We are in the midst of Lockdown 2.0. The fact that the country could allow some relaxations in specified sectors from April 20, is a matter of reassurance about the effectiveness of strategy followed so far. Everything said and done, there are however pockets of concerns.
Despite a marked decline in death rate as a percentage of closed cases with corresponding improvement in recovery rate, the cases of new infections have begun to pose concern. In a way though it was bound to be so in the wake of scaling up ‘testing’.
However, the concern is due to different reasons. Regrettably in some states and areas, the period of lockdown was not capitalized to home-confine people, test sufficient numbers, isolate positive cases and treat them. As a result, extremely valuable time was lost to the peril of not only those states, but the whole nation. Nothing can make good that loss!
What causes more disquiet is that a few states do not seem to have appreciated the gravity of the issue. Even on 20th April, the home ministry expressed concerns about the lack of seriousness in enforcing the lockdown in parts of a few states including Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The Home Ministry has also drawn attention of Kerala government over non-adherence to lockdown guidelines in the state.
It is important to recognize that Covid-19 still remains a dangerous and inscrutable foe. Reports keep coming in that add to concerns. For example, South Korea, which had become nearly free of Covid-19 cases, recently reported over 150 cases of relapse in recovered patients. Some experts attributed this to low level of immunity in the affected persons upon whom the incidence of the disease was mild and not produce sufficient anti-bodies.
In India, we are still struggling to know about the actual numbers of Corona positive cases. To that end, the numbers of test-kits are still not enough, but being worked upon. Meanwhile, the challenge has grown bigger due to likelihood of presence of ‘asymptomatic carriers’ in population. A report attributed to WHO reveals that nearly 25% of Covid-19 cases in China were asymptomatic. This raises the needed threshold of the ‘test’ considerably. India needs to meet all these challenges and additionally prepare to tackle cases of re-infection, should such situation arise unfortunately.
Adding to the concerns of the world as to if countries could be assured of the safeguards they have adopted to fight it, the WHO served another chilling warning now saying that the worst of the virus is still ahead.
If one recognizes the immensity of the challenges, it calls for total mobilization and complete co-ordination between the centre and the states down up to the district level administration. That message does not seem to have percolated in good measure yet!
Few states have been claiming how gloriously they dealt with the corona challenge. There are talks about Kerala model, Maharashtra model, Odisha model, West Bengal model and so on. Media is hyping these claims to suit own interests- political or business or both. One state says, the path it showed today, India would tread it tomorrow. Another says what it did today, India would do it tomorrow, et al.This is not to deny good work really done by a few states. But there can be no doubt it is not time to brag but work with total dedication.
In the midst of the grim challenging times, there are some extremely worrying news. One can never exaggerate the need to provide food to the poor during the lockdown. This is the single most important imperative. Even before the lockdown 1.0 started t was reassuring to listen from the Union minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution 3-4 days ahead of Lockdown 1.0 that 75 crore poor beneficiaries under PDS would be allowed to lift their quota of 6 months at one go. In less than a week into the lockdown, Union Finance Minister assured providing 5 kg of grains and 1 kg of pulses per head to 80 crore poor people free of cost for a period of 3 months. One does not know, how the centre has worked with the states to implement that promise! There is obviously a gap. A yawning gap!
The first is the communication gap. Many in the country do not even know that the centre has committed to supply free food stuff to a staggering 80 crore poor people. One does not know why this was not given the widest publicity through every possible way. For example, Door Darshan, which has arguably the highest TRP, thanks to its Retro programs like Ramayan, Mahabharat & more, could have been used to let people know that it was their right to get the free food. That awareness was the first condition to make the public demand what was their right.
This failure, together with lack of energetic proactive programs by the ministry in the centre in association with the states to ensure food reaches the poor, have given scope to political parties in some opposition ruled states to play havoc with the scheme of free food. Today, one hears about distributing food items as ‘relief materials’ amongst poor by branding them as if they were gifts by select political parties! The question is why at the outset the centre, which decided to embrace such a mega operation at such humongous cost allowed the issue to get politicized? One thing is however certain. If people are kept hungry, the dam of patience may burst with unpredictable consequences! This issue has to be managed proactively, by whatever it takes.
The other lapse, on parts of governments at various levels, that has already cost the country heavily is the timidity to deal with the violators of lockdown and relevant measures. While many countries dealt with even innocent transgressors of guidelines with severity, in India severe brutalities were unleashed on Covid -19 warriors including medics and police in some states with impunity. There cannot be any doubt that the full might of the state must descend on them, if reasonable persuasion does not work. This ought to be treated as matter of ‘law and order’ impinging on national safety.
Immediate and on the spot action without regard to the caste, community or class of the violators not only serves the interest of all sections of people, but also enhances respect for the government. Instead, procrastination and hesitation and doing hair splitting analysis of political dividend only help in communalizing and politicizing the issue at the cost of the nation at large. The experience of the ruling regime on the CAA issue is a case in point. If the same mistake is repeated, the fight against Corona may go haywire!
No less importantly, such decisive and prompt action must descend with unmitigated force on intellectuals of doubtful integrity and also some presstitutes who leverage their brand image (however suspect) to spread fake stories to communally divide the nation and wilfully denigrate the image of India overseas! Even section of TV media is wantonly spreading false stories to demoralize the nation. Recently, NDTV spread an unconfirmed news in social media claiming some people in Arunachal Pradesh were eating cobra for want of rice in the lock down times. Knowing their capacity to incite people to violate lockdown and other preventive measures, ignoring their repeated transgressions do not vest the ruling regimes with nobility but does incalculable harm to the nation at large. As a matter of fact, the unscrupulous elements continue to hammer the body of the nation with no fear of consequences!
Though ‘health’ is essentially in the state ‘list’, a pandemic’s implication is far greater transcending borders of states and domains of governance whether food security, finance & fiscal measures, exports and imports, external affairs, civil aviation, railways, and so on.
Even purely from the ‘health’ perspective, a pandemic cannot be sole concern of the state. The problem in one state, not tackled for whatever reason, can imperil the lives of people all across the country. Therefore, there should not be and cannot be any politicization of it.
While the pandemic is threatening the nation, the centre cannot sit idle whiling away precious time fearing strict action will fail to secure others’ approval. One attribute of the present ruling regime at the centre seems to be its obsession for ‘consensus’ on every issue.
It is time to put its slogan ‘sabka sath sabka vikas sabka viswas‘ to serious introspection. In the practical world, a leader, however great, can only work for the ‘good’ and ‘vikas of all’. Whether others will give him ‘saath’ or vest him with their ‘viswas’, or withhold is beyond him. Both of the latter are too idealistic than real. There can be no good to chase these mirages at the cost of doing something urgently to protect the whole nation. The civilizational values of India ordain that one has right only over his own actions viz., ‘Karmanye Vadhikaraste’. It is pointless to wait indefinitely to discharge one’s own duty hoping for honest co-operation by others. One has to go forward, in any case. Time is most precious. ‘Ma Faleshu Kadachana..‘. should be the road map.
If one, two, or more states do or do not do acts that pose threat to the whole nation, the centre cannot sit idle, whether or not its intervention serves its partisan political interests. These are difficult times and the centre must have its contingency plans ready in national interest. The buck finally stops at its doors. Should things go out of hand, it can not escape by pointing fingers at any other. The ruling regime has a massive mandate and it is duty bound to protect the Nation of over 130 crore people.
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