India shocked by videos showing COVID-19 dead next to patients

A civic worker sprays disinfectant on beds at a special temporary hospital facility for COVID-19 patients in Mumbai, India, Friday, April 10, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 12 May 2020

India shocked by videos showing COVID-19 dead next to patients

  • An increasing number of COVID–19 cases in Mumbai — India’s financial capital — means it has emerged as India’s virus hotspot

MUMBAI: A chilling video showing plastic-wrapped bodies of people who have died from COVID-19 next to patients at a public Mumbai hospital has shocked India, as experts blamed authorities for not issuing clear guidelines.
The footage showed a ward in Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, in Sion. It was released by a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Nitesh Rane on May 7, leading the opposition to demand an inquiry into the incident.
“It has been observed several times that family members are not available to claim bodies of patients who have died,” a hospital statement said Sunday. “We need to call them repeatedly, and still, they avoid claiming the bodies. All this causes a delay in removing the bodies.”
The statement added that, under new rules, the bodies of patients confirmed to have died of COVID-19 as well as those patients suspected to have died from it, should be handed over to relatives within 30 minutes of death.
Rane released a new video on Monday, this time of bodies on beds near patients in another public facility, KEM Hospital in Parel in central Mumbai.
Both hospitals serve millions of patients every day throughout the year.
An increasing number of COVID–19 cases in Mumbai — India’s financial capital — means it has emerged as India’s virus hotspot.

FASTFACT

Mumbai emerges as national virus hotspot with more than 13,000 cases.

As of Monday, the city had more than 13,000 cases and 508 fatalities, with no sign of a slowdown in the spread of the disease.
An investigation has been launched into the Sion hospital video by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to establish the veracity of the footage. Authorities said that mortuaries reaching their full capacity was another challenge.
But medical experts said the issue came down to the various guidelines, set by the central government, the government of Maharashtra, the BMC and the Indian Council of Medical Research, making it tougher to manage the outbreak.
“The Indian government had time to prepare for the pandemic from January this year, but we lost two months,” Dr. I. S. Gilada, managing director and consultant HIV/AIDS at the Unison Medicare and Research Centre, told Arab News. “And after that, there’s been another two-month course of changing one guideline after the other which has only created utter confusion. An example is the latest guideline of not having to test before discharge from hospital for patients with mild symptoms. This is not the right thing to do.”
He added that patients discharged in this manner were asked to give an undertaking that they would quarantine themselves in a separate room when they returned home.
“Is this possible when many Indians live among their large families in tiny homes?” he asked.
A notification on May 6 from the Directorate of Medical Education and Research, Maharashtra, told private doctors in Mumbai and its suburbs to serve on a compulsory basis at hospitals treating COVID-19 patients for 15 days or face action. Doctors said the rule lacked clarity.


New Indian law could force thousands of NGOs to shut down, activists claim

Updated 24 September 2020

New Indian law could force thousands of NGOs to shut down, activists claim

  • Thousands of small NGOs that are dependent on legal funds obtained internationally may be forced to shut down
  • Many small NGOs questioned the timing of the new legislation, as they have been heavily involved in providing relief to millions of people during the COVID-19 pandemic

NEW DELHI: A new law passed by India’s parliament on Wednesday imposes restrictions that will force thousands of NGOs to shut down, dealing a major blow to the country’s civil society, activists say.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) 2020, which regulates the use of foreign funds by individuals and organizations, is “for national and internal security” and to “ensure that foreign funds do not dominate the political and social discourse in India,” Nityanand Rai, junior home minister, told the upper house as it passed the regulation on Wednesday.

But Indian NGOs fear that the law will mean they are no longer able to operate.

“Thousands of small NGOs, which enable good work and are dependent on legal funds obtained internationally, will shut down — also endangering the livelihoods of those dependent on them for a vocation,” Poonam Muttreja, director of the Delhi-based Population Foundation of India, told Arab News.

As the new law does not allow NGOs to share funds with any partner, individual or organization, small groups — particularly those active at the grassroots level — may end up being unable to receive the donations on which they depend for survival, Muttreja warned.

“Donors can’t give small grants to local NGOs, so they give large grants to an intermediary organization with the desire to work with grassroot-level NGOs, (of which there are many) in India,” Muttrejia said.

On Thursday, Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) — an umbrella organization for Indian NGOs — held a press conference during which members questioned the timing of the new legislation, since many small NGOs have been heavily involved in providing relief to millions of people across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the worst possible time to hamper civil society,” the director of Ashoka University’s Center for Social Impact and Philanthropy, Ingrid Srinath, said during the conference. “Just when this country needs its entire civil society to work together with the private sector and the government to address the multiple problems that confront us — not only the health ones but the larger issues of where the economy is going and the many polarizations taking place on the ground.”

Srinath also pointed out that no wider consultation with NGOs had taken place before the law was passed.

According to Delhi-based civil society activist Richa Singh, the law is an attempt by the government to silence dissent in the country.

“The larger purpose is to further silence those civil societies that are critical of (the government). It is a political message to fall in line,” she told Arab News. “While foreign money in the form of investment is being welcomed and labor laws are weakened for it, aid money is selectively targeted.”

Amitabh Behar, the chief executive of Oxfam India, called it a “devastating blow” and also criticized the government’s double standards over the acceptance of foreign funds.

“Red carpet welcome for foreign investments for businesses but stifling and squeezing the nonprofit sector by creating new hurdles for foreign aid which could help lift people out of poverty, ill health and illiteracy,” he said in a Twitter post on Sunday, when the FCRA bill was introduced to the lower house.