Sunday, September 13, 2009

The flight of swines and the plight of humans

My city, Pune, has been the center of attention in the recent past. Reason: Swine Flu!!

Many cases of the H1N1 virus have been detected in my fine city. Sadly, we lost a number of citizens to this disease ( less than 100, AFAIK, but even 1 death is a death too many).

This post is not about the disease or its technical aspects, or even how to combat the disease. You can Google this and there are a lot of sites that will give you this information.

My post is about the human reactions to the Swine Flu outbreak, and my observations regarding the same.

What I have noticed during the swine flu outbreak is:
  1. People panic easily.
    I know that this disease can kill, but that is no reason to lose your head and run around like headless chickens just because there is such an outbreak. I have seen literally hordes of people looking like extras in a dacoit movie, with masks of all kinds & colors on their faces. Basanti, in suwaron ke saamne mat nacho!!

    People refused to come to offices and work. Those that did stared at everyone else for any signs of discomfort. A slight cough would act as the firing gun for a 100 meter race!! Run for your lives!! She sneezed!! He coughed!! Bhago, bhago!!

    Folks started running away every time someone sneezed or coughed. The fastest way to empty a meeting in those days was to start coughing :-). Normally sane people would jump out of their skins on hearing anyone clearing their throat!! Even I have taken a homeopathic medicine that supposedly "ward off" the Swine Flu (for those interested, the medicine is called "Influenzium 200"). My better half refused to take part in this "swineful" activity (pardon the English).

    There were huuuuuuuuge queues in front of hospitals that were screening patients for Swine flu. IMO, the fastest way of getting this disease is to stand in a line for hours and hours with people who might have it...

    It would be funny if it weren't so tragic. In the past globally we have had SARS, bird flu, etc. This seems to be a trend that would continue in coming years (I would be glad to be proved wrong on this one). So the solution can't lie in panicking and losing one's head. We as citizens have to get together, think logically and act sensibly.

  2. The Government at the Centre worked reasonably well, the ones at the State level slept.
    The Central government actually took steps that were reasonably rapid. This is a big thing in India!! Governments do not work here!! They usually fiddle like that Nero chap while Delhi/Chennai/Pune etc. burn.

    But I will give the Devil his due. Our Central government did a reasonably good job of reacting to this crisis. Medicines were procured rapidly and dispatched. The Health Minister monitored the crisis personally.

    The reason the rating is still "reasonably good" is that no one came before the news media and gave a fast, rational respone to the crisis. No one at the higher level did a good job or reassuring the people of the country that this crisis was being dealt with. And the honorable Health minister made some statements that come under the irresponsible category (what's new?). Crisis management lessons, anyone?

    The State government failed miserably.
    Schools were not closed in time. Now anyone can tell you that any outbreak spreads the most rapidly in schools. In a school, children come in contact with hundreds of other children. They go home and play with other children from other schools. They also naturally come in contact with their own families. It is really a simple thing to deduce that the impact of not closing schools in time would be disastrous.
    But then, this is the Sarkar, yaar!!

    Another thing that the State government did not do was open more screening centers for checking those folks who had flu-like symptoms. The result was huge queues of hundreds or maybe even thousands of people at a handful of centers. This was totally unnecessary and avoidable.

    Public festivals like Dahi Handi and Ganeshotsav were not stopped by the government. It was the mandals who carried out a low-key affair in both cases.

    Also same thing as the Centre level - no one came forward to assuage the fears of the populace.

  3. Doctors and Nursing staff worked their hearts out.
    In India, it is always the "mango people" / aam janta / ordinary blokes who show courage under fire. Ministers push you into the fire.

    Anyway, a salute to the unsung heroes of the crisis! Doctors and nursing staff at the Naidu Hospital and Aundh Chest hospital in Pune (among others), worked their respective behinds off. A special thanks to the staff at NIV, Pune for testing thousands and thousands of samples that poured in from all over the country. I know that they must not have gotten any rewards for this - monetary or otherwise. But still kudos to all of you!!

  4. People's hygienic(?) habits remained unchanged.
    In spite of all the notices put up everywhere detailing how Swine flu spreads, the lack of hygiene continued. Spitting in public continued unabated. So did "clearing" your nose (for those who don't know, that entails removing the good stuff from the insides of the nostrils and depositing it on the roads). The more you think about it, there doesn't seem to be much difference between pigs and such people.

    People still do not wash their hands when they should. Nuff said.

    This kind of "swineful" behavior (I should get this word added to the dictionary) is not unique to Pune, and can be seen all over India. But one would think that the Swine Flu would improve folks, out of fear at least if nothing else. No such luck.

So what next? We wait for the next outbreak.
The next time it could be from donkeys. Why not? We have a lot of them anyway - not just the the four-legged but the two-legged kind as well. Hee Haw!!


Nilu said...

Good analysis.

The media too did not help assuage the panic by printing the death count in headlines everyday. Not only did this paint a skewed picture (many more die everyday due to HIV, road accidents etc.), but led to divide in people rather than uniting them against the disease.

Surely, this entire episode is a wake-up call to all citizens and government of India that they need to be better prepared in future for such events.

src said...

very nicely written. Totally agree on how Govts work in India and also festival processions should have been avoided.