Our PM, unfortunately, ‘cares’ more for his own public image

The tragedy is that centralisation and cultivation of a personality cult is not going to save India from the clutches of the deadly Coronavirus

PM Narendra Modi (PTI file photo)
PM Narendra Modi (PTI file photo)
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Herald View

Narendra Modi and his followers pride on him being a decisive Prime Ministereven if the decisions are arbitrary, not well thought-out and spell doom forthe country’s people.

When in February second week, Congress leader RahulGandhi had warned the country and the government about the impendingdisaster to be wreaked by the spread of COVID-19 in India, Modi decided to turna blind eye to it.

Similarly, when at the end of February, the World Health Organization advised governments to stock up on essentials like test kits, N95 masks, PPE suits, essential medicines and spruce up health infrastructure including more ICUs and ventilators, it took the government almost a month to place order for the same.

In the meantime, doctors and medical professionals across the country, soldiers on the frontline of this battle against the dreaded Coronavirus, are complaining of a lack of availability of masks and PPE suits.

Instead, he asked people to bang pots and pans which took the shape of a Corona Carnival on the streets in various nooks and corners of the country, an event of mass gathering that the virus would have much liked.

Whereas New Zealand, a country with less than 5 million residents, gave people three days’ notice before a lockdown and Bangladesh seven, Modi shut down India with a less-than-four-hours’ notice, exactly like he had done when he wiped out 86 percent of India’s cash in circulation, sending the economy into a coma of which it is yet to emerge as on date. It again led to a mad scramble across India’s shop floors where people, again making a mockery of the much-announced need for social distancing, jostled and literally climbed on the top of one another to grab sacks of rice, dal and other essentials.

The exodus of migrant labourers in pitiable conditions will not just kill them on the road but also increase the spectre of the virus being transported to the villages and rural hinterlands of India where healthcare is as bare bones as one can imagine. But this is the autocratic working style of Modi.

Although the PM Relief Fund and the National Disaster Relief Fund are both there, he had to go and solicit contributions for a trust fund, titled PM Cares, which has nothing to do with the Government of India. Modi is its chairperson and Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Nirmala Sitharaman are its trustees.

Why the citizens would contribute money to a new charitable trust for the nation to combat the threat of the spread of the pandemic belies logic. But that is exactly his style of functioning, as brazen as passing of the electoral bonds scheme which allowed his party to garner over 90 per cent share in anonymous corporate donations. Here is a Prime Minister who makes everything personal.

The Balakot strikes become a vindication of his personal valour though mounting bank NPAs become a legacy of the UPA’s ‘mis-governance’, never mind that over 85 per cent of the current NPAs originated after May, 2014.

However, the tragedy is that such centralisation and cultivation of a personality cult is not going to save India from the clutches of this virus. India’s numbers look conservative as compared to some other countries. But India’s testing rate is also much lower than most. Unless India tests more, identifies the infected, isolates and treats the affected, this country will pay an extremely heavy price. And Modi won’t be able to blame anyone else for that.

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