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Nothing could be worse than the pain and mortal uncertainty suffered by those infected by covid, but being unable to get medicines or treatment support that could prove life-saving would rank second. Tragically, this is what we have seen unfold around us, with frantic calls being made to secure not just hospital beds, but oxygen and drugs like Remdesivir. Better anticipation would’ve saved us such trauma, but hoarding is playing a truly execrable role in India’s ongoing tragedy.

It’s shameful that this pandemic is being preyed upon by black-market agents for profiteering, and even by local politicians for petty games of power and patronage. Scarcities have meant that covid care for many has come down to the strength of their phone books. Hoarders are sitting on stocks even as people gasp to survive. Supplies will take time to augment. For now, the government should shoot off an SOS flare, appealing to the conscience of hoarders to ‘give it up’ and deposit what they have in a common pool. Stashing supplies away is illegal, so maybe an amnesty scheme could be declared that lets them drop off stuff anonymously for fair compensation. With lives at stake, hoarders might comply.

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