Ramchandra Guha
Ramchandra Guha
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Manash Pratim Bhuyan / New Delhi

The unfolding miseries of millions of poor people in the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown is the “greatest manmade tragedy” in India since Partition, says historian and economist Ramchandra Guha.

Cautioning there will be social and psychological consequences for the rest of the country too, he said the migrant tragedy could have been averted or at least minimised if PM Modi had given them a week’s notice to return home before the lockdown kicked in.

“It is probably not as bad as Partition, for at that time there was also horrific communal violence. But it is nonetheless the greatest manmade tragedy in India since Partition,” Guha told PTI.

“I have no idea about how the PM took the decisions he did. Did he consult with knowledgeable officials, or take inputs from his cabinet ministers? Or did he act unilaterally?” asked the author of books such as ‘Redeeming the Republic’ and ‘India After Gandhi’.

Even now, he added, the situation can be “slightly” salvaged if the PM chooses to adopt a more consultative approach, and takes advice from the best minds in the country, including those in the Opposition. “But I rather fear he won’t. His cabinet ministers are busy shifting the responsibility to the states for cleaning up a crisis the Centre has created,” he added.

Arguing the tragedy could have been averted if Modi had given the migrant workers at least a week’s notice to return home, Guha said, “That he or his advisers did not think of the consequences of a lockdown at four hours notice is mystifying. They bear direct responsibility for the humanitarian tragedy that has since unfolded.”

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