Dr. Khan has become a public figure after being scapegoated by the local government for the deaths of 60 children when his hospital ran out of oxygen. He has been imprisoned twice and spent 500 days in jail in the last two years (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrest_of_Kafeel_Khan).
The government underestimated the potential of the second wave and now India is going through a nightmare scenario by all accounts. Covid is widespread throughout the country, in New Delhi the positivity rate is 30%. The official stats are 4000 deaths per day, but many suspect the data is being manipulated and the numbers minimized.
The pandemic has exposed the collapse of a health system that was radically privatized under the current administratoin. 70% of healthcare is concentrated in urban areas and 60% of rural people have no access to healthcare simply because there are no clinics or hospitals near them. Now failures of healthcare that were once only seen in rural areas have become common in cities and even for VIP citizens of Delhi, Mumbai and other urban centers. There have been much publicized shortages of oxygen. Even doctors who have been tirelessly caring for the sick and who have caught the disease are dying for want of oxygen and hospital beds.
Oxygen cylinders are being sold on the black market for thousands of dollars, remdesivir is on the black market. There are stories of police confiscating oxygen tubes that had been purchased by private citizens and beating the victims who protest. Hotels, schools and religious buildings are being converted to hospital rooms. At the same time, healthcare workers are not abandoning their posts. Doctors and nurses are working under very difficult circumstances.
While India is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world and Covaxin, the homegrown Indian vaccine, appears to capture the Indian variant, only 2% of citizens have been vaccinated. The poor, the minorities, rural people, cannot afford the vaccine. 200 rupees, for some people, is four days of labor.
People have been going online to ask for help on social media or otherwise publicize the poor conditions, prompting local governments to go after them using national security legislation, in some cases imprisoning them and confiscating their assets. The central government has been scrubbing twitter of critical tweets. On April 30th, the supreme court of India weighed in on this and prohibited the state governments from punishing these citizens for voicing their complaints.
India needs more doctors, but suffers from a considerable brain drain. Out of 330 medical students who graduated from his medical school, 8 are left in India. The rest are in other countries. The ones who are left work in very challenging conditions with poor pay. In rural settings, the WHO has estimated that there is one doctor for every 50K patients.
Dr. Kafeel’s personal foundation has started a program to address rural inequalities, it’s called “Doctors on road” and the website is https://www.ourdemocracy.in/Campaign/DoctorsOnRoad.