Modi government and several state governments incompetence is largely responsible for India’s pandemic disaster, as infections and deaths mount at a terrifying pace in India, the prime minister’s team culpability for the crisis has become startlingly clear. A literate leader might have saved India from this manmade disaster.
India might have been spared this humanitarian crisis had Modi and his team not neglected their duties and vilified those who offered him constructive counsel. He had the time, means, and access to expertise to proof the country against this inferno. As early as last November, a parliamentary committee had issued warnings of a second wave and urged the government to stockpile oxygen. But rather than bolstering India’s capacities, Modi used the virus to burnish his cult and pillage the country.
Last March, days after plunging India into chaos by announcing a nationwide lockdown with a four-hour notice, he sought tax-free donations for a fund called PM CARES to help the poorest of the poor, buy personal protective equipment and build oxygen plants across India. The equivalent of more than a billion dollars flowed into it during the first week. What did Modi do with all that money? Nobody knows and nobody is allowed to know.
Like those other leaders, Modi has spent more time diminishing the pandemic’s seriousness than combating it. In early March, even as cases in India rose alarmingly, he again boasted that the country would serve as “the world’s pharmacy,” churning out vaccines for developing nations. His health minister judged India to have entered the “endgame” of the pandemic. In a new cricket stadium named after Modi, tens of thousands of largely unmasked people turned out to watch matches between India and England last month. Many more unprotected people turned out for Modi’s recent election rallies in the state of West Bengal, and an estimated 3.5 million people have attended, with the encouragement of Modi’s Hindu nationalist colleagues, the Kumbh Mela religious festival.
COVID-19 has shown that we have underestimated the insidious nature of and the menace posed by biological weapons to humanity. It is difficult to anticipate new, highly infectious, and deadly bioagents like COVID-19. The absence of immediate bio-defences and the timelag in finding treatment(s) and vaccine(s) enables the invisible enemy to inflict high morbidity and mortality. The latency period and mutation into virulent and different strains, along with the chances of a recurrence in waves, makes disease detection and control more challenging.
Mass contagion and efforts to contain it, including through the Great Lockdown, has brought even the most powerful countries to their knees and economies to a grinding halt. It has pushed robust democratic societies into turmoil and has led governance into crisis. The pandemic has generated a psyche of fear, uncertainty, and helplessness among people everywhere.
Wish the ruling class in India should be literate enough to understand the scientific inputs rather than the usual election dynamic of dividing communities on the communal, caste and class lines.
The writer is Prashant Tewari, Editor-in-Chief of The Opinion Express Group)