In a scathing order, pulling up the Uttar Pradesh state government for poor management of the COVID crisis in the state, the Allahabad High Court observed that "One would only laugh at us that we have enough to spend on elections and very little to spend on public health." The HC was referring to the ongoing panchayat elections currently underway in the state.
The HC also imposed a slew of directions, equivalent to a complete lockdown in five cities–Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar and Gorakhpur–which has the maximum number of COVID-19 cases in Uttar Pradesh.
The high court said it decided to impose a lockdown because the state government had "no concrete plan."
The high court's directions are being seen as a severe indictment of State response to the 2nd wave of the pandemic. "It is a shame that while the Government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance," the high court order read. "In such above situation, the night curfew in the name of Corona Curfew and the weekend Curfew are nothing else but a mere eyewash," it added.
"We are of the definite view that if things are not arrested to give some respite to medical and paramedical staff, the entire system would collapse and relief will be confined to VIPs and VVIPs," the order further read.
"If popular government has its own political compulsions in not checking public movements during this pandemic, we cannot remain mere passive spectators," the division bench observed. "Public health is the topmost priority and call of the moment…We can't shirk away from our constitutional duty to save innocent people from the pandemic which is spreading due to the negligence of a few.
"…Directions are nowhere close to a complete lockdown," the division bench observed while conscious of the fact that the same can be imposed by the state only. "We…direct the government to consider the imposition of a complete lockdown in the entire state for at least a period of two weeks," it added.
While the following guidelines are applicable in the five abovementioned cities only, the high court directed the statewide closure of all educational and associate institutions till April 26.
Directions applicable to the five cities:
The high court observed that if people are restrained from going outside their homes for a week in the first instance, the current chain of the spread of COVID infection can be broken and frontline medical and health care worker would get a respite allowing them to focus on patients who are already admitted.
"They would also get some sort of much required short rest as they are getting exhausted," the bench comprising Justices Ajit Kumar and Siddhartha Varma observed. The following orders are applicable till April 26.
1) All establishments be it government or private, except financial institutions and financial departments, medical and health services, industrial and scientific establishments, essential services including municipal functions, and public transport, shall remain closed. The judiciary will, however, function on its own discretion;
2) Closure of all grocery shops and other commercial shops excluding medical shops, with more than three workers;
3) All hotels, restaurants and even the small eating points on thelas etc. shall remain closed;
4) Ban on social and marriage functions. However, a maximum of 25 persons allowed for those marriage functions that have already been pre-scheduled. This is subject to permission from the local district magistrate;
5) Suspension of all public religious activities;
6) Closure of all religious establishments;
7) Hawkers including fruits, vegetable, milk and bread vendors can ply till 11 am only;
8) Containment zones shall be notified every day in two leading Hindi and English newspapers having wide circulation in the districts of Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar/ Dehat and Gorakhpur.
9) Only emergency and medical help allowed to ply on road.
10) In addition to the above directions, we direct the State Government to go robust for implementing the current vaccination programme.
Government is to be blamed for chaotic health problems: HC
The high court pulled up the Yogi Adityanath-led government observing that "those in the helm of affairs of governance are to be blamed for the present chaotic health problems…". The high court observed that the current medical health infrastructure developed by the government can cater to the needs of less than "0.5% of the city population".
"In villages, the situation is still worse," it added. "…Though some efforts of course, have been made to engage some private hospitals to convert them as Covid hospitals, but even there, facilities available are "not upto mark", the high court said.
"If people die of pandemic in a large number due to paucity of sufficient medical aid it would be the governments to blame which failed to counter the pandemic even after one long year of experience and learning. One would only laugh at us that we have enough to spend on elections and very little to spend on public health.
"One cannot even imagine what will happen if only 10% of the city population gets infected and needs medical help in hospitals. How the government will manage with the presently existing infrastructure is anybody's guess," it said.
Priority given to elections above public health: HC
The high court further recorded its displeasure at the way the government and the State Election Commission proceeded to hold election forcing teachers and other government staff to perform duties exposing themselves to the threat of a pandemic. "The police were virtually shifted to polling places giving priority to election above public health," it said.
Neither any social distancing measures were followed, nor masks were worn during the political rallies or elections, the high court noted while directing the state to take penal actions against such organisers under the Uttar Pradesh Public Health Epidemic Diseases Act, 2020 and/ or any other relevant Act in force. "The action taken shall be placed before us on the next date fixed," the high court said.
Shame that no planning done even though govt knew of 2nd wave magnitude: HC
Commenting on the state's reluctance to announce a lockdown on account of economic peril, the high court said bread and butter will be of no use to someone who needs medicine and oxygen.
"You may have grocery shops full of eatables and industries which produce bikes and cars but all this won't be of any use if your medical shops run out of stock of life-saving drugs like Remdesvir in the current surge of pandemic. It is a shame that while the Government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance," the 15-page order read.
Testing, health care only available to VIPs: HC
The high court further observed that admission of COVID positive patients in government hospitals ICUs was largely done on the recommendation of VIPs. Even the supply of Remdesivir, a life saving anti-viral drug, is being provided after a VIP's nod. "VIPs and VVIPs are getting their RT-PCR report within 12 hours, whereas, ordinary citizen is kept waiting for such reports for two to three days…," the high court observed expressing its disapproval of the VIP culture.
The state's tracking tracing and testing system have not been able to meet the requirements of the city's population. Samples are not being taken, nor reports updated before 72 hours, the high court recorded. "Only VVIPs are getting reports within 6-12 hours. Thus, early testing scheme or plan is a farce," the division bench said.
Updated On: 2021-04-19T19:55:02+05:30