Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir – Authorities in India-administered Kashmir have banned doctors from speaking to the media and instructed oxygen production units to cut off supplies to NGOs and private users.
The order, issued by the region’s health department on Thursday, came at a time when the country is battling the deadly wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, where hospitals have been shaken for oxygen cylinders, medicines and medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators, while bedridden people have been isolated.
“All Chief Medical Officers / Medical Superintendents / Block Medical Officers of the Kashmir Division have been directed to issue instructions to all staff under the administrative domain to refrain from media interaction,” the order signed by Health Services Director Dr Mushtaq Roth said.
The order warns doctors of “strict disciplinary action” and alleges that “contradictory and misleading messages” about the epidemic are being spread by “misrepresenting the epidemic and creating unnecessary and avoidable panic.”
Kashmiri doctors say the purpose of the order is to prevent them from “identifying the real issues” related to the healthcare system in the region.
“During the epidemic, stopping doctors from expressing real concern to the media is having dire consequences. “It’s more important for doctors to tell you about the health crisis, but now we have all been silenced,” a doctor at one of the region’s main government hospitals told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.
“We can’t talk about the situation on the ground for fear of losing our jobs.”
The number of new CVD-19 cases in India rose to 414,16 on Friday, killing 3,915 people – experts say the figure was too low. India’s total infection now stands at 21.49 million and the total number of deaths is 234,07. Arrived at.
About 5,000 infections were recorded in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday and there are currently about 27,000 active cases of coronavirus. As of Thursday, 52 people had been killed in the region and the total number was 2,5622.
Even in the midst of this upheaval, the administration of the federation-based region claims to have adequate oxygen, critical care drugs and other CVID-19 facilities to meet the crisis.
However, the government figures themselves present a different picture.
Of the six hospitals designated to treat coronavirus patients in Srinagar’s main city, only 11 ICU beds were empty on Thursday in the homes of more than 1.4 million people.
Sumena Jan, 226, a resident of Srinagar, said the government was preventing people from learning about the “catastrophic situation”.
He told Al Jazeera, “The only way to improve our situation right now is to speak up and leave a gap in the public eye.”
“They want to remove the issue and do not want public response. Health sector authorities do not want to be published as they have done nothing in the last one year to organize the epidemic. ”
‘Stop supplying oxygen to NGOs’
In another order on Thursday that drew widespread criticism from residents of the region, authorities instructed oxygen production units to cut off supplies to NGOs and private users.
The order issued by Srinagar District Magistrate Muhammad Aijaz directed all manufacturing units under the jurisdiction of Srinagar to supply oxygen only to designated hospitals and clinics.
“[They] Stop the supply of any private NGO with immediate effect. According to the order, the supply of private persons / associations / non-government organizations (excluding hospitals) will be made only with the approval of the District Magistrate.
A number of NGOs, charities and volunteers are currently working in Indian-administered Kashmir to supply and replenish oxygen cylinders for coronavirus patients treated at home.
Muhammad Afaq Sayeed, project director of the Social Reform Organization (SRO), a Srinagar-based NGO, said the order would “severely” affect their work.
“We are giving oxygen cylinders to home care people. They come to give back again. They will suffer when we cannot refill, “he told Al Jazeera.
He said there are at least 350 patients with oxygen assistance provided by his NGO.
“The short-term impact will be huge. “If you don’t give oxygen on time, it won’t do any good,” he hoped. “The administration will restore the process.”
Kashmir-based social media user Fahim Aslam wrote that the administration was literally “helping their deaths” by disrupting the work of NGOs in the midst of a “terrible epidemic”.
Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of the Muslim-majority region, also condemned the government order.
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Stopping hoarding / black marketing of oxygen cylinders is a commendable goal. It’s hard to stop or tighten NGOs to help people get cylinders, ”he tweeted.
“NGOs were working when the government was fast asleep.”