Indeed, the enraged group of public health experts did not mince words over how the nation’s fight to curb the spread of Coronavirus has been severely botched up. In an angry statement — revolutionary and courageous in its import — addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they said: “The draconian lockdown is presumably in response to a modeling exercise from an influential institution which was a ‘worst-case simulation’. The model had come up with an estimated 2.2 million deaths globally. Subsequent events have proved that the predictions of this model were way off the mark.”

The big question asked then and now is: which forces or influential lobbies forced an anti-intellectual and clueless Modi government to take this flawed decision that has wrecked our economy and millions of lives without flattening the curve?

What is the grand plan behind this decision — earn whopping profit from the sale of probable vaccine or to de-urbanise the cities by reducing population?

This view of the public health experts corroborates the investigation by Hardnews about how wrong data was used to arrive at doomsday scenarios in its article, ‘How the poor have been dumped to save the rich,’ https://hardnewsmedia.com/corona-lockdown/.

“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 loath to release to analysts so that the nation can come to informed decisions — could answer.”

The article further stated, which gets a resounding corroboration from the statement from public health experts: “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 flu 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.”

The big question asked then and now is: which forces or influential lobbies forced an anti-intellectual and clueless Modi government to take this flawed decision that has wrecked our economy and millions of lives without flattening the curve?

There is unlikely to be a vaccine, but what was needed was to understand the virus and trust our own public health experts, epidemiologists and native sense and experience to ensure that this crisis is dealt with a steady hand and does not cause unnecessary grief to our extreme vulnerable populations. Alas, those lessons were not learnt from the past or the present. Instead, primacy was given to individuals and their flawed studies, mostly based on foreign data that suggested a link between extended lockdown, testing and relief from the pandemic.

The truth is that at the root of this advice from the so-called ‘experts’ was their agenda to sow fear in the minds of ordinary people by manipulating the media and consequently governments. Hence, the rage of the public health experts and epidemiologists against the gullibility of the decision-makers is understandable.

“This draconian lockdown is presumably in response to a modeling exercise from an influential institution which was a ‘worst-case simulation’. The model had come up with an estimated 2.2 million deaths globally. This modeling was done by MRC Centre of Global Infectious Disease Analysis, located in Imperial College, London, where the data was generated. In a country where intelligentsia does not trust the government’s data– which has been manipulated so many times to show the government of Narendra Modi is so efficient — the Imperial College-based study was lapped up by the media and those who believe that it is hiding something.”

In India, a health economist, Ramanan Laxminarayan, allegedly used the same Imperial College data to claim in the early days that the country would soon see about 2.5 million deaths in the coming weeks if there was no preparation. This doomsday assertion was confidently made in the middle of March — before the lockdown was announced.

Laxminarayan, who has also invested in a diagnostic company, Healthcube, has been an aggressive votary of increased testing of the Corona virus. There are allegations that there was a manifest conflict of interest for someone who has invested in a diagnostic company to be lobbying for increased testing of the virus.

HYSTERIA WAS CAUSED through a bunch of interviews Laxminarayan gave to prominent TV channels, which were subsequently disseminated through Whatsapp to millions of Indians to suggest that there were more people infected by the pandemic than the government was willing to own up — hence the imperative to lockdown and test vigorously for the virus. Laxminarayan’s non-profit centre based out of the US gets funding for many of his projects from the Gates Foundation, which has come in for widespread criticism during this global pandemic.

The statement suggests that this decision in favour of the lockdown is making the country pay a heavy price. “India is paying a heavy price both in terms of humanitarian crisis and disease spread. The incoherent and often rapidly shifting strategies and policies especially at the national level are more a reflection of ‘afterthought’ and ‘catching up’ phenomenon on part of the policy-makers rather than a well thought cogent strategy with an epidemiologic basis,” said the strong and categorical statement by the public health experts.

Some sociologists believe that their exodus was ‘not so innocent’ as it is made out to be. Bureaucrats close to the prime minister have reportedly even hinted at the necessity of moving these undocumented migrants back to their villages.

Certainly, this is true. They are telling the bitter truth.

In its own wisdom, the government listened to the advice of this lobby and created a kind of crisis of gargantuan proportion. Not only did millions of workers lost their jobs, shelter and livelihood, but their hard, tortuous and difficult journey back home, delayed by many weeks due to the arrogant obduracy of the decision-makers, might end up spreading the virus to every village in the country.

The statement claims, “Had the migrant persons been allowed to go home at the beginning of the epidemic when the disease spread was very low, the current situation could have been avoided.”

Save for the fear that had been instilled in a prime minister who thought that banging vessels or lighting candles can drive out the virus, there was plenty of suggestions from labour economists and grassroots level politicians that a lockdown could hurt the migrants. Pakistan and Bangladesh, for instance, did not want to have a lockdown the Indian way that was authoritarian, cruel and claustrophobic.

Through spin-doctoring, the government has tried to show that the country has done better than Europe or elsewhere, but it is making light of the huge humanitarian tragedy and economic crisis that it has caused on the nation. Many believe that the movement of the migrants to their villages in different parts of the country has turned out to be a tragedy bigger than Partition. Eyewitness accounts, sometime captured on phone cameras, show lakhs leaving the cities, walking on foot on endless highways, emaciated and ravaged, as if the cities have been bombed.

Nothing of this scale would have been possible if the State was not complicit in it.

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.

Some sociologists believe that their exodus was ‘not so innocent’ as it is made out to be. Bureaucrats close to the prime minister have reportedly even hinted at the necessity of moving these undocumented migrants back to their villages.

Little wonder that the State unleashed unimaginable violence against them in many places and was seen brutally ambivalent about how they should return home. Otherwise, why should 40 trains lose their way or hungry, harassed and desperate workers and their poor families are forced to wait for days to catch the much promised transport back home?

A 14-day day quarantine threat for those who travel to their villages had been inserted in the promise to ferry them home. In short, every conceivable hurdle has been put on these hard working Indian citizens before they returned home. About 1000 have died, according to some estimation, but more will die when they realize that there are no jobs, nor money to help them stay afloat anymore. 

It is then they would realize the brutality of a decision by Narendra Modi who grandly promised to snuff out the virus in 21 days on television if people stayed indoors and banged their vessels in a botched-up and unplanned lockdown which left the entire nation forcibly holed up in their respective places with no possibility of a creative or meaningful solution. What we are witnessing are repetition of hollow promises and strident communalism to deflect from the mass tragedy that has destroyed millions of lives and dreams of many generations.

COVID19Datagovernment of indiahealthHealth dataPublic Health

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India is paying a heavy price both in terms of humanitarian crisis and disease spread, say enraged public health experts
Flawed data, flawed lockdown, but real disaster