By Vatican News
With India swamped by a massive wave of Covid-19 infections and deaths, and the health system almost on the verge of collapse, the country’s Catholic bishops have expressed their closeness with the suffering people while blaming the government and the people for lack of foresight and negligence.
Government and public negligence
"It can be said that the main cause of this tragic situation is the complacency of the government and the lack of a conscientious public," Archbishop Prakash Mallavarapu of Visakhapatnam said. He pointed out that the country has exported more than 60 million Covid vaccines to 84 countries when it had a vaccine shortage. "Certainly, there has been a great error of evaluation by the government and the general public,” the archbishop who is chairman of the Health Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) told Fides news agency. “Little attention has been paid to the rules on social distancing, while the state machine has ignored the application of the rules."
Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore also expressed shock at the loss of life, especially in his diocese. “I know an entire Christian family that was infected and died,” he said, noting a young bishop is hospitalized in critical condition. The bishop, former chairman of the Office of Social Communication of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), said all 60 beds of the hospital in his diocese are full as it continues to receive at least 200 requests for hospitalization a day.
Jesuit priest Father Cedric Prakash, a human rights activist, also blamed the government for “its inability to limit unnecessary public gatherings” such as at cricket matches, election campaigns, weddings and Hindu religious rites and assemblies. "Time is running out for everyone,” he warned, saying, “the federal and state governments must act quickly to save the country from the pandemic." Father Prakash, who belongs to the Gujarat Jesuit province, reported that at least five Jesuits died of Covid-19 last week and many other priests and nuns from other parts of India are affected by the virus or are in critical condition.
Oxygen a basic human right
Meanwhile, Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of the eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, has urged the Indian government to consider medical oxygen as a basic human right, as an alarming shortage of the life-saving gas is causing the death of hundreds of Covid-19 patients. “Take all necessary measures immediately to make it available to the people who are struggling hard to hang on to their lives in hospitals and healthcare centers,” he said in an April 25 appeal to the federal government.
Both government and private hospitals in the capital New Delhi and other states are turning away critically ill Covid-19 patients because of an acute shortage in the supply of oxygen. Cardinal Alencherry, who is also president of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC,) said medical oxygen “should be treated on a par with food, clothing and shelter.” He pointed out that many cannot afford oxygen in the open market because of exorbitant prices. “The availability of medical oxygen should be seen as a basic need made available free of cost to the citizens of India. In an economy that is emerging to become fast developing, medical oxygen should not be left to become a commodity for making profits,” he stressed.
Cardinal Alencherry as well as other Church leaders also criticized the government’s toll figures saying they are low, as many, who are dying at home, in private hospitals and in villages, go unreported. (Source: FIDES, UCA News)