#Opinion

Pandemic Privilege: Why Are Some Getting More COVID-19 Help Than Others?

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Mallika Dua COVID-19 privilege allegations have raised several questions: Is the help being offered by ministers during the pandemic selective? Should celebrity status mean life is deemed precious for only some and not all? But then again, must celebrities not seek help from any quarter they can when they need it just like everyone else? On whom does the responsibility lie to bridge privilege?

Mallika Dua, stand-up comic and actor, was brutally trolled Monday when she sought and received help for her mother who is currently battling COVID-19 at a Gurugram hospital ICU. Dua, 31, put out a Twitter plea on May 16 for Tocilizumab injections for Chinna Dua, tagging Indian National Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda. Hardeep Singh Puri, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Aviation Minister, joined the thread saying he had arranged the medicine for her.

“Thank you so much @hardeepspuri for your prompt action on helping me procure Tocilizumab for my mother. It has been delivered to the hospital by me just now,” Dua soon confirmed on Twitter.

This incident has, however, split the internet into many bits, each as valid as the last one.

How far can and must privilege be stretched? Can other people match the seeming privilege Dua possesses that prompted a central minister to swoop down and help her? Turning the question on Puri, why he doesn’t show up similarly for other common citizens? On whom does the pressure of privilege lie – the one seeking help or the one offering it?

Here is how social media reacted to the incident:

Mallika Dua COVID-19 Privilege Called “Unfair”. But Who Deserves The Blame?

Privilege is relative. It isn’t groundbreaking that class imbalance has existed simultaneous to modern society. And so, some have always afforded better than the rest, and possibly always will. It’s unfortunate, but it’s our current truth. What has made this rift vividly apparent is the pandemic that has thrown a big population into the same frying pan.

But ask a disabled or a Dalit person or someone without economic privilege. They will tell you this rift has lived with them forever.

On the other far end of the spectrum, public personalities, by virtue of superior resources, have always laid claim to better resources and are constantly under the scanner for being blind to their privilege. In this case, Dua appealed to a minister for medicine on Twitter as tens of thousands of other Indians have been doing through 2021.

The only difference in her appeal was the blue tick that propped it up for mass notice?

Was that what drew a central minister to listen to her voice over the deafening shrieks of so many others scrambling for resources? Did her celebrity grant Dua the privilege of access before other Indians? After procuring said medicines, should she have felt guilty for her “blue tick privilege” that put her on ministerial priority? More importantly, will such guilt salvage the imbalance in resources?

Such are times that everyone is pulling out all the stops just so their loved ones can breathe another day.

So should it be a matter of moral debate when one goes the full mile to seek treatment for her parent critical in hospital?

Would we not have crossed calls to the highest powers, if we could, in case such tragedy were to befall us? Who decides how much privilege one must avail and not avail? Is it fair for a daughter desperate to save the life of her mother to stay restricted within the checkpoints instated by her critics?

But then again, what about the millions of other daughters of India who don’t share her privilege?

Views expressed are the author’s own.