By Vijay Sanghvi
In first six months of the year 2020, Indian people passed through harrowing phases of two major problems, first the pandemic corona virus and second consequences following the intrusion by China army unit in the Galwan valley of Ladakh in the North. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the power seat for the second year of his second term. The experience ought to have taught him use of power but his government was found wanting in tackling both the critical issues.
The corona virus is not new but it’s assuming the pandemic shape was certainly new. The NaMo government had reacted with alert response by its act of use of the Indian Air Force for repatriation of Indians engaged in Wuhan, fourth major town in China known as the major textile centre but now even more as the corona pandemic starting point. By January end only two were found in Kerala from among repatriates from China to be infected and both were removed to isolation. The Prime Minister got engaged on his schedules to befriend the American President Donald Trump, first in appearing before huge crowd of Indian origin Americans and Indians engaged in America at the Dallas rally. In February NaMo was busy in organizing the rally at Ahmadabad for the visiting American dignitary.
There were no indications that the Prime Minister evaluated the availability of and need for medical facilities in case the pandemic corona assumed serious proportion. through consultation with others. His sudden decision to impose the Lockdown within four hours from his announcement on March 24 did not allow the time to a huge proportion of Indian people depending for survival on their daily earnings, to reorganize their life. Indian social structure is based on division of the society into vocation based caste system. The BJP oriented political entity ought to know such basic facts before pushing the country to harsh test.
The lockdown announcement clearly indicated the absence of awareness. Only later the scheme for per capita supply of five kg grain a month for three months free of cost to affected families was announced. But later it was made a conditional supply. Major part of affected people was thus removed from list of beneficiaries. The government performance in providing medical assistance to the affected was even more dismal. The aggressive media campaign intensified the fears for the corona infection. To make many soft hearted to rush to hospitals to seek confirmation through medical examination
In India, health service does not mean service for health care but is confined to attending to treatment of illness. The administrative minds are tuned to and find it comfortable in dealing with shortages and deficits and not with having surplus. The medical facilities were not adequate even for normal needs. The pandemic will necessitate more facilities was evident and yet there is no indication of review undertaken to evolve new strategies and to temporarily build more facilities. Yet intense campaign was responsible to rush to reach hospitals. It caused more panic to make families to rush to hospital resulting in showing lack of facilities more prominently. The rush brought the opportunity to private operators to seize it to make their fortunes. The government did not see probability or potentiality and did not prescribe rules for proper utilization to avert fleecing.
Some ingenious mind could seized the political opportunity and introduced scheme known as Arogya Setu to compel every mobile phone user to down load the application. To ensure maximum do so, restrictions were imposed to entry without it into government offices, other important venues, to bank branches for daily transactions and to avail facilities for rail, bus and air travels. Arogya Setu compulsion was denial of fundamental rights that did not occur to officials. The Arogya Setu application was self written health certificate that could be obtained through oral answers to few questions without medical examination. It was turned ihnto new evidence for indicting the Na mo regime popularity.
The lockdown in last week of March is justified with argument that without it millions more would have been caught in the pandemic net. The justification thus argued got nullified with several relaxations while number of patients crossing mark of half a million. If relaxations are inevitable need today to revive the economy that got derailed with the lockdown, leaves a discomforting feeling that NaMo merely sought to show range of his powers without attending thought to and care for disastrous consequences. The combat with corona pandemic and closure of all activities do not explain why overwhelmingly only middle class got caught in infection while poor walking hundreds of mile to reach their birth places did escape the frontal corona attack even though they were least careful in observing the prescribed rule and maintaining new norms in living.
The bloody clash between the Indian and the Chinese armies in the Galwan valley in Ladakh in mid-June, the successful thwarting the attempted intrusion of the Chinese army are incidents beyond the normal train of conflicts as they fail to explain the purpose of actions by China to terrorize the neighbour after attempting to win over all others. The clash has certainly come as disadvantage to the ruling party in general and to the Prime Minister in particular. Bhakta Mandali shifted its attention for condemnation from Pakistan to China. For the first time in seven years of the NaMo rule, the opposition got the first opportunity to effectively question the Prime Minister on his attempts to build relations with China.
More comical is the demand by the rightist elements to boycott China made goods on sale in Indian establishments. Such emotional demands could have been acceptable even though beyond ability to accept and implement in the global economics. Moreover huge difference in volume of trade between India and China tells of difficulties. The Prime Minister was, only till December 2019, seen engaged in earnestly seeking a meeting with Xi Jinping who pretended to have no time for the meeting with him. In modern times with foreign trade and taxation with each country governed by the World Trade Organisation, the NaMo government can officially take no step to hinder inflow of China made products to India or officially seek the ban. The incident in the Galwan Valley has created a situation in which the Prime Minister has to fight more with his party. His party men are uncomfortable by assertive statements of NaMo. It is also needed to remember the assertive declaration by the Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat that the Sangh did not recognize the NaMo government. The statement had come only a fortnight before NaMo put the economy on derailing course with his over enthusiastic measure of the lockdown.