Editorial: Public health emergency shouldn’t be bureaucratised

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It has not been more than four months since the first confirmed case of the coronavirus infection was reported in the Kashmir Valley. Even as the number of confirmed cases of infection have only risen, the bureaucracy’s control over the administration has left the entire response to the public health emergency in disarray. It still seems the administration believes COVID-19 could be kept in check, intimidated by diktats, and enclosed within red tapes. There is little accountability in matters of public interest–be it the rationale behind the policies or the procurement, or lack thereof, of medical equipment. The administration in J-K must revoke the gag order issued in late April–through the Directorate of Health Services–threatening health workers with a jail term for merely speaking to the press. In a democracy, especially in absence of the oversight of an elected government, the bureaucracy in J-K must not shy away from being held accountable for its shortcomings and acts of omission, if any.

Health workers at the forefront of the fight against the deadly disease have done a commendable job, even though there have also been reports of malpractice and negligence on their part that must be investigated by the proper authorities. Health workers are risking their lives and deserve better, both from the government and the public. In the midst of this pandemic, the administration must improve its communication by engaging with the public rather than talking at them; the public, on its part, must cooperate with the overburdened health workers and follow the necessary prevention guidelines. The coronavirus pandemic is, after all, a global public health emergency and a pandemic that threatens to affect us all alike. There will be a time for introspection when the pandemic is behind us. And tomorrow, if not today, the bureaucracy should and will be asked questions about the lack of transparency.

The editorial originally appeared in our 24-30 August 2020 print edition.

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