The lockdown period announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is about to end. The CPI supported all the government’s measures to keep people safe from the coronavirus pandemic despite apprehensions over its impact on workers, migrants and others, poor farmers, the homeless and the other downtrodden. Unfortunately, our fears have come true.
The world had started noticing the coronavirus by end-December. But, even as late as the first week of February, no thermal testing had been introduced at most airports in the country. No proper assessment was made about how many hospital beds, masks, diagnosis equipment, ventilators, trained medical personnel would be required if the coronavirus reached India through travellers coming from foreign lands. PM Modi and his home minister were busy with polarising issues such as the NPR and NRC, and the vicious election campaign in Delhi.
So, when the coronavirus finally began to spread, the government was caught unprepared. It realised there were not enough public hospitals and medical colleges in the country — the CPI had opposed the legislation on medical education passed by the Modi government since it further privatised medical education.
However, even while fighting the corona pandemic, communal groups are not keeping communalism out. The latest example is the profiling of the Nizamuddin incident. Yes, many devotees remained at the markaz despite warnings, including hundreds of foreigners.
But the challenge now is different. Some of them have already been infected and with many people dying, we are facing an enormous problem. Instead of confronting it, vicious campaigns on social media want to build the impression that the Nizamuddin incident was deliberately done to create a disaster in the country. These campaigns are not just nasty but deeply polarising. It will hurt India’s image internationally. There is no evidence other than rumours that the government’s instructions on the coronavirus pandemic were purposefully ignored. The coronavirus does not infect people on the basis of community and caste. All those who may be infected should voluntarily come forward for testing, as they have done in states such as Tamil Nadu.
The number of infections are sure to go up in the coming days. Do we have enough medical facilities ready? All of us are aware of the unscientific atmosphere intentionally created by communal forces in the past six years. Even the prime minister made statements that went against the spirit of scientific temper. Some outfits close to the government even paraded cow urine as a remedy against coronavirus initially.
The prime minister’s video-conferences with state chief ministers reveal lack of coordination between the Centre and the states. The Centre should be held responsible for the late response to the crisis. In comparison, the Left government in Kerala had taken several measures well in advance. That helped the state to contain the spread of the virus and limit the misery of people.
Humanity is, in fact, confronting a health disaster of gigantic proportions. The corona pandemic has been infecting and affecting people of every nation from Asia (China) to America and from Europe to Africa. The worst hit are the poor and the working class. This pandemic has exposed the inherent character and cruelty of the capitalist social order.
Neo-liberal capitalism has produced unprecedented inequality and injustice. Housing, healthcare, education and employment are not guaranteed as fundamental rights. Neo-liberalism has been promoting consumerism and individualism ruthlessly. It has been destroying the social consciousness of human beings. Private property and profit cannot uphold ideals or values such as “we” and “ours”.
The corona pandemic has exposed the limits of capitalism. The time has come to explore alternative social structures and economic systems. Socialisation of healthcare, housing, education and the means of production have become fundamental issues in the present context.
The present situation has shown that capitalism is unjust and irrational. Let me quote what Winston Churchill said way back in 1954 — “the inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries”.
It is becoming more and more evident that socialism is the alternative. It is the future and hope.
This article first appeared in the print edition of March 11 under the name ‘Revealed by the virus’. The writer is general secretary CPI
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