“A Good Leader Does Not Spread Panic”.
For the third time the Prime Minister addressed the countrymen on the menace of Coronavirus and for the third time he failed to articulate in policies any concern for the overwhelming majority of the people of the country who are suffering much more due to the measures forced by the Govt. than from the panic created by the spread of Coronavirus. In all three of his speeches he left it to the people to take care of themselves and absolved his Govt. and the corporate who back his Govt. from any responsibility. This was extreme political distancing by RSS-BJP govt. from the people they claim to serve.
Left without any work and any money and resultantly without food, driven out by house owners from the measly dwellings in which they are to practice physical distancing, the workers working thousands of miles away from the homes they had left for the bare survival of their families, are living through a nightmare which the PM nonchalantly extended for nineteen more days. Obviously without any provisions, with not even a word on how they are to make it through it. Workers want to go to their distant homes, thousands of miles away, not because some palace or royal welcome awaits them there, but simply because one feels doubly pained at having to starve and die unattended in an alien land, a land turned alien for them despite all talk of unity and integrity. A pain which cannot be felt by the globe-trotting elite. And then rulers across the aisle blame on their homesickness what essentially is the sickness in the belly, trying to cover their own lack of concern by finding the workers‘disorderly’behaviour disturbing the eye-soothing aerobatics of the good and greedy. Why and why can they not just be where they are, may be without food and shelter, but after all,how little is this sacrifice for the sake of the nation! How much degradation has taken place since the ancient days when our godly ancestors could go without food or water for years! Rulers are not able to find any sense in the yearnings for food and shelter, let alone in cares for the family members back in the villages.They find it reeks of ignorance due to maya.On top of it, the recipients dare to point out the rotten nature of the food doled out or its inadequate amount. Beggars trying to be choosers! What has come of all the efforts of the rulers, these modernday MarieAntoinettes!
Choice between mode of death faced by these migrant workers is always difficult- there is no difference between creed, gender and caste, at least a part realization of the Constitutional mandate. A glimmer of hope of the possibility of return to their homes at long distances makes them rush to the mode of transport. In Mumbai, Surat, Delhi tens of thousands, nay, lakhs converged on railways stations and bus stands only to escape seemingly certain hardships, evendeath, taking chances with uncertain fears. What choice do the rulers have but to unleash police and security forces on these ungrateful creatures, that too for their own good! These are the hard decisions that ‘democracy’ forces on the rulers whose hearts and bellies are full with sympathy.
Indian rulers have earned the ‘reputation’ of enforcing the harshest lock down, that too on a vast scale-130 crore people.Many people are finding it a necessary evil, as if there was no other mechanism of stopping spread of this novel Corona virus; as if there was no other way of people keeping physical distance other than by fear of the brandishing of police canes. Such inhuman enforcement has very few examples. Those spared of it are singing praise; those experiencing it have no voice. Besides those who died travelling on foot, an undocumented large number would have perished due to hunger. This is not to include those who have died due to lack of availability of health services, not being able to make it to hospitals and a few who could, being turned back if they were not considered Corona cases.The toll of moronic acts may end up much higher than that of Corona.
The way Indian Govt. has handled this outbreak is a clear example of rulers being divorced from Indian reality. Govt. actions can be compiled for future guidance of Don’ts. The virus came to India from abroad and it was late in arrival, probably taking a cue from Indian transportation. First case was reported from Kerala on January 30 and cases remained very few throughout February. Enough time was there for the Govt. of India to put its act together. But this precious time was lost in sending electronic shocks to women of Shaheen Bagh. However, besides this communal fascist agenda, there is another angle to it. This was the time when US and UK rulers, Trump and Johnson, were rubbishing the talk of danger of Corona. Modi was in august company. Tens of thousands were assembled in Gujarat to welcome Trump. Trump and his allies, including Johnson, were then gloating in the discomfiture of Chinese rulers as Corona first became an epidemic there.
But soon the outbreak started affecting western countries. Soon, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and UK raced ahead of China in number of cases as well as deaths. US came obviously on top justifying its billing as a Superpower. When the virus spread in western countries, Modi Govt. panicked. It announced a complete lock down, just allowing two days’ break for swearing in of its govt. in MP. Such was the panic and it was duly transmitted to the people through its careless announcement which gave rise to widespread chaos in cities including the capital Delhi. The type of lock down was not based on any recommendation of any scientific body of India. Rather it was a pale imitation of what was happening in some western countries, obviously with vigour of police and rigour of law thrown in. A statement jointly issued by Indian Public Health Association (IPHA) and Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine (IAPSM) said as much, “The unprecedented nationwide “lockdown”, announced in India from 25th March 2020 for three weeks, is apparently based on the experience and epidemiological evidence of the model in some specific contexts from other countries.” (Issued on April 11, 2020). The two leading bodies of community health experts made clear both foreign source of the measure and the fact that Indian scientists were not even consulted before announcing this measure or even before announcing its extension on April 14. That most of those adorning the top bodies of medical science would dare not speak up owes to the mode of their selection, promotion and retention in top places. It is unbelievable but true that the premier medical research body in India, ICMR, had sanctioned a study on efficacy ofMahaMratyunjya Japon head injury patients in ICU.
The time available to the Govt. for preparations was not utilized. Neither test kits were prepared nor public health facilities were strengthened. Rather the Union Budget on Health services was effectively reduced. So much was the carelessness that export of health equipment so necessary to tackle the needs of affected people was continued up to March 23. Indian govt. fully understands the role of foreign capital and their compradors in shaping the contours of ruling class politics and its agenda. Hence, it is more sensitive to the diktats of the imperialist powers than the needs of the Indian people. Lifting of restrictions on the export of Hydroxycholoroquinewithin 48 hours after its imposition, Trump’s threat facilitating such a reversal and helping bring out the humanitarian concerns, and diversion of medical supplies meant for India to US, have all highlighted the subservient character of the Indian rulers. Corona has not been able to make any dent in it.
There was a fairly long period available to arrange kits for testing and equipment for protection of health care personnel, but all that was squandered. Despite all bravado expressed by the Indian Govt. spokespersons and also by its scientific advisors who know that they owe their jobs less to science and more to sycophancy (There are no likes of Dr. Fauci here in the establishment), there is frankly shortage of testing kits. It is expressed in low number of tests being carried out, the shortage covered up by restrictions on the criteria to carry out tests. Till April 14, 2020 only 200,000 tests were carried out i.e. roughly 0.15% of the population. Compare this with 3 million tests carried out by US so far for a population less than one fourth of our country and 1 million by Italy which has less than one twenty fifth of our population. It is worth mentioning that a public sector company had offered at the beginning of crisis itself to make testing kits, an offer not accepted by the Govt. Now, as promised imports get diverted, the first antibody testing kits will anyway be probably supplied by the same, but two weeks late in a situation where every day counts.
The performance on providing PPE is equally dismal. Govt. compares health care workers to soldiers in this “battle” but is throwing them into it without minimumnecessaryweaponry. Was it so difficult? Not at all. A number of concerns offered to make them but how could the Govt. of profiteers allow this opportunity to go waste? Even now this can be done in a very short time if the Govt. allots resources to saving the people rather than to its corporate friends. Govt. allocation to fighting Corona is miniscule as compared to the handouts they gave to their corporate friends. Corona has not been able to frighten them enough, yet. It is just the lack of political will or the belief that the baton can do miracles. Doctors, nurses and other health care staff are being harassed and intimidated (even suspended) by authorities and Govt. for articulating their needs of PPE. No steps were taken to help defend health care personnel from misguided public perception of they being sources of Corona, largely due to panic created by the Govt. and people’s full confidence that Govt. would do nothing to help them but leave them to fend for themselves. Probably RSS-BJP Govt. has not found anything in these attackson medical staff which can be utilized for spreading communal virus. Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Ajay Singh Bisht, do not act on these unless there is scope of a communal twist.
But RSS-BJP set-up is in the overdrive in spreading their communal virus even in the times of Corona. Muslims are selectively blamed for the spread; no mention of the community of those guilty of spread if they are not Muslims. This propaganda is buttressed by attacks on Muslim vendors. The whole affair is taken to a new level by allocating different wards to the patients from different communities in the contribution come in from the Gujarat model.
Prime Minister called on scientists, especially young scientists, to take a lead in making a vaccine. One thing that Corona has apparently done is that it has silenced at least some of those in power from expressing belief in the ancient glory of medical science before which the presentday medical sciences pale into insignificance. No doubt understanding the utter futility of scientific research, the present rulers had cut down Budget on scientific research and made that inaccessible to scientists even where it was formally not cut. Now suddenly Modi has remembered Indian scientists. But Rome was not built in a day. And one cannot be sure that this turnabout will outlast Corona pandemic.
Public Health institutions, since long being undermined, are shouldering the main responsibility. Corona outbreak underlined the necessity of strengthening them. But RSS-BJP Govt. is not prepared to even look in that direction. There has been no attempt to bring private health establishments under Govt. control for the purpose of tackling Corona, a measure taken by a number of countries.
Having stunned India into lockdown, RSS-BJP rulers and the establishment supervised over by them, will have to re-open. They do not have any desire to provide for the people, execution of lockdown is ample proof of this. But they won’t allow the people to go back to work as earlier. The rulers would extract their pound of flesh. Now Corona is being sought to be delivery agent. Already proposal is formulated to extend work day to 12 hours. Now the anti-worker Codes governing rights of workers are being brought in through Ordinance route. Profits of corporate have to be puffed up so they can fill the coffers of their political representatives. All this will be useful to turn sufferings into deliverance, dumping into saving, neglect into service, in brief, black into white.
MNREGS has dropped to mere 1% as per reports. No payments are being made. Govt. used to boast that it had opened accounts for everyone. Why not use it to make payment to all, wages, compensation and subsistence fund? Is this not the time for it? Why not procure all agricultural produce at MSP and give bonus to meet the exigency of the pandemic?
One great revelation of Corona has been that the Govt. which was projecting India as a rising superpower is all of a sudden complaining of her poverty. It is not able to provide wages to the people (that it left to the companies which everybody knows won’t), rents are not being paid for locked down workers (that is left to house owners, knowing well what they are doing). No doubt they would rediscover plentiful India once it is a question of showering bounties over the corporate and not spending for the people. For the time being they are deducting the salaries of even Class IV employees, extracting contributions voluntary only in name. While other Govts. have ratcheted up spending, Modi Govt. is making people pay while stupendous wealth of corporate is not touched.
However, problems of the people have dramatically escalated. And so has changed the canvass of the articulation of their grievance. Rulers have done everything to drive the fear of Corona into the hearts of struggles of the people. The fear is being carefully orchestrated and manipulated into paralyzing the people while giving full scope to the Govt. to suppress them. While the Govt. has banned any and every assembly but the people are being increasingly assembled in jails, even for those alleged crimes which can be tackled later. This pandemic has not prompted the Govt. or the Supreme Court to order release of political prisoners. Probably the Govt. has made prisons Corona-proof. Or they wish to short-circuit the whole judicial process and deliver the verdict of guilty while ensuring its simultaneous execution.
Some govts. are throwing out migrant workers while their home states are not willing to take them. They have truly become stateless, NRC-NPR notwithstanding. In Delhi, Surat, Mumbai, and many more places the same pattern is repeated. Should this chicanery be not put an end to? Should the state Govts. not be made accountable? – both those of states which these workers built and those of where they were born.Why do the ruling parties pretend the blame game while they are all naked in the bathhouse. They support each other, full of praise; when it comes to taking care of workers and poor, they start their familiar blame game.
Corona has been handy for the ruling classes. The tiny virus probably may not even be aware of the use it is being put to. But the real Corona will be that of passivity, of inability to hold rulers accountable, of failure to rise for rights, of failure to defend what people had. If the rulers cannot deliver, they be relieved.Conspiracy is quite stark in our country, or maybe it is so in other countries as well. Let us not permit the rulers who permitted spread of Corona in India to laugh at our expense. Corona may not know Class, but the ruling class knows how to use Corona, to use any calamity. Handling of Corona pandemic has been an unabashed story of callous lack of concern, ineptitude & inefficiency and above all, of making the people suffer.
April 15, 2020