Actor Shabana Azami is known for her acting skill and her views on social and political issues. She spoke to Awaz-the Voice on the current situation of Covid pandemic in the country. Excerpts from the interview:
Shabanaji, we are going through a very scary phase. In particular, the way situation in Maharashtra or for that matter in Delhi is very serious. How are you battling this Corona conflict?
I consider it as a mishap; so instead of putting the responsibility on each other and saying that it’s someone else’s fault we must think as to how we can control the situation. Because of this disease, we have come to more know about the loopholes and infirmities in our healthcare system. People who are working in the public health system -I also consider myself one - have been saying that we must strengthen our healthcare system. We didn’t have a system that can work in a situation like a Pandemic.
We have to understand that if we do not improve the healthcare system now, we are missing a chance. Had we worked on it last year, the situation today would have been different. I am not saying it is not an institutional problem, but ultimately it is about our country, our doctors, frontline workers, who have left their families, homes, comfort, and even sleep to help all of us.
So broadly speaking we are being explained again and again to wear masks, maintain social distance with people, keep washing your hands and it’s not such a difficult thing to do. I still do not understand why I see so many people walking around without a mask. I wonder what is in their minds. Do they not really care that or maybe this message has not reached them? If it's so, then we should work on it. Let's start with our family; first of all, we must ponder whether we did sit down with our families and explain to them the situation and all aspects of it. What is this epidemic and why is it necessary to take precautions etc?
Do we really not follow the correct ways to do things conveniently. For example, we should try to buy groceries in one go; also try to order everything online. We must consciously try not to venture out. I still see a lot of people go out to the market again and again. Because perhaps they think that it (virus) will not catch them. These precautions must be taken; after all, we are responsible to everyone. Also, it’s our responsibility to take care of our staff in the same way as we do for our family.
Also, it would help if we can understand the condition of the doctors working in the field.
Nowadays, we seem to be targeting each other more than doing our bit to help the situation. I haven’t seen any party leader appealing to his fellow party men to help the people. Instead, most of them are getting into the blame game.
Absolutely! The situation is akin to a war. God forbid if our country faces a war shouldn’t we all come together? So instead of raising objections, it’s time for us to unite and fulfil our individual responsibility. We must do whatever is possible for the country. Besides, the Supreme Court is seeking a national plan on the situation from the centre in a strict tone. The High Courts are also getting stricter with the governments. All this is going on and all this is fine; my mind goes to our artisans who are once again sitting at their homes. What are we doing for their families? What are we doing for helping them? Last year, we saw how the migrant labourers returned to their homes. Back then many of us helped them either personally or through some NGO. We should have learnt the lesson; the way the lockdown happened last year was wrong.
This time, we have a lot of information. The labour is worried and nervous. We should do something for them. In fact, information is power these days. This information must be shared so that people don’t panic and make a wrong decision. I have an NGO Bijwan Information Society named after a tiny village Bijwan in Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh).
So we took an initiative to create “employment dhaba” there. This is an information centre for the returning migrant labourers. There they can get information about the availability of jobs and position in the government and private sectors. Also, they are helped in filing a job application wherever it is required. There they can also make their Aadhaar card and practically get all the information. All these facilities come from the government, but these don’t reach the people fully. We are trying to give them information that would help in making the right decisions. Help is not a good word; so the people we have given information to, are not in such a (bad) situation.
Last year we saw a lot of community participation in helping the needy. So many religious charitable institutions were into distributing rations. They are not to be seen this time. Is it so, since the problem of migrant labourers? might not be so deep this time?
The problem is very deep, very deep; more intense than it was last year. Food and drink items can be given to the needy, but where do you get them oxygen cylinders from. How are we going to arrange ventilators or for that matter hospital beds (for the critically serious patients)? Some oxygen of the industry has been diverted but it is not enough. So it has to be done at an institutional level. This time the problem is not arisen due to lack of money. The problem this time is that we do not have enough beds. Those who need to be kept in the ICU are being kept in normal rooms with three-four patients. It is very frightening. I do not know whether or not we fully realize this it's an unprecedented disaster that has struck our country.
(To be continued)