The Patna High Court on Tuesday said that if the media played its key role, it can help to prevent the pain, suffering, and anguish of people during the anticipated third wave of Covid-19 while emphasizing that the policy of “testing, tracking, and treatment” needs to be implemented in Bihar with greater vigour.
The division bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar passed this order on a petition filed by Shivani Kaushik. The Court stated, “We have perused the affidavit dated July 26, 2021 filed by Pratyaya Amrit, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Health, Government of Bihar.”
The Court noted, “No doubt, much work has been done by the State in sensitizing the people, cautioning them of taking all precautions for adhering to the advisories issued by the experts and the State, more specifically with regard to hand, respiratory and social hygiene. But, however, we find the affidavit on the issue of vaccination to be vague, inasmuch as it does not specify the number of persons eligible to be vaccinated, more specifically in the rural areas. Also, whether a sufficient number of doses of vaccines are available with the Government or not? If not so, then as to whether a request for enhanced quota for allotment stands made to the Union of India or not?
The affidavit does state that 71 per cent of the urban population of the State stands vaccinated, but then it is conspicuously silent with regard to the eligible population falling within the rural area.
The Court said that the Government of Bihar has launched a campaign termed as Mission Mode “Six Crores in Six Months” and as of 21st of July, 2021, 2.20 Cr. Doses of vaccines stands administered, but then, should this process be not hastened up is what we are desirous to know. Is it on account of lack of availability of vaccination; availability of infrastructure required for inoculation; or on account of reluctance/ hesitation on the part of the people in getting themselves vaccinated.
“We find that though the Government has put in place enhanced systems for testing, but for some reason the number of tests conducted on the daily basis is just 75,000(Approx). Whereas in the month of April/May, 2021, the testing had gone up to almost 1.25 lacs, then why this sudden drop in testing, is not clear from the affidavit. However, what is heartening to note is that the positivity rate for the month of July, 2021 stands reduced to almost 0.05 per cent (average),” the Court observed.
The Court directed that the Principal Secretary (Health), Government of Bihar, Patna to file a supplementary affidavit focusing broadly, on two aspects i.e. vaccination and availability of health infrastructure at the district/sub-divisional level, both, generally and required for dealing with Covid-19.
At this point in time, we may also indicate that the Government has substantially relaxed the condition of lockdown, which has resulted in the people/general populace letting off their guard by not wearing masks and maintaining social distancing at public places, the Court said.
The Court said it found that the role of media becomes imperative in sensitizing the people of the need to continue to maintain their hand, respiratory and social hygiene, most significantly maintaining social distancing at public places. Significant role played by the Media can certainly help prevent the pain, suffering and anguish of the people in Bihar during the anticipated third wave of Covid-19. We have simply touched this issue, to be highlighted further.
The matter was listed for July 30 before which date, the Principal Secretary should file the affidavit, the Court ordered.