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Who is to blame for the collapse of India's healthcare system?

13 12 30

On June 8, India began to emerge from the world's most stringent lockdown - a lockdown that devastated the country's economy and led to a staggering humanitarian crisis. Images of millions of migrant labourers trudging across the country on foot to make it back to their villages - many of them dying en route of exhaustion and starvation or mowed down by vehicles - have seared the tragedy on the nation's consciousness.

The only way to make sense of what we lost was to hold on to the belief that the opportunity cost of not imposing the lockdown completely and suddenly might have been higher - that, perhaps, the policy decision had bought the government time to prevent many more of us dying from the virus.

News from the last couple of weeks, however, has ripped through that belief. As hospitals in India's major cities begin to run out of beds, social media has been flooded with pleas for help from relatives trying to find medical care for critically ill family members. Many Indians - from a well-connected former MP to middle-class citizens - have lost their loved ones before they could find help.

Coronavirus patients across the country have been forced to isolate in wards unfit for human habitation - sometimes without food and water. Others have faced acute neglect in overwhelmed hospitals where, at times, their relatives have had to care for them in the absence of hospital staff. Some have also been forced to buy or even illegally import their own medicines at huge costs.

Healthcare workers have not had it any easier. They have been denied wages and protective equipment, muzzled, persecuted, and made to work overtime. They have also been........

© Al Jazeera