By Pervez Bari
Was the 5th of April 2020 9 pm 9 minute event a “Covid-19 festival” celebration while people were dying due to illness and starvation? Complying to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal the Indian citizens at large made a mockery of themselves, when the nation and the world are groaning under the pangs of Coronavirus pandemic. Is this the way a civilised society to behave?
In what age are we living? Is it a festival? It is most disappointing act by a government with a rationalistic Constitution. Coronavirus does not recognize such faith-based exercises, more superstitious than scientific. It looks like we are a nation of meaningless symbolism and ignorance to the core. We have abandoned reason, and while we will defeat this dangerous Coronavirus, who will save us from the pandemic of apathy?
The universal celebratory mood was showcased in a second Diwali with pure jubilation without even a shred of sympathy towards the millions suffering the pangs of hunger and pure destitution. This was not a show of unity for the poor or even for the country (neither means anything), but a pure show of unity towards an uneducated, radical and constitution-bashing head honcho. The feigned 'unity' was a sign of approval for this ugly backward show of profound serfdom, aided by the silent approval of the majority to avoid reprisal. Actually this is a diversionary tactic, as seen in military parlance. If we look at it in another way, PM Modi wants to keep his herd together, realising that he has nothing to offer at this moment.
What nonsense is this how anyone can show support for pandemic with celebrations? I see it was more of Diwali here with firecrackers and hooting get together etc. had the same been done by minority folks it would be breaking news.
Instead of doing this, it was better to provide meals to the hungry, shelter to the poor migrants who are left homeless, stateless. Provide them with means to go home with dignity. If only all the money spent on these candles could be donated to buy PPE and masks etc. for our health professionals it would have been truly a fight against the virus. Modi should have given a call that all the citizens to sanitize their houses on this day. At least that would prevent the spread of the Covid-19.
Electing uneducated unscientific minds to lead
Great India has contributed its part in ridding off Coronavirus-19 by lighting diyas! We deserve this for electing uneducated unscientific minds to lead us. We can't expect anything else. It is a sad truth. Why we are not asked to do things that help others? These are optics designed to fool the public. These are irrational acts and not for rational human beings. I cannot believe that so called eminent people lit lamps etc.
Scientists & doctors have warned that "the current restricted testing-policy" creates the risk of a large number of cases going undetected; consequently the epidemic may bounce back. They have also urged the government to release its stocks of food-grains & expedite cash transfers to prevent the looming epidemiological & humanitarian crisis.
The day to celebrate with candles and diyas is when India finally conquers this virus. Till then it should be all prose, no poetry. Otherwise it is madness of epic proportions. These people have been brain washed to such an extent they are literally celebrating in the middle of a pandemic. Millions of migrants and their children are on streets. But we are celebrating Covid-19 “festival” like Diwali.
Man masters nature by understanding
Dr. J. Bronowsky, in his superb Book: SCIENCE and HUMAN VALUES - had expressed, "Man masters nature not by force, but by understanding. This is why science succeeded where magic failed". He also went on to point out that the difference between the West and East is in understanding and practicing of science - the East trying to propitiate some "spirit" and imagined "cosmic force" outside natural systems.
While one empathizes with Modi, during this grave situation - Economic and Health breakdown - that Modi continues to work on unscientific thought process (which CANNOT and WILL NOT help) was patent in his latest appeal to "switch off electricity and light lamps at 9 pm, for 9 min" It shows two unfortunate orientation: 1. Modi & Co. do not seem to know/learn that Nature cannot be met through imaginary concepts outside realms of science; 2. As Indians are about 80% Hindus, even people of Science/Technology/Medicine seem to get hypnotized on such wrong notions. A whole nation becomes irrational.
Everywhere, from America to Europe and up to the Middle East and SE Asia the mainstay of strategies to fight the pandemic has been science based with no resort to gimmickry and buffoonery. The pandemic is so stark. But, here in India we first started off with supercharged complacency coupled with bombastic attitude to the virus. The virus won’t infect us. We are vegetarians. We are nature lovers. We have our Ayurveda. We have a poly pill in Cow Urine and ‘gobar’ (cow dung). We are invincible. We went ahead with a Jamboree for Trump even as the virus was fast knocking on our doors. Major events were held. We brushed away warnings from the WHO. Then we said perhaps clapping hands, clanging pans, pots, blowing conch, and ringing bells might blow the virus away. Today, we are told to light candles, diyas and switch off electric light. When high authorities can be so foolish why only the Tablighi Jamaat folks are being held to account as if the virus and they conspired together to infect India. It is simply pathetic.
Style over substance
Style over substance has very limited, sustainable effect. Any leader faced with a challenge as momentous as Covid-19 has to engage in dialogue all sections of the society. However, we can't expect Coronavirus to change our PM from monologues to dialoguer. Communications from PM has always been one way only. Monologue has its limitations. The tragedy with populists whether in India, Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil or United States is that the presidents and prime ministers have chosen to ignore, and even spew contempt at their political rivals, both within and outside their own parties. This is a time for self-abnegation.
This is a time for displaying courage while exercising humility in reaching out to leaders from other political hues, public health professionals, social and religious leaders to form a coalition to deal with the scourge. “Talees & diyas” can serve only limited purpose unless backed up by well thought out and expeditiously implemented plans.
It's absolutely true that action plan matters in this time of pandemic regarding how to mitigate sufferings of different sections of society and how to revive economy and bring it back on growth trajectory. But at the same time it's also matters how to strengthen the people's willpower how to increase people’s confidence and provide them happiness in this time of despair and loneliness when all 130 crore people are disrupted from their normal course of life.
From India of economic reforms initiated in 1991 and 2004 to 2014 with measures (like RTI & other) for empowerment of Indian citizens to BJP Govt beginning Mid 2014 pampering of illegal, infiltrators, over stayers professing Hindu and non-Islamic faiths and now in 2020 instead of being a force to light up India seems leading India and Indians towards darkness.
It's such a depressing time. You are struck in home, can't move, the economy isn't functioning, recession has already made its way. People are losing their jobs while we speak. The PM should intervene and ask the companies not to lay off workers during this hard time. It's a hard time for all of us and the only time when we can show that people are more important than economy.
Former RBI Governor Dr. Raghuram Rajan has said the task on hand before every leader is to deliver all that required to contain the virus. Any move to infuse funds to stem the economy would be throwing good money after bad as the virus continues its spread and toll on humans.
India no exception to global slowdown
Most of the nations are going through rough patch as far as economic slowdown is concerned due to Coronavirus & India is no exception to this global phenomenon. We need to understand that at this stage it would be extremely unpredictable for any government to confirm as to when this crisis would end & complete normalcy return. Therefore, the need of the hour is to ensure proper treatment to the victims, avoid communal spread, keep people's morale high, ensure adequate availability of medical supplies & essentials, provide free ration, monetary help to needy, ensure law & order, etc. The roadmap for recovery will always be in the agenda & be taken up once the dust settles down. Sadly the issue of few thousand migrant workers, who are unmindful & walking back to their native place on their own, has been blown out of proportion. One should not criticise an action chosen to enhance the morale of the people.
We have long stopped hoping that PM Modi will go beyond mere symbolism. All words and no action - At least now, can he stop this and really address the following (among other things):-
* What is the action plan to make systemic changes to enable Indians to have a robust health care system in future?
* What is the action plan to help SME and business recover in the post Coronavirus lockout?
* What is being done to share information and resources with countries like South Korea, Taiwan and Germany that have displayed better response than India?
* Do we really have a systematic and planned approach to handle natural disasters? If not, what is being done to help us be better prepared in future.
Modi is known to capture the minds of his audience just by mere symbolisms and optics. Symbolism is all good - all of us will help in this - but that does not answer fundamental worries and questions, including the poor response from the health and finance ministry.
What is glaring is the fact that so little budget goes into Healthcare and so much into Defence. We have to learn from the Scandinavian countries on how to balance. The PM may do better if he & his government and administration will focus on their ‘Rajdharm’ rather than Theatrics.
Helping nine needy people in the neighbourhood may have been a better choice to project United India. Let us light the lamp in the hearts of suffering people so that Mother India gets illuminated. Finally, in this hour of crisis, “Nar Seva is Narayan Seva” is a Mahamantra.
(The writer is a senior freelance journalist and the views expressed in this article are his own. Inquest.org.in is not liable for any legal implication in it.)
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