Look at South Korea for ‘visionary’ leadership in coping with Covid-19

First coronavirus case was reported in South Korea in third week of January, a week before India. But the country of barely 55 mn mobilised 600 test centres and flattened the curve

Look at South Korea for ‘visionary’ leadership in coping with Covid-19
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Ashutosh

In view of the Corona virus pandemic, the Modi government has announced an economic package of 1.70 lakh crores. Hardcore Modi bhakts, his die-hard supporters, the government and BJP have gone out of their way to present this as a revolutionary step.

It is also being said that only Modi could have done this because he is a bold leader- decisive and a visionary who cares for the people and who has a solution for every problem and does not shy away from taking unpopular decisions in national interest.

There is no denying the fact that this economic package was a good decision and followed by the RBI’s initiative on Friday will certainly ease pressure on the common man and also address a few concerns regarding the sinking economy. But to call this entire package revolutionary, and to believe that Modi’s leadership has been visionary is a falsification of the reality.

Like his friend Donald Trump, Modi too did not comprehend the depth of the crisis. In the initial days, Trump was busier in mocking China than preparing for the disease. Now America is paying for the incompetence of the President who was never meant to be the resident of the White House. America has overtaken China, Italy and Spain in terms of infected and victims of the Corona virus.

Now the maximum numbers of corona cases are in the USA. This has happened at a time when China and South Korea have flattened the curve of the corona spread. To fight the battle, the US parliament has a package of 2 trillion dollars which is approximately 10% of the US economy. Whereas the Indian economic package is only 0.9% of the total budget. Even if we add the RBI announcement, it will roughly amount to 3% of the economy. The traders of fake news and merchants of propaganda might rejoice over this, but the reality is this is neither sufficient to meet the crisis and showcases that the government has no clue about the pandemic.

In fact, the Modi government has been too late to react. The first Corona Virus Case in India was detected on 30 January 2020. Did the Modi government do anything? No. This was the time when the entire cabinet was busy with the Delhi assembly elections. The BJP had very proudly announced that all its cabinet ministers and members of parliament were visiting door to door to get votes for the party. This continued till polling day. The first Corona detection should have in fact raised concerns; the Modi government should have called its first war cabinet as this was the time when experts were already predicting doom for the world. But politics and winning elections was the priority for the most “visionary” leader of the country.

Now let’s compare this with the response of the South Korean Government, led by a not so “visionary” leader who could not claim to be friends with the most powerful man on earth, Mr. Trump like our visionary leader does.

In South Korea the first case of Corona victim was traced in the third week of January. Within a week the Korean government was ready with a medical strategy. In the first week of the first detection, Korean officials had met top medical companies and asked them to pool in their resources to fight the menace and help in mass production of Corona test kits. This was the smartest move by the Korea. Even then, it took them more than a month to flatten the curve.

On 29th February, Korea had 909 cases, the highest number of detected Corona positive cases and at the time when Modi asked the Indian public to go in for three weeks of “self-lockdown”, South Korea had drastically reduced the number of Corona cases. It was merely 64 in a day. And this was done without a single day of National lockdown. This wonder came about with the smart application of technology and advanced planning.

Korea has a population of 55 million. And it has done more than 3 lakh tests. India with a population of 130 crore, has only done a little more than 27000 tests. South Korea has more than 600 testing centers, walk in test centers and mobile test centers where samples are taken in ten minutes and test results are produced within hours.

India can claim to have only 116 test centers and in last two days it has finalized almost three dozens more test labs with the help of private companies. With brilliant application of technology every Korean knows the details of the Corona patient and his or her movement in their vicinity. They know exactly when and where a Corona patient is riding the bus and when are they getting off the bus. No wonder South Korea is being presented across the world as a model study to fight the Corona crisis.

Undoubtedly, Korea’s population is much lower. India is the world’s second most populous country with a dismal health infrastructure. But an alert leadership would have grasped the enormity of the situation and would have busied itself in countering the crisis. But the Modi government was busy in welcoming Mr. Trump. The whole administration was so enamored of Mr. Trump that it did not send enough reinforcements to tackle riots in North East Delhi and let it burn for three days. And after that our political leadership found itself caught in the ‘toppling Game’.

In the first week of March everybody in the country knew that the Corona pandemic had reached Indian shores but the installation of a BJP government in MP was far more important. The Parliament continued with business as usual despite the PM himself saying that he would not celebrate Holi due to the Corona scare and Shivraj Singh Chouhan was celebrating the fall of the Congress Government in Bhopal in a rather large gathering. It seemed that the Modi government waited for the fall of the Congress Government in Bhopal to announce ‘Janata Curfew’.

India today is faced with one of the gravest crises in history but it has an inept leadership who is more interested in event management than anything else. As of now the number of infested cases is far less but it is expected to grow exponentially in the coming days and months. It is said to be following the US pattern where in the beginning it grew slowly and then suddenly the numbers exploded.

It has already been predicted that by mid-May India will house 1 to 13 lakh Corona patients. How can a country that spends only 1.5% of its total budget on health against the average global spending of 6% to 8%, fight this battle?

India with a population of 130 crore, has only 1 lakh ICU beds and approximately 40 thousand ventilators. God alone can save this country. An enlightened leadership would have taken the initiative in the month of January. As a country we wasted precious six to seven weeks. Who should be made responsible for the catastrophe if and when it happens?

(The writer is a senior journalist)

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