People in small cities, towns and villages are dying like insects but their deaths are not even numbers for govts, writes Sumit Paul

“Covid seems to have taken us back to the colonial times of pestilence and famines, when the poor just floated their dead down the nearest river. All the tall claims of a new India have washed up on the banks of the holy Ganga in Buxar in Bihar. Some say 48, others claim to have counted 150 bodies of suspected Covid victims on the Ganga at Chausa block in Buxar bordering Uttar Pradesh.”

Editorial, The Tribune, May 12

‘Jali, adhjali laashein idhar-udhar/ Maanveeya moolyon ki avnati iss qadar’

-Anon

(Burnt and half-burnt dead bodies here and there/ Such a sharp decline in human values!)

The whole world is flabbergasted to see the gut-wrenching pictures of bloated dead bodies of corona patients in the ‘holy’ waters of the Ganges. These heart-rending pictures reveal the state of affairs in the country. People in small cities, towns and villages are dying like insects and their deaths are just numbers, nay not even numbers, for the state and centre governments. Crematoriums are full to the brim and the people of New India have no money to give a decent burial or burning to the departed souls, dead from corona.

I’m afraid India hasn’t changed. British PM Winston Churchill seriously opined that Indians wouldn’t be able to govern a diverse country like India. The dishonest politicians, full of knavery, would mess up the whole thing. Indeed, successive governments botched up and have brought the country to such a pass that all sugary talks of development and being atmanirbhar (self-sufficient) sound utterly hollow and arrant exasperating.

Scientific temperament

All governments talked only about religion, temple, god and silly spirituality and never cared for inculcating and developing scientific temperament through education. That’s why, just like in 1918, people would toss the bodies of their near and dear ones into the river; cyber-savvy India’s hinterland still believes that corona is the result of divine wrath. So, such accursed dead bodies must be tossed into the river! For fear of social ostracisation and the stigma attached to Covid-19, the true number of corona cases and deaths are hardly coming out and governments too are happy that an exponential number of reported deaths will not embarrass them!

The British government was squarely accused of mishandling and showing utter indifference towards the plague-hit in Poona and the Bombay Presidency in 1897, the Spanish flu in 1918 and the famine of famines in Bengal in 1943. But what have we done in ‘Independent’ India?

The narcissistic PM is still busy with his dream project of Central Vista amid corona casualties. A hermitic but hubristic CM still talks about Ram Mandir. Scores of women in Gujarat still go for their yearly ‘Kalash Pooja’ that happened just a couple of days ago. Throwing caution to the wind, a battalion of Muslims will throng to see off their beloved cleric in Badayun in UP. But no one says anything because you’re not supposed to criticise the religious gatherings of any religion and their asinine rituals. The reason being, ours is a secular country!

Passing the buck

Utter mismanagement, lack of vision, narcissism and an atavistic hatred for sanity and sagacity have resulted in this mayhem. There’s no accountability and no sense of urgency. Shirking their immediate responsibility, ministers and politicians are egging the gullible masses on to invoke gods, as only god/s can save them. This is their clever ploy to pass the buck.

Coming back to the floating dead bodies in the ‘holy’ Ganga, the UP and Bihar governments are refusing to take responsibility. Instead, they’re holding each other responsible for the undignified deaths of so many people. This is possible only in India. An editorial in a leading Hindi daily published from Central India said that local administration and government was doing absolutely nothing about the social boycotting of corona sufferers and their families. This social banishment leads to the clandestine disposal of the dead in the backwaters of Bihar, MP, UP and Rajasthan.

The question is: What have we done to disperse the misconception that corona is god’s curse? That it’s just a contagious disease still hasn’t dawned on many. Now even ‘educated’ people have begun to believe that god is punishing mankind. This goes in favour of an utterly incompetent government, which conveniently imputes the ill-fate of the people to some divine force! God will take care, we needn’t! This type of disdainful insouciance is fanning the pandemic.

The whole world is watching India moving, nay tottering, like a headless chicken. It’s time the government and other agencies stemmed the rot and saved the boat from drowning. Mind you, it has already capsized and we’re in putrid bilge!

The writer is a regular contributor to world’s premier publications and portals in several languages.

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