Modi govt needs to stop indulging in politics and address crises triggered by the second wave of COVID
The role of several politicians has been more of gimmickry and serving political interests rather than health concerns even during this serious COVID pandemic
The Prime Minister woke up very late in appealing to the pilgrims at Kumbh to go back and that Kumbh should be symbolic now. The damage has already been done. Even if those at Kumbh start to vacate the place, it may take several days before the area is completely free. These people have come from all over the country and now returning home they will carry the virus to the rural areas as well which have been having low incidence of the disease till date.
Scientists had already warned about the surge of COVID in March and it would be naïve to believe that the Prime Minister was not briefed on this and the dangers ahead if such a huge gathering takes place in Haridwar. Not only that, the site lacked required facilities to test and to treat.
The rallies in West Bengal totally without following COVID norms have also been seen by everyone. When the head of the government defies his own edict, how can one expect COVID appropriate behaviour from the ordinary masses who may view the leaders as role models?
In fact, there has been a lack of concern and scientific approach towards the COVID crises. It has been more of gimmickry, politics and chest thumping. The government has been totally callous since the spread of COVID was known globally and the WHO had issued warnings. The months of December 2019 then January, February and March 2020 were wasted as the government was busy in other affairs.
It has of course been clear that the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 24, 2020 was without consultation with health professionals, economists, the Cabinet or the Executive.
This has been revealed by the BBC which got the information through several RTIs. The government has not denied BBC’s report. This means that it was a totally authoritarian and unscientific decision on the part of the Prime Minister without considering any benefit that the lockdown would give or the harm it would do to the jobs, livelihood, food security and life as a whole of the working people.
No wonder it led to unemployment of more than 12 crore people and economic set back to the masses.
Sadly, during this last one year, the Prime Minister has not uttered a single word of empathy for those who suffered while walking to their native places during the lockdown.
During that period, according to Oxfam, the average increase in Mukesh Ambani’s wealth in just over four days represented more than the combined annual wages of all of Reliance Industries’ 195,000 employees.
Scientific experience has shown that lockdown does not help in eliminating the disease. It only gives you time to prepare. This is evident from the fact that at the time of lockdown last year there were only a few hundred cases, while we found persistent increase in number of cases thereafter.
It was sickening to hear the Prime Minister saying in his speech on 25 March 2020 that we had won Mahabharata in 18 days and will defeat COVID in 21 days. Such unscientific speeches led to complacency in society. These types of gimmicks were repeated from time to time.
Many myths were also spread about treatment of COVID. People were advised to drink cow urine as a cure and the use of ‘Panchgaya’ which is a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd, jaggery, ghee, banana, tender coconut and water was propagated to be effective. Such absurdities were spoken by several leaders including the chief of West Bengal BJP.
Soon there was the introduction of ‘Coronil’ by Baba Ramdev, a so-called medicine developed without any evidence. What made it worse was that it was promoted by none other than Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister who is an ENT Surgeon trained in modern scientific medicine.
When the COVID vaccine became a global issue, the Prime Minister asked the scientific community to develop a vaccine before 15th August 2020. This forced the director of ICMR to issue strict directives on this. The PM retreated only after being criticized by the scientific community. Once the vaccines were developed, the PM decided to send vaccines to other countries without realizing our domestic needs.
Some very dangerous events have also occurred. The Tablighis who had gathered in a masjid in Delhi in a few hundreds were labelled as ‘Corona Bomb’ and communal hatred was spread against Muslims. They ultimately got relief from the court. But the situation had already been communalised. In contrast, we are witnessing lakhs of people at Kumbh which may end up as a ‘super spreader’ event.
The government kept on boasting about the check on COVID successfully in India as a major gain of the BJP government in general and the PM personally in particular. Now we are seeing the surge and shortage of basic things to manage the pandemic: hospital beds, oxygen, vaccines etc.
All is still not lost. Much can be done to assuage the sufferings of the poor. While the upper classes will enjoy the present short lockdowns by enjoying the comforts of home, the poor are again seen rushing back home out of real panic based on their experience one year back. They would prefer to die of COVID than starvation. So would the protesting farmers sitting at Delhi’s borders, whose issues have not been addressed the government even after so many months.
Health education is a leading factor to prevent, control and treat diseases. State and the people are both responsible for this. Whereas the common man is not expected to hold knowledge on this, the government has sufficient infrastructure and departments who are supposed to design the health education programme to lead to awareness on part of the common citizens. For any health education programme to be successful, honesty of action is important in the concerned government machinery.
Such programmes have to be evidence based and promoted by professionals. The people must have trust on the educators. It is therefore important that health personnel take the lead and guide the polity who should follow their advice as people have more trust on health professionals when it is an issue of health. The role of several politicians has been more of gimmickry and political interests rather than health concerns even during this serious COVID pandemic.
Views are personal