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Fight against Covid-19: Incompetence or deliberate negligence

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The second wave of Coronavirus has stuck hard in India particularly states such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar-Pradesh and Delhi have seen an alarming rise in the cases and the governments have been caught by surprise. Was the Corona wave surprising or we allowed this to happen.

Let us go to the latest figures.  As per reports 14.5 million cases of Covid 19 registered in India, of which 12.7 million recovered. 15, 69, 743 cases are still active and the total death to date is 1,76000. In the last 24 hours, 2,17,353 new cases have come in and death during this period is 1,185 as of April 16th evening and the numbers are now increasing exorbitantly. In terms of total cases, Maharashtra seems to be still taking it big but one has to appreciate chief Minister Uddhav Thackery for being forthright by now allowing religious gatherings as well as going for testing.

Situation in Gujarat particularly in Surat and Ahmedabad seems to be critical as hospitals are overcrowded. It is sad that Gujarat’s incompetence and failure has not become ‘national news’ which has obsession with Maharashtra and Bengal.

Leadership Failure to strengthen scientific temperament

Last year when the government imposed lockdown on March 24th last year, the cases were around 550 but that time there were not many detections so you can’t really believe the numbers but we can safely say that a few thousands. Indian leadership was so confident that it converted this into a PR exercise by asking people to bang thalis, clapping and lighting the torch or candles to do away with Coronavirus. The entire country mocked the first day Janata Curfew as people came on the street shouted Jai Shri Ram and clapped as if they had won the battle against Corona.

For several months we were under severe restrictions. The government allowed no space for planning and imposed harsh lockdown. Those who build our cities, do the menial work, the informal sector workers were left to fetch themselves. Their isolation was complete and compelled them to return to their villages in hope that if they died at least the families would be there to take care of them. This fear of death was so powerful that people started taking all the risk just to reach their home and be with their near-dear ones. Factories were closed, schools, railways and all essential commodities, as well as their productions, were almost closed. The lockdown resulted in a huge humanitarian crisis but the government remained in denial mode. It enjoyed the power of ‘lockdown’ and wanted people to remain in ‘submissive’ mode. Real intentions of the government became visible once it started the ‘unlock down’ process. It felt that lockdown was the best ‘opportunity to hand over India’s resources to a few cronies. It brought farm laws, labour laws. Air India was put for sale. Railways was being privatised without consulting the opposition and the employees. Trains were suspended and railways are still running much below of its original capacity.

No efforts were made to push the wheel of the economy. In fact, the attempt was to hand over all the sectors of our economy to a few cronies from Gujarat.

Election schedule too long and dangerous

Elections were organised in Bihar and now West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamilnadu are in the poll process.  While Kerala, Puducherry and Tamilnadu went to poll in just one day, Assam had three phases. It is shocking that the Election Commission decided to hold in West Bengal in the 8th phases and the way the prime minister and home minister along with other ministers campaigning in Bengal look like a municipality election. At the time when both of them should have been in Delhi speaking to the state and taking stock of the situation, the BJP has written against any attempt to club together the rest of the schedule for Bengal. The situation is critical but the party in power is not bothered about it. For it, winning elections at all cost is essential so that the opposition is wiped out. This is a new form of Sanghi democracy where opposition is not merely unwanted but need to eliminate.

With opposition not speaking much and media completely surrendering and becoming the voice of the ruling BJP, judiciary not finding time to take action, the republic is in a critical stage. Perhaps the crisis is much bigger than Corona itself. The one man who spoke about timely action is Rahul Gandhi but then the ministers in this government are asked to condemn him. Media follow the bytes of the ministers about the Gandhi family and none of the spineless patrakars have the courage to counter their propaganda or question them. The duty of a patrakar or journalist today is to carry the government’s press releases and question the opposition parties. This is the new definition of democracy where the media ask questions to dissenters and opposition and keep silent on the ruling party or just facilitate their viewpoints.

No lessons learnt

The second phase of the Corona wave has exposed the government’s inefficiency which was more worried about its achievements. The prime minister and his ministers continued to claim that India has managed the Corona crisis better than the powerful Western world. India’s Sarkari intellectuals were suggesting that over one lakh 75 thousand death is much less than the people who died in the US and UK but Indian leaders and media should observe what happened in China which is perfectly normal at the moment. Except for Wuhan, the Chinese actually controlled the crisis much more efficiently than any other country. Similarly, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia managed things far better than India and any other country.

In terms of vaccination, the attitude of the government has been highly disturbing. The attempt was to deliberately destabilise the public sector or government hospitals and bring private into action. It is said that various Pharma companies are lobbying for the vast market in India. When Rahul Gandhi spoke for more vaccines, the government’s ministers claimed that he was lobbying for the foreign companies but now the government has accepted and allowed import of Sputnik and other vaccines.

The last year should have been used to promote scientific and rational thinking among the people. The government should have promoted ideas that respect humanist values which do not create a stereotypical image of those suffering from Corona. Instead, the government continued to promote religious fundamentalism. Every Muslim was treated as Tablighi last year and blamed for the spread of the Corona Virus. The government did nothing to stop this nonsensical attitude. The media was actually promoting the idea and every savarna Hindu was blaming the Muslims for the spread of Coronavirus.

Each Muslim became a Tablighi person and many of those who were arrested for ‘spreading’ corona virus were finally released by the courts. But look at the irony, the ministers, Chief ministers are ‘encouraging’ people to go to Kumbh mela and take a dip.

Reports are coming that the Kumbha fair in Haridwar has become a hotspot for spreading the Coronavirus. One of the top Sadhus died due to Coronavirus. The prime minister speaks of the ‘Kumbha’ fair to be celebrated as symbolic but this is a strategic ‘appeal’ which means nothing as the die is cast and millions of people have already gone to Haridwar. They should have stopped it in the beginning but then the government never wanted to ‘hurt’ the Hindu sentiment, it ‘represents’ so proudly.  Look at the difference in their responses on the Tablighi Jamaat issue and that of the Kumbha fair.

Corona communalism

Corona was used by the ruling party to demonise Muslims last year but it never stopped the Hindus from getting organised. In fact, the cheap and vulgar comments made by the BJP leaders are available on social media and various TV channels. They glorified their traditions and said that nothing would happen. Today, Varanasi, Lucknow, Ghaziabad are suffering and the political leadership of the BJP is silent. It is busy campaigning in West Bengal but silent on the macabre of death in rest of the country due to Corona.

Uttar Pradesh is going to have Panchayat elections in the month of April. Netas are coming and campaigning. Nobody is bothered about the restrictions. Why should the government allow the Panchayat polls? Shouldn’t they be stopped? Why should the election commission continue with Bengal polls in so many phases? Does it not understand the crisis?

Lost Opportunity

India lost a historic opportunity. Its prime minister wanted his Gujarati friends to capture all the public resources. It used Corona to hand over the profits of India to these cronies while making their losses national ones. It was time for the government to strengthen the national health network very much like the National Health Services of Great Britain which was on the verge of being privatised prior to Covid-19 but became the biggest landmark of the country. Contrary to that, the government of India never bothered about strengthening the health infrastructure and the cronies started crying that the government alone cannot handle it and hence their entry was inevitable. Nobody was denying that but it is equally important to strengthen the government’s own health network. If the centre failed in doing so, our states too showed no urgency in doing so and the result was a complete failure to protect the lives of the people.

Though everyone cried against Tablighi Jamaat last year with BJP leaders vilifying all the Muslims for spreading Corona, Hindu festivals and political rallies were rarely mentioned. The media jumped on the bandwagon of the illiterate Hindutva netas suggesting that a dip in Ganges will remove all the sins of the people. Uttarakhand Chief minister on record said that nobody would be denied entry at Haridwar Kumbh because of Covid norms. 

Now, we are in the Chaitra Ramanavami season and the government has not uttered a single sentence to the public as not to participate in it.

The fact is that this period would have the right time for the government to inculcate the feeling of scientific temperament in the people and asking them to be rational in thinking and having faith in modern medicine. But how can you trust a government when its health minister and another minister participate in a programme which was a false claim by Ramdev to have developed the Corona vaccine approved by WHO. Once WHO categorically denied even then the government did not bother.

None is raising the issue of corruption today. Nobody questions the business interests of many ministers in the cabinet who are now doing everything to dismantle the public sector and working towards building a Brahmanical hegemony through private as they won’t require to fulfil the constitutional mandate of reservation in the private sector. That is the reason why Modi still remains popular as ‘Savarnas’ are ready to suffer but will always find excuses to defend Narendra Modi and his policies. For them, this is their golden period because Modi and Amit Shah have ensured that the Savarna hegemony over Indian bureaucracy, judiciary, media and academia remain unquestioned and unchallenged. It is this reason why none of them questions the intents of this government or its gross failure in dealing with the situation.

As India prepares to face the worst during the second wave, we hope the political leadership will take appropriate action so that things do not go out of hand. The vaccination drive needs to be upscaled and hospitals need more oxygen and other facilities. This is a big crisis for which we cannot blame anyone except the senseless handling of the situation by the political leadership which was more interested in declaring that India has become the world’s number one in ‘vaccine’ development and dealing with the Coronavirus. Whether we become the world leader in vaccine development or not, it is time for the government to provide vaccines to all without glorifying itself. No country can win a war against Coronavirus unless dealt with scientifically and with secular laws. Any effort to make one religious group great while vilifying others will only damage our national resolve to fight against Coronavirus. During the crisis, we need to come together, build fraternity and ensure people and communities that they would be taken care off. Transparency is needed and state governments should be given free hand to develop their own responses. It is time for the states too to build health infrastructure as part of government responsibility to people.

The Future

Corona is here to stay for some time. We don’t know when it will end but the crisis has exposed the hollowness of our leadership.

The war against Coronavirus cannot be won by jargons and empty rhetoric but with visionary actions, one the quick emergency response to the crisis and other the long-term investment in the medical infrastructure all over the country. The third aspect can be to build a culture of rationalism and humanism so that people have scientific temper and empathy towards the fellow citizen but for that the government cannot be seen as promoting fake idols like Ramdev who falsely claimed to have developed the vaccine for Corona approved by WHO.

In any other country, the Ministers who participated in the press conference of such a notorious businessman would have been dismissed but it is India where nobody is there to question the power and seek accountability.

Let us our friends in the media will raise issues and force the government to respond and seek their accountability.

Meanwhile, requesting all the friends to take utmost care and protect themselves. Don’t fall prey to rumours but also important to keep your cool and do not allow yourself to flow in the depressing news. We have lost many people and suddenly it is looking uncertain how the world around us is. Social media platforms are looking like ‘obituaries’ which is extremely distressing and depressing.

We must care for people and friends where needed but it is also important that we also protect ourselves. The time of crisis will show our resolve to fight against this battle but as our leadership dwindles, it is the communities, the people who have to protect each other, wear masks and maintain a safe distance till life comes to normal.

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