The ones we elected to office are to squarely blame for the apocalypse now, writes Ashutosh

Now that the apocalypse has hit India, who should be blamed? The apocalypse did not happen in a day. Everyone was aware that it was coming. But it was allowed to happen and now, when it is devouring its victims, nobody seems to own up to it. The reality is that long before the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit India, world-renowned experts, epidemiologists and other doctors warned that one should not relax after the first wave of epidemic as the second, third and fourth waves of the virus were likely to hit the country and the fresh attacks would be deadlier than the earlier ones. Did the Central and state governments, civil society and common citizenry make any preparations? The answer is a big NO.

In pandemics, deaths are inevitable, but if as a country, we had been prepared, there could have been fewer victims and the chaos and desperation out there in the streets could have been avoided, the anarchy which has engulfed hospitals could have been grossly reduced. A lot more lives would definitely have been saved. I have no hesitation in admitting that the political class in this country has let the whole country down.

It is they who should be made responsible for deaths and it is they who should be punished. Their acts have been criminal. They don’t deserve to represent us. They have proved once again that their ilk still lives in the medieval era; they still have to get out of their ghetto mindset. In a modern society, every life matters, every decision is made on facts, every act is guided by scientific temper.

Scientific temper

Our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, knew that though India had got Independence, it still lived in a semi-feudal society and therefore, he emphasised that the country, as a whole, should inculcate a scientific temper. Unfortunately, in the last few years, we have gone back in time, the clock has been reversed, facts have been replaced by fiction, reason has given way to emotions, rationality has been mortgaged to cult-ism, collective decision making has been thrown in the dustbin and one man’s whims have overwhelmed the entire nation; democracy has been mocked by authoritarianism and demagoguery and as a nation, we have been asked to live in the past and not worry about the future. No wonder doom was waiting to happen and when it did, we were caught with our pants down.

In my opinion, the present catastrophe is manmade. Till the first week of April, the Centre was totally oblivious to the danger. A country which went through a very tough time during the first wave of the corona, should have prepared much in advance for the future crisis, but the government at the Centre was busy fighting elections. The Prime Minister and the top guns of the ruling party were holding rallies and roadshows where corona protocols were violated to shreds, leaders were not wearing masks and social distancing had no meaning.

When the home minister of the country was asked why big rallies were organised, the answer was: “Elections have nothing to do with corona, as most cases were seen in Maharashtra where there were no elections.” He has forgotten that as the home minister of the country, it is his duty to ensure that rules are being followed and those who flout them should not go unpunished. But if he himself flouts norms, then who will be punished? This was happening at a time when Delhi High Court had ordered that if a person alone in a car were found maskless, they should be fined. In a civilised society, there can’t be two laws, one for the powerful and another for the citizens.

Invited disaster

There is a chief minister called Tirath Singh Rawat, who lives in ancient times and does not believe in science and modern medicine. After becoming the chief minister, he lifted all the corona restrictions for the Kumbh Mela, making the most ridiculous and idiotic statement - ‘the waters of the Ganga are pious and those who will take a dip in the river will be blessed and no corona will infect them’. Buoyed by such an unabashed declaration, in just one day, 31 lakh people took a dip. Despite orders from the Uttarakhand high court, no precautions were observed. Does this man deserve to be the leader of the state? And now, when people are dying, why should this man not be prosecuted?

How did the Prime Minister, who, on March 24, 2020, imposed the most severe lockdown in the history of mankind, who has been propagating that davaai bhi kadaai bhi (medicine as well as strict protocol), allow the Kumbh to happen? Why did he address rally after rally and was ecstatic that ‘a sea of people had gathered to listen to him In West Bengal’?

Normally, when such a dire situation is foreseen, an empowered group of ministers is created for policy formulation and monitoring the situation on a daily basis. Instead, a taskforce of bureaucrats had been entrusted to deal with the situation. However, this taskforce did not meet since December and finally, when it met in mid-April, it was too late.

Misplaced complacency

The ruling party, the BJP, was busy passing a resolution in its national executive on February 21, 2021, stating how PM Modi had successfully vanquished the pandemic and shown the whole world how to fight and win against corona. The health minister of the country had announced the ‘endgame’ of the virus. This was the same minister, who, on March 13, 2020, told the world that there was no medical emergency and those wearing masks were spreading panic, only to be refuted by the Prime Minister the very next week, who imposed the ‘Janata Curfew’ and the lockdown. Taskforce Chairman V K Paul had announced at a press conference on April 24, 2020, that there would be no new corona cases in the country after May 16, 2020. Do these people deserve to remain in office? Why weren’t they sacked? Instead, they continue to remain comfortably ensconced in their seats.

Had the government been prepared and anticipated the crisis, the 162 oxygen plants that had been sanctioned should have been readied before the crisis hit. But the government took eight months to tender the bid and so far, only 32 plants are ready. People are dying for want of Oxygen, but the nation should know that India has surplus oxygen, but very few cryogenic tankers to transport oxygen to hospitals. Why were new tankers not organised? Now, the Prime Minister has ordered that every district will have an oxygen plant.

Had this been done a year ago, thousands of lives would have been saved. Why were six crore corona vaccines allowed to be exported as recently as three weeks ago? Why was Remedisivir reportedly being exported until two weeks ago? Even oxygen export was not stopped until very recently.

Shifting the blame

Our leaders are good at politics. Now they are busy playing blame games. The Centre is accusing the state governments and vice versa. The Centre, which did not let state governments enjoy an iota of autonomy to deal with the corona crisis last year, has this time absolved itself of any responsibility. A new narrative is being circulated, that health is a state subject and that the states should have made arrangements for the same. If that is the case, then why did the Centre take charge last time?

The country has chosen the BJP to rule the country, and Mr. Modi as the Prime Minister. He is the leader of the nation. In 2014, when he took charge, he talked about ‘Team India', he spoke of ‘cooperative federalism’. But in the last few years, the country has seen a stratospheric rise of cultism, every institution has been dwarfed and one man lords it over the rest, and nobody, except him, takes any decision. If collective strength of reason is hijacked and mediocrity thrives, then this is what happens.

Mr Prime Minister, it’s time to wake up; the country has chosen you to rule, so you better rule and this country can only be ruled by respecting diversity and recognising the best, regardless of ideology.

The writer is an author and Editor,

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal