Indians, after banging pots and pans this afternoon, do start asking some hard questions

If the Government has a plan to deal with the coronavirus epidemic, it has done well to hide it. It is time to pray that it does have one and that it will be able to implement it

Photo Courtesy: social media
Photo Courtesy: social media

Ranjona Banerji

I don’t know whether you’ll be standing on your balcony on Sunday evening banging pots and pans. Maybe you are an ardent follower of whatever Whatsapp tells you, maybe you are a great fan of the Prime Minister, so you have no option but to obey.

Anyway, after you’ve scared all the birds and animals, sick people, old people, children and everyone else who has a problem with noise, after your arms are aching – standing in one place banging pots and pans or clapping for one hour non-stop is no joke – after you’ve applied muscle relaxant all over yourselves, why not sit back and assess Covid-19 and our Central Government’s response to it like adults. Not star-struck fans.

Let’s get the ridiculous out of the way first. All this banging and crashing of pots is an idea borrowed from Brazil, where people were protesting against their president for not doing enough about Covid-19. So which brain came up with this brilliant notion of taking a protest and making it into a celebration? This is the president, let us not forget, who Narendra Modi invited to India as a guest for Republic Day. If any other government was in charge, I would suggest that we were being snide, making a protest into a celebration. But the sad truth I fear is that our government is just making fools out of us.

And now to the sublime. What great actions did the prime minister announce? Covid-19 is going to get a “task force”, the Union finance minister is going to look at the economy (I thought that was her job anyway so thanks for nothing), and lots of advice for us, the people of India. Being the sort of nation we are, full of love and blind adoration for our “leaders”, no one is really bothered that there is no plan. And if there is a plan, we don’t know it.

I suspect in fact that no one does. Across India, state governments have announced all sorts of measures, but our Central Government is still stuck on optics like ringing bells and banging pots and pans. So far doctors have alerted us to the dangers of Covid-19, while official medical associations have toed the government line, that somehow India would remain unaffected, would be unaffected and other such irresponsible guff. Even the WHO declaration of a global pandemic managed to anger Indian medical associations who apparently prefer fake patriotism over science.

Now that Modi has informed us that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, our patriots have started reading medical advice again. Must be grateful. But, instead of requesting businesses to be compassionate, why not stop them from cutting salaries? All that invasion of privacy and linking of bank accounts, why not use that for good and put money into the accounts of the underprivileged to help them tide over the crisis? What provisions are being made for those Indians who do not have access to banks?

What are the laws for stockpiling, for emergency rations? What is being done about sufficient equipment for frontline medical and auxiliary staff? Why not coordinate with state governments on travel bans? What measures are being taken on an all-India basis to ensure that essential services run as smoothly as possible? What security provisions are being made for those who run essential services?

While we’re at it, someone needs to take the nonsense spewing out of some government departments and from members of the ruling party and its allies seriously. The Ayush ministry came up with all sorts of advisories about building immunity and using certain formulations, all of which would have been of no help at all against Covid-19. This is criminal. Then there are all those cow dung and cow urine messages from various members of the Sangh Parivar. Pit the minister who sang, ‘Go Corona Go” against the minister, Health no less, who said that standing in the sunshine for 15 minutes will kill the Covid-19 virus. Who is more dangerous? What punishment has been meted out to them?

If Sunday’s voluntary curfew, with our equivalent of Hitler Youth apparently out on the streets to enforce it (don’t get me started on this), is a test run for what is in store for us, then we can only hope that the Modi Government really has a plan that goes beyond increasing noise pollution.

I doubt it but never have I hoped more fervently that I am wrong.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own

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