As per statistics confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) until a day ago, over 31 lakh people have lost their lives due to COVID-19 infection, and 14.5 crores people were affected by the disease. By these counts, the coronavirus has to be described as the most lethal and destructive affliction of this century. Not only has the world not been able to tame the virus that has been on the rampage for over the last one year despite the endeavours of governments, modern medicine and WHO, but the pandemic is holding sway almost with double the ferocity. And hence the warning from most of the responsible quarters of humanity that only with world powers joining hands can the virus be brought under control in the foreseeable future. Vaccines which have proven to be efficacious and some not fully proven so, are being rolled out in different countries by the government and otherwise, but that has not been able to touch even the tip of the malaise so far. Although rich countries - and the rich of all countries - have been deriving the benefit of vaccination and preventive infrastructure effectively, when it comes to the majority of poor people, neither vaccination nor the treatment of the disease-affected has been happening with the same result. India, which is in the forefront of the world's pharmaceutical industry and was taking pride in being able to export medicines at the initial stage of the pandemic to countries including America, is facing its second wave in such a poor state of preparedness that the capital city is full of the less fortunate struggling in vain to get enough oxygen to breathe. Even as news of medical support and aid flowing in from 15 countries, including the US, Britain, Australia, the UAE and Saudi give some relief, the lopsided policies, discriminatory approaches and wrong priorities of the government in power have been drawing flak from far and wide. Credible objective data show that the government has been swayed more by the interests of private drug distribution companies marketing vaccine, oxygen and medicines than the health security concerns of the people.
The question that should arise at this juncture is whether a nation of 135 crore people shouldn't be able to display selfless service, compassion and fraternal care at least when the country is standing helpless before a pandemic unprecedented in modern times. When a flood happens, there is the phenomenon of the snake, scorpion and centipede rushing ashore alike with no attempt to attack each other. If we humans do not show even that herd sense, it is nothing but shameful. The number of those who capitalise on the situation by reaping exorbitant profit, violating COVID containment rules and blaming each other for violations, cannot be said to be small. It is amidst this dark alley that reports emerge with exciting examples of the magnanimous displaying models of altruistic care. The case of Pyare Khan from Nagpur who forgoed the Rs 85 lakhs due to him on account of oxygen transportation to government hospitals and asked for it to be treated as his zakat, is just one of them. In addition, the transport firm owner also made an offer to deliver oxygen tankers by air from Brussels if necessary. This good Samaritan is clearly seeking nothing bu the pleasure of God in the holy month.
Perhaps more laudable is the benevolence of Janardhanan, a beedi worker from Kannur, Kerala. The moment he heard Kerala chief minister talking about the iniquity of the state government having to buy the serum – which the Centre procures at Rs 150 – at a predatory price of Rs 400 from the phrma firm, he didn't think twice before going to his bank and donating Rs two lakhs out of his balance of Rs 2,00,850 to the chief minister's disaster relief fund, in a unique act of philanthropy. In spite of the persuasive advice of the bank manager and the staff there to keep some more balance, the beedi worker did not budge an inch back from his resolve; and reports say he refused to allow publicity for his name in the act either. It is such inspiring stories of compassion that force men to repose faith in humanity over and over. Similar stories had been heard also during the flood in 2018 and 2019 in Kerala. The social media were then flooded with tales of valiant fishermen who risked their lives to rescue those who were about to drown. The hope of the country lies in such souls now too amidst the preventive efforts against the COVID pandemic.