RJD MP Professor Manoj Jha stated in an impassioned address in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that individuals who died in the second wave of the pandemic left behind a “living document of our failure”.

Jha advocated for the government to move away from numbers politics, saying that even the poorest citizens were taxpayers and urged the duty of the welfare state, and encouraged the government to concentrate on the right to health and the right to work, and “leave demography to the demographers”.

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Jha began his speech by apologising to those who perished in the second wave but whose deaths had gone unnoticed. “This apology is not just from me… we should issue a collective apology from this House for those people whose bodies were floating in the Ganga,” Jha said.

According to the MP, an obituary for 50 persons has never been read out between two sessions of Parliament before. “Was this any age for Rajeev Satav to go from this world? Raghunath Mahapatra?… This pain is personal. I don’t want to talk about numbers. Mera aankda, tumhaara aankda. Apni peeda mein aankda dhoondiye (My number, your number. Search for numbers in your pain),” Jha said.

He said that there is “not one person in this country, in this House” who can say they haven't lost someone they know. “People would call for oxygen. We could not arrange it. People think he is an MP, he will arrange oxygen. Of a hundred phone calls, in the evening we would sit and see. Success rate two, success rate three. Who will explain numbers to me? I don’t want to talk about numbers. The people that have gone have left behind a living document of our failure,” Jha said.

Jha questioned if India was a welfare state, citing advertising claiming "free vaccines, free ration, and free treatment." “If one poor person in a village buys a bar of soap, he is a taxpayer as much as Ambani-Adani. You are telling him free? Nothing is free. He has a stake. There is a commitment of the welfare state. Don’t denigrate him, demonise him,” he said.

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Jha said the government must look at legislation that provides Right to Health and Right to Work in a speech that drew near-constant applause from the opposition benches. “Why don’t we talk about Right to Health. No ifs, buts and maybes. The right to health, constitutionally guaranteed, should be linked to right to life. No hospital will have the gumption to play around with this. We don’t want to do it. Right to Work. There should be work on that. There is a lot of talk about population. Leave demography to demographers,” Jha said.

Jha described the second wave's first and a half months as a "nightmare," noting that not just the Centre but even several state administrations were powerless.' “During that time, it was being said that governments didn’t fail, the system failed. What is this system? From childhood we have heard, there is a person behind the system. If the system has failed, whether in Delhi, or in the lanes of a village, then the governments have failed, don’t give it the name of a system. They make the system. There is a need for dignity in life. There is a greater need for dignity in death. We have witnessed undignified deaths. If we don’t fix this, future generations will not forgive us,” Jha said.