceding the latest lockdown which came into force on Friday 17, 2020 at 6am to Monday morning, 6am has been a bit of a joke. This was of course a Janata Curfew in addition to the lockdown from 8pm to 6 am on July 15 to August 10, 2020. Though the government claimed that this time it would be a total lockdown as during the original lockdown the MPT and other huge establishments in Vasco like Goa Shipyard and Zuari Agro were exempted. While Zuari Agro exemption could be justified since it is a fertilizer unit necessary for agriculture, there is no justification for exempting the dirty cargo port MPT. The expansion of the coal handling capacity of the Adanis and the ore handling capacity of the Jindals was done at the instance of Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari. It may be recalled that Nitin Gadkari even wants to nationalize all the rivers in the country including Goa. Goa has been a dubious pioneer as it permitted the transportation of ore on barges plying the main rivers in Goa even before Liberation.
The worst affected as during the first lockdown was Vasco city because both coal and ore were transported through the city to the factories and power plants of the Adanis and Jindals in Maharashtra. It may be recalled that the State government permitted the transport of ore which had already been extracted when the ban came into force and was lying at the jetties and the dumps. During the recent lockdown not only was the port but all industrial estates exempted from the lockdown. Which meant that industrial workers including the remaining migrant workers working for industrial units could move around freely as they were free from the lockdown.
industrial estate open
Unlike during the first lockdown when Narendra Modi insisted that lives were more important than livelihood, this the Goa’s Pramod Sawant decided that livelihood is more important than life. Never mind that there can be no livelihood without life. So the complete lockdown saw free movement of trucks carrying coal and ore. The complete lockdown saw all industrial estates in the state working as it was decided that manufacturing was an essential activity. Since the industrial estates were open buses were allowed to operate to drop and pick up industrial workers. While the final figures have not yet come it is hardly surprising that on an average there are almost 200 cases registering positive during the lockdown.
It was only after Governor Satya Pal Sawant rapped the knuckles of Pramod Sawant that he extended the lockdown in Vasco till coming Friday, July 24, 2020. It is not known if the port is included in the extension of the lockdown. Though the restaurants were closed Swiggy and Zomato did roaring business. How they could supply food if restaurants were closed is a mystery which only Pramod Sawant can answer.
But it was a pleasant surprise that groups of policemen were missing from action on the streets of Panaji this time around to either fine or threaten . This may be attributed to the fact that policemen too don’t want to take the risk of catching the Covid-10 infection! Reportedly, the Panaji Police Station is virtually closed down after some constables registered positive for the contagion.
Even in the chief minister’s official residence at Altinho the security guard at the entrance tested positive. Now the other guards on duty have been tested and results are being awaited.
Even as the number of active Covid-19 cases have gone well pass 1,695 cases, there are no beds to accommodate the patients. The ESI hospital in Margao is house-full. So is GTDC’s Margao Residency where one of the VIP patients is Dr Edwin Gomes, who was in charge of the Covid-19 hospital for 98 days continuously. The next senior most consultants in the medicine department is abroad in the United States attending a workshop on Covid-19. Though Sunanda Amonkar, who was the former superintendent of the GMC, has been posted in place of Dr Edwin Gomes, she is not very happy and has sought a transfer. There are just not enough doctors, nurses and ward boys available and willing to attend to Covid-19 patients.
Unlike in the case of Delhi where Avind Kejriwal converted the Firoza Kotla grounds, the biggest cricket stadium in the capital, into a decent Covid-19 hospital for use. It has not occurred to Pramod Sawant that he can do the same with the Shyama Prasad Mukerjee Indoor Stadium at Bambolim. Even if beds capacity is created there is a desperate shortage of consumables like surgical masks and most importantly Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The directive by the government to reserve 20% of ICUs for Covid-19 has been rejected by the Goa branch of the Indian Medical Association. It has been pointed out that there are only four private corporate hospitals, namely Manipal, SMRC, Healthway and Victor hospitals, with the rest of them being maternity clinics with just two or three ventilators. The 200 ventilators ordered by the government will not be enough if Covid-19 continues to spread its tentacles at the present rate. If the contagion continues to increase at the rate of 200 fresh cases daily by end-July it is expected that the number of active cases will exceed 10,000.
There is a tremendous atmosphere of fear amongst the Goan population. It is the illiterate and underprivileged section of society who are taking the pandemic most seriously. The bold and beautiful and rich and powerful as in other cities in the country are bindaas, wandering around in their new Toyoto Innova Crysta cars! In Gujarat when a pretty lady constable stopped the son of a minster driving by at 3am in the morning and breaking the curfew, in an interchange of words she told them that she was not employed to stand on the road 24 hours just for fun! They would not be spared irrespective of being the children of a rich family!
Unfortunately, no police officer came to her support and we understand the constable has been forced to resign from the police service. And in Goa rave parties continue on Morjim beach and more and more well-to-do tourists are pouring in to holiday. Streets may be empty but the beachside resorts are full.
COVID-19 HOME ISOLATION!
A day after Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant said the government has not taken any decision with regard to home isolation of asymptomatic patients, the government on Thursday issued SOPs for people willing to undergo home quarantine. The SOP issued by Department of Health Services says, that any asymptomatic person desiring to be under home isolation will have to make a request through email on the official email ID to the Collector/Dy Collector concerned to permit him/her to be in home isolation. “The undertaking on self isolation as per the annexure will be enclosed with the application. On receipt of the application along with the undertaking the Collector/Dy Collector shall forward to the medical officer concerned, in whose jurisdiction the said person is residing. The medical officer shall ascertain the health status of the person and return the application to the Collector/Dy Collector with recommendation for home isolation if found eligible,” the SOPs stated.
Further, it says, on receiving the recommendation of the medical officer the Collector/Dy Collector shall permit the person to be under home isolation with the condition to update the health status to the local health officer as advised by the Health Department.
“The permission will be communicated to the village panchayat/municipality concerned. On receipt of this information, the village panchayat/municipality shall paste a sticker in the house mentioning that the family is under home isolation,” it says. On Wednesday, the CM seemed skeptical on taking any such decision in view of opposition from neighbours as well as the opposition political parties.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, include:
Fever (a temperature above 37.8°C or skin which feels hot to touch).
A new, continuous cough.
Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
Aches and pains.
LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF AT HOME
As with other viruses such as colds and flu, taking it easy and looking after yourself are crucial to your recovery. You should:
Drink plenty of fluids. Drink enough water so that your pee is a pale, clear colour. Avoid alcohol as this will make you more dehydrated.