“In the matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place.” -Mahatma Gandhi
How often do you see an Indian Prime Minister being criticized in foreign media platforms? Perhaps, you don’t see many. But here we have a prime minister, who is designated with this privilege.
First we had an Australian daily lashing out and ridiculing the Indian model of handling the pandemic blatantly throwing ample criticism at Mr. Modi against which the BJP leaders reacted with unprecedented vigour. Then we have the Lancet editorial addressing the slips and ignorance of the union government in ensuring a proper systemic resistance in the country against an impending second wave.
Elections legitimize the system not merely through the casting of votes, but through the process itself, the self renewing exchange of hopes and premises, demands and compromises that make up the flawed miracle of democracy. (Shasi Tharoor, India: From Midnight to Millennium and Beyond)
Indeed, it would be a much tedious task for a common man in this republic to have a clear and succinct understanding about what is really happening around. Going back to March when the cases were under control, the Union Health Minister almost put shutters on the fight against Covid 19. He called it the ‘end game’ despite recurring warnings about an impending second and third wave. Bharatiya Janata Party President J.P Nadda hailed that the PM has saved the country, comparing India’s performance and resistance under Modi to that of the United States. In fact, it is a great comparison. Besides, BJP national leaders found their time in visiting election campaigns throwing away the Covid protocols to the winds while presenting themselves in mass gatherings.
With 2, 81,386 cases and 4,106 deaths recorded on May 16, India is waging a war against the virus that calls for a strong and rigid leadership. The struggle to breathe is unquestionably the most terrifying plight which thousands of Indians are currently going through. Questions of priority, consensus and responsibility are floating around. Life is now a ‘dangerous joke’ in the country right now. When the storm clouds gather, there is no one to tell the emperor that he is not wearing any clothes.
Lack of transparency and accuracy in the digital data has put the scientists and public health policy makers on the back foot in providing a complete and actionable picture on the outspread of novel variants and their influence on disease dynamics. For instance, in Gujarat, according to the official data, 73-121 Covid deaths were reported each day, as of mid April. Sandesh, a local newspaper, sent reporters to the cremation grounds to probe the situation. To their astonishment, the number of bodies cremated was more than 600 each day. There is almost a difference of around 500 unrecorded deaths. Knowing the truth is more important because the public vigil and the level of preparedness depend on actual numbers.
The second wave came in almost a year after the first. However, the testing infrastructure remains inadequate and piddling. India conducts daily tests among 229 people out of 1000 which is much lower compared to other 112 countries. As per WHO, it is imperative to increase the number of tests so as to bring down the Test Positivity Rate. Dr. Balram Bhargawa of ICMR stated that India has the capacity to conduct 33 lakh daily tests (17 lakh and 16 lakh for Rapid Antigen Tests and RT PCR tests respectively). However, ever since the outbreak has set in, the number of tests hasn’t touched the 20 lakh mark.
The vaccine strategy has fallen apart miserably following a dismal planning, piecemeal procuring and unregulated pricing. The vaccine drive has been elicited to an unfair competition which further aggravated the chaos round the second wave. India could have placed orders for vaccines a long time ago. However, the country decided to procure only trifling amounts. Between the month of January and May, the Indian government bought 350 million doses of the two approved vaccines namely the Covishield (AstraZeneca Plc shot manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India Ltd.) and Covaxin (an indigenously developed shot produced by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech InternationalLtd.). This quantity was not even adequate to vaccinate even 20 percent of the country’s population. However, following the declining trend in the initial months of 2021, the government exported almost 9.5 crore doses of vaccines abroad and called it ‘vaccine diplomacy’. Well, ‘diplomacy’ is important.
In contrast, the US or EU were intelligent and smart enough to place orders for the vaccines nearly a year before their availability in the market. This could prove fruitful in providing a guarantee in the vaccine market enabling the manufacturers to go on with the sales and ensure that these countries receive vaccines as soon as possible.
Besides, the US also imposed an export ban on the raw materials for vaccine production so as to confine them within their ambit. The question of priority stands tall again and India fails to answer this. In the meanwhile, the government has made a ‘significant’ move in shouldering the responsibility of procuring and distribution of vaccines to the state governments. The state is now in a position to compete with private hospitals in the market to procure vaccines. The centre was however smart enough to tell the apex court not to indulge in the vaccine strategy. Kudos!!
To vaccinate around 70% of the country’s population, the approximate cost would be around 30000 crores (given that the centre procures vaccine for Rs.150 per dose). However, Rs 20000 crores has to be kept aside for India’s ‘historical’ Central Vista Project. So the government is right about its logic in not taking up the vaccination challenge on its own.
When the oxygen shortage was aggravating in the capital we witnessed a verbal duel between the Delhi government and central government in the matter of oxygen supply. Probably the best time to have a duel. However, it was a good sign to find that ‘India’s sovereignty’ has not been dismantled when foreign aids were received from multiple countries.
The much acclaimed PM care fund is receiving aids from Indians as well as foreigners. However, this fund has got no transparency and no audits on the outflow of money. We fail to have a proper monitoring system to ensure whether this reaches the right hands as well. Well, this is expected from a Prime Minister who prefers his “Mann ki Baat” over press conferences.
Definitely amidst these deaths, we have a proud moment on the cards. The ‘Central Vista’ project is being rolled on. Above the grave of thousands, we are all set to re-imagine the ‘power corridor of the country’. Historians say that Emperor Nero lived thousands of years before. They are wrong. He is still alive! History is recreated amid the laments of millions.
No scents of Arabia can sweeten this little hand, says Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, ‘Macbeth’.