Updated: May 19, 2021 8:57:45 am
In all my years of actively following and commenting on political and policy issues, I have never been as disenchanted with the politicking as I have been in the last few weeks. Admittedly, politics is a cynical and ruthless business. But even by that yardstick, what has transpired, and at a time when the nation is waging a war against a pandemic, is so disgusting, so callous, so immoral, that it has no parallels. Consider some of the acts.
An abiding feature of Indian society is that people come together as one in any crisis and help each other as much as they can. No matter what their social or financial status, the spirit of looking out for each other is a uniquely Indian trait. As the Covid-19 pandemic raged, people again came together as one to help others in need. This time they had an institutional instrument to pool in their resources — the PM CARES fund. The fund has the credibility of the Prime Minister’s office as well as the personal capital of Narendra Modi, a person whom the people of the nation have blessed twice with an overwhelming mandate. Yet, an entire ecosystem mobilised itself to create discord against this noble venture, seed doubts among the people about its working, and shame anyone who donated to help a fellow Indian in need.
An already sanctioned infrastructure project in central Delhi, which is providing jobs to thousands of semi-skilled and unskilled poor workers, has become an object of a sustained misinformation and malicious campaign. In a pandemic situation, when a large portion of economic activity is depressed due to lockdowns and other containment measures, what could be the motivation of national and international “experts” in wanting to shut down infrastructure projects that provide livelihood to the poor?
Artificial shortages of hospital beds, medical oxygen and critical medicines were reported from Delhi in particular, and many other metros in general. A hitherto unknown politician suddenly pops up and is projected as some sort of super-government who can meet the urgent appeals of help in all geographies of India, much faster than any government. Journalists of a particular leaning publicise all such requests for help as also the politician delivering like a superman. The central government, meanwhile, proposes an oxygen audit in Delhi, and as if miraculously, Delhi becomes an oxygen surplus state, and proposes to supply oxygen to other states and all the urgent requests for help on social media also dry up. In Bangalore, a bed hoarding scam is unearthed.
The Kumbh is one of the most revered gatherings for the Hindu society. In fact, for centuries it has transcended from being a religious occasion to become a cultural symbol of all of India. The timing of the Kumbh is decided not by governments but by saints and seers and that has happened for millennia. The Kumbh festivities, which were already curtailed from the traditional four months to just one month, were further shortened the moment cases started rising. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel postponed an already announced lockdown just to accommodate the festivities and gatherings related to Easter. The Kumbh takes place every 12 years, the revered Easter every year. Yet, the Kumbh became an occasion to shame India and Indians in general and Hindus in particular.
But all this pales in comparison to what happened next. A new mutant of the Covid virus was discovered. The WHO specifically forbids any geographic identification of mutants and only identifies them by their scientific term. However, all those who cried xenophobia when the original Covid virus was referred to as the Wuhan or Chinese virus were gleefully calling the B.1.617 variant the “Indian variant”. Some even referred to it as the “Modi variant”. Is the Modi hate so overpowering that everything else pales in comparison? If it means maligning and shaming India then is that par for course?
As the media reports an alleged Congress toolkit, it boggles the mind that all this may have been part of a plan. The purposeful and coordinated incitement in January against the vaccine developed in India. A Congress state government stopping vaccination in February, even letting vaccines rot. Ventilators mobilised through PM CARES lying unused in Congress-ruled states since stigmatising PM CARES is more important than saving lives?
The BJP in Opposition stood in unison with the country and the then leadership in times of war in 1965 and 1971. What is the Congress doing now? People in my country are suffering. The entire government machinery is mobilised to respond to the crisis. But the Congress party is playing “toolkit” politics. It is sickening beyond comparison. Not even a film script writer could come up with something so evil. We, the people of India, deserve better. We need our own toolkit which forever consigns this “toolkit” politics to the black pages of history.
This column first appeared in the print edition on May 19, 2021 under the title ‘How not to respond to crisis’. The writer is CEO, Bluekraft Digital Foundation and was earlier director (content) MyGov
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