India is reeling under the disastrous influence of Covid-19. This is a viral disease that caught the world by shock and surprise during 2020 and the virus mutated time and again to enlarge its catchment, even as we thought that the impact is reducing. A recent variant has taken India, the second-most populous country in the world, by sheer surprise. And its impact is devastatingly large.
As has become a tradition of unthoughtful opposition in the country, fingers are being raised on the Prime Minister himself. In the eyes of the irresponsible opposition, unfair international press, and polarised communities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in person, is responsible for every shortcoming in the country. If a person is infected, if someone had to wait for an hour for the vaccine, if someone did not get an ambulance or gas cylinder or bed, if someone’s Aadhar Card was not read on the computer, if a vaccine registration data that was wrongly entered did not respond in time, whatever be the grouse that is big or small, the blame is squarely placed on the Prime Minister, which is totally unfair.
The most popular person in the country today is also the most targeted person. This unfair blame game has not helped any process of addressing any problem. Since it is being propelled by vested interests, it is just serving some lowly political strategy of the opposition. But as a nation, the need of the hour is to rise beyond these trivial issues and establish fundamentally strong arrangements for providing relief for the suffering.
Indeed, some errors may have occurred in arresting the widely spreading nature of the virus. It is a large nation of unique challenges and it is almost impossible to take into account every caution in developing national strategies and implementing the local actions of these wider programmes. Often, people also do not cooperate unless excessively forced a discipline upon them. More than all, the virus is new to the world and our historic cumulation of knowledge has not given enough understanding about the behaviour of this microscopic beast. Most modern researches, including the invention of the vaccine, are only a few months old and we are yet to discern the long term effects and effectiveness of the measures being prescribed and adopted. As such, the policy-making horizon at the national level also does not have an accumulated experience to bank upon and derive from.
If you analyse the matter in sum total, India has actually done much better under the circumstances than even many advanced countries in the world. Firstly, many western countries including the USA allowed civil protests on wearing masks and people argued there to the extent that imposing mask is against their fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. India has imposed the mask rule much more sincerely than any country in the world. As for social distancing, India imposed very stringent guidelines and very meticulously implemented it in every place of people’s congregation. However, there is a view that this regulation could have been better followed in election rallies and religious congregations. With cooperation from people and political outfits of all hue and colour, this could have been coordinated better though.
Vaccine production is one important and primary response to the pandemic that India did better than any other country on the planet. India invested heavily in this and brought out very effective vaccines at very affordable prices. India also became a global leader and philanthropic in vaccine distribution and shipped millions of doses to the countries in trouble. Many countries including the US kept for domestic use what it produced, without shipping out a vial whereas India worked under the principle of ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ and stood by the troubled States. The public vaccination programme also was a very systematic one in India and it began from the most vulnerable sector of the society. In Germany, senior citizens registered for vaccination in January 2021 are still waiting to get their first dose. In a minuscule population of Switzerland, the vaccination programme that started in December 2020 has still covered only 8% of the population. The Netherlands with a population of 1.7 crores is hoping to cover its citizens only by July or August this year. Italy, which suffered hugely during the Covid first wave, is still embroiled in awarding contracts for procuring vaccine and politics has broken out around AZ, Moderna, Pfizer etc. and the country is in indecision. We can take up the case of each of the 193 countries in the world and see how they have badly fared, while India has done exceedingly commendable work in comparison.
However, India is shown in a bad light, all the while, which is a trend in international one-upmanship, to which even Indians in India and abroad greatly contribute. If the per-unit population death by the virus is computed, India has the least number of deaths per crore of population. While Italy has 57, France 47, Germany 38, and the USA 29, India has recorded only 26 deaths per crore. It is only that India is visible because of our large population and the absolute numbers of affected. Also, we are visible because of the dramatic footages of rituals of cremation of the dead while the rituals in other communities may not be that dramatic looking. Especially the burning of the dead bodies in India, which may stir up emotions when pyres are seen on the television screen, is one of the best methods to destroy and annihilate the virus so that it does not re-enter human society through ecological recycling.
China is determined to show India in poor light because as a nation, it was isolated in the first wave and the virus was popularly called as Chinese virus. Now, it will benefit China if the second wave virus could be called as India virus and most allies of China and vested interests will provide fuel to this terrible conspiracy. Indian opposition and mindless Modi haters will only give on a platter the food for India bashing if they continue to play into the hands of international cartels that want to see India underdeveloped and politically chaotic. By highlighting and constantly filling the television channels and social media with negative information of the tragedy India is undergoing and completely hiding under the carpet the enormous amount of positive work India is doing towards the mitigation of the pandemic, we only stir up anarchic conditions and delay recovery.
This is the time for us to come together as a nation and rally behind our leaders, who have been single-mindedly and apolitically working towards Covid recovery and India’s development. If we don’t recognise that ‘citizen role’, we just turn out to be our own enemies within the nation and spin within the negative spiral that we ourselves create, knowingly or unknowingly.
The writer is Chairman, Khadi & Village Industries Commission, Government of India. The views expressed are personal.
Indeed, some errors may have occurred in arresting the widely spreading nature of the virus. It is a large nation of unique challenges and it is almost impossible to take into account every caution in developing national strategies and implementing the local actions of these wider programmes.