On the one hand we have our television screens full of visuals of crowded elections rallies and even more crowded gatherings at the Kumbh Mela, some masked, some otherwise. On the other hand, we are told that if we are seen without a mask in a public place, even if that is one person travelling alone in his or her car, then we will be fined. How does one correlate the two? Social media is full of memes and tweets raising this issue but somehow various state governments—and of course the Centre—are oblivious to this irony. This reminds of the delay in implementing the lockdown. We delayed because of the Madhya Pradesh government trust vote initiated by the BJP against the then Kamal Nath government. We delayed because we had the high-profile Donald Trump visit. We didn’t listen to the one politician who was warning us about the looming disaster en route from Wuhan simply because we felt Rahul Gandhi as a politician lacks credibility. Yes, of course, the Prime Minister was able to implement the world’s longest lockdown but he lost on the timing and the suddenness of the move, catching thousands of migrant workers unaware. That time it could be argued that he—or anyone else—did not know better as a pandemic on this scale was something no world leader had grappled with earlier.
But what explains now. We have the scale to be the world’s largest vaccine producer and yet, it is India that is running short of vaccines. The Serum Institute of India (SII) is the world’s largest vaccine producing company. India has to vaccinate 1.3 billion people but after hitting a target of approximately 94 million the stocks are running low. Cyrus Poonawalla has publicly appealed for more funds; various experts are suggesting various solutions—anything but a lockdown. But there seems a remarkable lack of follow up. As a result, in all probability another lockdown is exactly where we are all heading. Maharashtra is already toying with a limited lockdown, various cities have gone in for graded lockdowns, there is night curfew in place as well. The Delhi Chief Minister has made it clear that he is not in favour of another lockdown, but his latest statement is worrying as he is hinting that this may be the only option left for him.
In the end, the grim message is one of failure. From the covidiots who are still not taking the adequate precautions, to the politicians addressing, pandering to their vote-banks by allowing the Kumbh Mela but hitting the small traders, restaurant owners and other MSMEs by limiting their sphere of activities. Top this with the vaccination shortage and we have a pandemic plus problem on our hands.
The Delhi Chief Minister has made it clear that he is not in favour of another lockdown, but his latest statement is worrying as he is hinting that this may be the only option left for him.