A Testing Time for India – Self Introspection
India is passing through a difficult time along with the world at large on account of Covid pandemic. With all the restraints and constraints, it was felt by the beginning of the year that by and large India had coped well in dealing with Covid 19. We are a large country with poverty and underdevelopment and resultant difficulties. Moreover, India being a democratic polity and an open society, it was difficult to deal with the situation sternly or arbitrarily as could, perhaps be done in countries like China. The lockdown was lifted and other restrictions were eased out slowly. Economy and economic activity was slowly coming to rails. schools and universities were gearing to enter the new academic sessions to make
up for the lost classes and lectures. Life was coming to normal slowly but steadily. The governments both at the centre and in the states were upbeat and thumping their chests to show case their achievements and success in controlling the deadly pandemic. The central government to gain some brownie points in diplomacy even donated/exported Covid vaccines to a few countries. But the euphoria was short lived and complacent India, both the governments and the public at large were caught unprepared and ill equipped to deal with the furry of the second wave of the pandemic. Today, we are in total mess and it appears we have lost the direction. In the blame game, governments, particularly the central government are at loss to understand what to do. People are desperate for their lives. It appears the medical system of the country has failed miserably to handle the situation. It is regrettable to say that no national action plan seems in sight. The capital city Delhi, among others, is the worst hit. It is the mockery of the system and often quoted and bragged ‘high moral values’ of our culture and tradition which the ruling outfits tend to encash to make them distinct from others. The highest judicial authority, the Supreme Court has taken a suo motu contingence of the situation, rightly so, and asked the central government to immediately take care of certain important aspects of the situation viz. supply of medical oxygen, essential medicines, method and manner of vaccination and declaration of lockdowns to check the spread of the disease. It seems the government at the centre has, of late, woken up. PM Narendra Modi addressed the nation the other day and apprised the people about the emerging desperate situation. But people were expecting more and a concrete plan which was missing. On April 23, PM has had a meeting with some of CMs to address the issues of immediate
attention and concern. It was a matter of regret that by the evening the ruling outfits and the media now a days popularly called Godi Media were busy in the blame game and taking to task CM Arvind Kejriwal for telecasting his meeting with PM Narendra Modi rather than discussing the crux of the matter as to how do we about to meet the challenge. The challenge is really big with – 1.65 crorers infected, 1.9 lakh deaths, daily addition of 3.5 lakh infected. The redeeming aspect is the mortality rate is not very high in the second wave though even now there are more than 2200 deaths daily. About 7 crore has been vaccinated and with effect from May 1, anybody above the age of 18 will be eligible for the vaccination. We are a nation of more than 130 crore people. Vaccination itself is huge task. We are to get ready for the difficult situation which would need quick and effective responses. Are we ready? Not yet, I think.
The situation is really scary as the Hindustan Times of April 23 bannered it as “National Emergency” The government is afraid of using the word ‘Emergency”. We need to come out of this mindset and address the issue right earnestly keeping aside the narrow considerations of political gain or loss. It is a real national emergency. The central government should come up with a concrete plan to meet the situation, engage the opposition parties and other stake-holders like doctors, scientists, pharmaceutical companies, media both electronic and print, civil society and the common man at large.
It is a matter of concern and worry that our autonomous and
constitutional institutions like the Election Commission, NHRC, Niti Ayjog
among others have not shown and exercise due authority to respond to the
situation in the interest of the country and the people. These institutions
have failed and wronged the people of India and the constitution. They were
found lacking in their assigned job. Just one example would suffice – Why could
the Election Commission not stop public rallies and road shows in the ongoing
elections even till the end in spite of public hue and cry? Canvassing could
have been done through the media, newspapers, TV, Radio and other audio-video
modes and also social media. But it was not to be. All players in the field
flouted all norms, protocols and restrictions to arrest the spread of Corona
pandemic. The central government could not see the danger as it is said ‘power
corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Why the Kumbh and other
spiritual gatherings could not be stopped and kept on hold? Why the political
rallies and Shobha Yatras could not be abandoned? Both the governments and
public tended to take things lightly and ushered ourselves in to the “Grammar of Anarchy” as termed by non other but Ambedkar. We are to sit and think rather than finding excuses and resorting to blame games. A real danger is lurking at our nation. We should ward of these dangers of ‘placing the creed over the nation’ as warned by father of constitution and a visionary leader Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his lat speech in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949:
Referring to historical events such as the invasion of Sind by Mohammed-Bin-Kasim, the invasion by Mohammad Ghori to fight against Prithviraj Chauhan, as well as disunity among Indians in the fight against the British colonial rule in 1857, Ambedkar has noted that,
“…not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people.”
In this context, he goes on to remark,
“Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds.
Will Indian place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country?
I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.”
We are to defeat Corona Virus with a resolute united effort. If we fail to do this, there is no future and India will come to the margins which nobody likes to see and face. I recall Allma Iqbal to conclude this note:
Tera Nazara Ae Hinduston! Mujh Ko
Ke Ibrat Khaiz Hai Tera Fasana Sub Fasanon Mein
(Your spectacle makes me shed tears, O India!
Your tales are admonitory among all the tales)