Was the PM misled by the diabolical vested interests to impose lockdown? Or this government has chosen to willfully disregard the suffering of tens of thousands of working masses in India?
The country is now in a claustrophobic lockdown. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear that this scenario should be treated as a ‘curfew’. The police in every state has thereby predictably read the orders correctly and is brutally beating up, harassing and chasing down migrants and workers, men and women, who are trekking long, tiring, hungry and thirsty treks to their distant villages and small towns — mostly on foot. This is because the government has absolved itself of all public interest responsibility, except brutal policing, and is not providing public transport to ferry them back home.
TV and newspapers show images of hungry and emaciated men and women, young and old, and little children with pots, plastic bags and beddings on their heads and shulders, walking on empty, metalled roads and highways, often barefoot, heading towards their distant destinations, marks a tragic and heart-rending site, reminiscent of forced migrations during war, riots, mass killings, epidemics and famine.
Indeed, their villages would be at least welcoming compared to the violent hostility and heartlessness displayed by the cities that they are leaving behind, and where they build and sustain rich and middle class urban homes in all their comfort, and provide day-to-day, multiple services. Here, they were seen as a threat by sections of the selfish and insulated upper classes – as the carriers of Coronavirus, with which they had nothing to do.
How are the poor, hardworking, unorganized working classes in Delhi and in the Hindi heartland, responsible for this global pandemic? This question has not been answered by the government in its briefings or in the belated Rs.1.75 lakh crore financial stimulus that the government has announced. Quite clearly, nothing from this seemingly bloated stimulus will reach the poor. What is really making impact is the hard work some of the states like Kerala, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh are putting to ensure that the poor do not go hungry after the central government’s thoughtless act.
In the manner the BJP-led central government in Delhi has gone about handling this unprecedented national crisis — there are uncanny fears that there will be thousands who might die, not due to Coronavirus, but hunger
As millions began to head to their home from distant towns and workplaces , the big question that has been raging ever since Modi spoke to the nation and announced the lockdown, came back again with its stark contradictions — did the government think through this decision?
Did they really calibrate the virtually total collapse of the economy, the disruption of supply and transport chains, the destruction of livelihoods and jobs, the suffering and pain of those inflicted by the disease, the collective social phobia of impending doom, and the tragic loss of lives?
Seems definitely unlikely. This is similar to that of the dramatic decision of demonetization in 2016, which epitomised total lack of preparation and disregard for the mass and individual trauma that people would have to go through to access their own money deposited in banks. For days, poor people stood in long queues trying to take out their hard-earned income. Lakhs lost their jobs. Many small-scale industries simply shut. Some died while standing in the queue. Others walked miles in rural and tribal areas to deposit the little cash they had preserved in their homes.
The tragic lessons of demonetisation was clearly not kept in mind when Modi took this dramatic decision that could see many more deaths due to starvation, joblessness and deep penury, than what will be caused by the virus. Does this government, indeed, realise this grave mistake they have made, or will it move on, with its usual arrogance and disregard for consensus?
IT IS POSSIBLE that his government took a decision based on wrong data and similarly flawed estimations of how the country would react to the pandemic. These are questions that only this secretive government that has access to data can answer — which they are loathe to release to analysts so that the nation can come to informed decisions- could answer.
If one goes by ICMR data, then, on March 25, the total number of people infected by this virus, which has Chinese origin, was 581 out of the 24,254 that were apparently tested. This has to be compared to the 5,900 cases that were tested on March 13 yielding 78 patients who tested positive.
While the number of infected have been growing – pushed up by the return of many Indians from different countries where Covid19 is raging, there is no community transmission till now. According to ICMR, the numbers of infected are stabilizing even when they are testing more people. ICMR has not strictly followed the protocols of the WHO and pharma lobbies that want testing to be increased to prevent its spread. Instead, India is targeting those with travel history by targeting airports and the hinterland and trying to see whether it can chase down every carrier.
Due to indifferent testing and checking at the airport, some like the Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor of Lucknow, escaped and indulged themselves among celebrities, politicians and common people, raising fears of a horizontal spread of the virus; interestingly no one has been reported to have been infected. Not a single person she took selfies with, partied or played holi with, has been blighted by the virus, as of now, unless there are cases, which have been camouflaged or suppressed.
Did the government really calibrate the virtually total collapse of the economy, the disruption of supply and transport chains, the destruction of livelihoods and jobs, the suffering and pain of those inflicted by the disease, the collective social phobia of impending doom, and the tragic loss of lives?
This brings to the fundamental point — why was the lockdown speeded up when we hadn’t prepared for the safety of vulnerable migrants, daily-wagers, small-scale entrepreneurs, and unskilled and skilled labourers?
If the lockdown was considered necessary to prevent the community transmission then surely it should have gone through, but couldn’t the announcement of lockdown — or curfew – wait till the central and state governments had done the basic stuff of providing food, community kitchens, shelter, monetary insurance, health facilities, transport, for its large floating population. An erudite Professor of Public Health from University of Harvard, Hemant Patel, has similarly wondered why with no community transmission and low spread and deaths, our government chose to use the sledgehammer.
TO REITERATE, OUR domestic migrants do not present danger to anyone — they do not carry the virus and they deserved to be sent home to their villages with dignity — if they wanted to leave. The same respect the nation has afforded to those returning from abroad and who constitute the threat of passing on the pandemic to others.
Not a single court has come to the rescue of these wretched of the earth, as they did in favor of some Indian students stranded in Kazakhstan. Why couldn’t the state governments with their heart in the right place, like Kerala, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bengal, Punjab and Maharashtra, be brought on board to put together a national plan to prevent a human tragedy that is staring point-blank at our country?
ANY SENSITIVE PERSON not brought up on the Darwinian principle (propounded by Herbert Spencer) of the ‘survival of the fittest’, would weep at the women and children in Delhi standing in front of a TV reporter with folded hands saying that they want food. And this is stark starvation in the capital of India during the time of excess and plenty, including huge stocks in the government go-downs.
Lockdown has thrown out of gear established supply chains of essential commodities as more than 5 lakh trucks these goods are waiting to unload them in markets and mandis at various border check points. The hungry drivers and their helpers are being brutalised by the police.One wonders what the advise the police got from Union Home Ministry?
What is apparent is that in their hurry to take this cold-blooded, arrogant and anti-people decision, they chose to rely on the flawed scenario built by lobbies that use British, American and European data and impose it on Indian reality. In the past they had done it in the case of HIV-AIDs, Swine flue and SARS- predicting millions of deaths and devastation of our old civilization. It is these lobbies that have introduced dodgy experts to influence the discourse in India to show how bad the condition was and that the only thing that needed to be done was to furiously increase testing and lockdown the country till the world awaited the vaccine. One such expert showed Kerala alone having 80 lakh positive patients. In the estimation of this expert, who is not a disease expert, millions will be infected in the rest of the country by the months of April-May. By March 25, according to this calculation, the infected would be in lakhs. ICMR report of March 25, as elucidated above, shows only 600 odd have tested positive.
This brings to the fundamental point — why was the lockdown speeded up, like demonetization, when we did not have a single window to look after our vulnerable migrants, daily-wagers, small-scale entrepreneurs, and unskilled and skilled labourers. After all who leaves their villages to work in the cities?
Why was this particular health economist, with links to multinationals, allowed so much play in the Indian media, and by whom? What was the ulterior motive behind this hysteric propaganda of collective doom? Sources in the health ministry and the government are not unfamiliar with their ways and are taking their advise with a pinch of salt. If India emerges relatively unscathed from the virus then it would realize the criminal implications of this organized scare mongering that tried to change policy prescriptions of the country by ushering in technologies that violate individual’s privacy and are not subjected to democratic scrutiny. These experts were also used to trash China and obfuscate the influence the big pharma lobby has over the WHO.
There was obvious obfuscation from these lobbies about Coronavirus and how it is confined to a narrow geographical latitudinal bands and also how virus struggles to survive in temperatures beyond 25 degrees Celsius. Certain other facts were hidden to spread fear. Sections of the media, funded by these vaccine/corporate lobbies, are guilty of hiding facts and have resorted to fake news to buttress their point of view.
In the manner the BJP-led central government in Delhi has gone about handling this unprecedented global and national crisis — there are uncanny fears that there will be hundreds of thousands who might die in the wake of Coronavirus, not due to the pandemic, but due to hunger. Surely, India deserves better governance and an effective and sensitive government that is cognizant of its responsibility towards the country’s most vulnerable.