By Pervez Bari
Bhopal: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 29, in his monthly radio address ‘Mann Ki Baat’ said: "I apologise to the nation for taking some hard decisions that have caused inconvenience to the common man. But I had to take these steps to ensure your protection."
Imposing lockdown abruptly without any preparation, whatsoever, to face its repercussions and then just expressing sorrow or apologising will it mitigate the people’s sufferings? Your sorry is not enough to feed the poor people. Stop getting the sympathy of the people and take some strong decisions for the welfare of at least those who are struggling on the roads.
A few days' notice before the lockdown would have retrieved the situation giving the masses much required respite to plan out their steps for the long haul. Certainly the lockdown is a measure for the public good to ensure control of the danger of community transmission of the Corona virus.
It is not the question of ‘Hard Decision’, it is your carelessness. You declared Janata Curfew three days ahead. Later, 21 days lockdown is declared with just 4-hour notice. Can the fundamental right to movement be suspended without declaring medical emergency by the government?
Invoking the penal provisions of the National Disaster Management Act to imprison erring migrant workers, who are hell bent to get back to their homes, the Indian government has stooped so low so as to herd them into sheds, ill-equipped quarantine centres across national highways, temporary jails etc. They are trying to get home to deal with the wreckage of their lives caused by an abrupt lockdown. The government is meting out utterly inhuman treatment to migrant workers who are jobless, hungry and without shelter etc.
It would have made sense if proper facilities were provided to the visibly distressed section, especially as the government had ample time lines to prepare starting from January 30, 2020 (more than 45 days!) when WHO declared the Covid-19 as public health emergency of international concern. Serious introspection on how the period was used by the administration in readying facilities and preparedness needs to be done.
Time to Topple MP Govt
This period, as we see, was used for conquering India for their ill-conceived mission by letting the Delhi riots happen and toppling the legitimate Kamal Nath Government in Madhya Pradesh allegedly with its money power. And now the government is asking money from the hapless public to contribute to fight the pandemic. Can any government be more callous than this? It seems we have become worse than Somalia now, as the PM had said once for Kerala state, though wrongly.
Prime Minister Modi should not apologize for the decision of lockdown. It was needed. Instead of apologizing he should put his words to action by providing first food and water, then providing them free trains or buses, to go home if they need to. Or stay in Delhi by providing them with good accommodation, food, water and health care. Words do not help these poor people.
Rather he must apologise for wasting two months for welcoming Donald Trump and buying MLAs. If you want to be sorry, then be sorry for waking up late, be sorry for making this pandemic an event, be sorry for locking down the country without any proper arrangement, and be sorry for not focussing on healthcare infrastructure earlier. Don't take decision without any planning.
At the end of the day the poor people are suffering as usual. The lockdown planning could have started in the last week of January 2020 and enforced by the 1st week of February 2020. We know you were busy planning the bonhomie with POTUS (the President of the United States). Full February month you welcomed Trump and no pre-emptive measures were taken from Govt side. Today you play emotional violence game with the citizens of India. In a way you have let down the poor people of India. Hope and pray all Indians come out of this quagmire hale and hearty.
Such endless preaching with an apology is not adequate Mr Prime Minister. Please run live media interviews including town hall meetings every week, visit the migrant labourers stranded and some walking 100+ kilometres, many without food and water. Modi's administration must have anticipated such undue migration of workers back to their homes and proper coordination with all the state CMs.
Invoking scriptures to side-track the issue is not good. How come the government ministers and bureaucrats are not able to foresee the sufferings of the masses due to waving demonetisation and lockdown magic wands without paying attention to their basic needs? Apart from inflicting hardships the measures also fail. How much of planning goes into organizing a Kumbh Mela and how carefully the plan is implemented so that the event passes off successfully? If that's what is required for a large congregation at one place for a short time, how much of planning is required for a countrywide lockdown for an indefinite period? Dire emergency is not a justification. Not foreseeing emergencies and not being prepared are the reasons. What was the National Disaster Management Authority doing since the virus breakout in China? Its first objective is: "Promoting a culture of prevention and preparedness by ensuring that Disaster Management receives the highest priority at all levels."
What is your Road map Mr Prime Minister for the Covid-19 war? Soon, India will hit Stage 3 and may reach hundred thousand+ infections & fatalities in a few thousands. What are you doing for starting vaccine trials, collecting & using blood plasma of the cured, for production & availability of medicines / masks/ ventilators/test kits/essentials to all nation-wide etc? Such apologies are an admission of guilt, of failure, of incompetence, of ignorance, of arrogance and blind pursuit of power driven by egos. Please meet the press and take the people's questions every week.
Is there any scripture which says proper planning is required to implement such lockdown overnight in a country like India for such a long time? The PM has an aerial view of the poor and poverty. Grass-root level contacts are with only people like Ambanis, Adanis and chaddiwalas. Even now he can reach across to the other party talents rather than relying on Bhakts who know nothing but chanting "Modi Modi".
The reports are also coming in as people are dying due to hunger due to lockdowns in the country. It is time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP-NDA to start cash distribution from government treasury for immediate relief for the poorest by opening banks and cash counters at all places where the people are vulnerable to die of hunger and where the essential food supplies cannot reach.
Removing or replacing the Planning Commission might have inadvertently caused the PM to lose any sense of planning whatsoever! We know the seriousness and urgency of the situation but this panic reaction is just so wrong and disturbing. A few days with proper guidelines and means to get food, medicines and medical treatments during the lockdown would have helped calm the situation and better prepare the people to deal with this pandemic.
Lockdown delayed & unplanned
Was the decision on lockdown delayed and unplanned? Where is the Union Home Minister? Is only area of his expertise is creating divide between Hindu and Muslim? Was it all delayed due to oath taking of the Chief Minister in Madhya Pradesh which happened on 23rd March and on 24th lockdown was announced? Why every time citizens have to suffer?
Imagine if we had contained people coming from other countries to India for past 8 weeks in Military facilities and isolate, identify, test and treat people instead of letting them mix up in the ocean of humanity. It is intriguing as to why India did not learn a lesson from South Korea, Iran, Italy, Spain and USA. India had solid 45 days to prepare for something which was brewing up in our neighbouring country. Why? The cost of isolating NRIs immediately after landing in airport itself would be few thousand lakhs. But, national shutdown would be to the turn of many lakhs of corers.
The step of lockdown is certainly tough. But we have to be tolerant till the end of the COVID-19. We should know that prevention is better than cure. And there is lack of test kits and ventilators. Even developed countries are unable to control COVID-19 and lack of equipment. So, we have to accept preventive techniques, social distancing also cautious and aware about it. Step is tough but result will be top. We should obey and cooperate to our government.
The BJP, being the wealthiest party in the country, should donate 50% of the party fund to fight Corona virus. Please lead by example before asking people to fund it. The government was keener on clapping and making noise using kitchen vessels!
The Prime Minister seems to be using this virus opportunity more of promoting himself than working together with all state governments. We had enough of politics, divisions, let us unite, but that should come from the PM, not able to see that, work with state governments, strengthen them.
(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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