What about COVID-19? As India’s cumulative infection crossed 3.1m, chasing Brazil’s 3.6m, with 768,313 still suffering from the virus and 57,542 already dead at the time of writing this article, the discourse on COVID-19 has been cast into the oblivion by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime and its servile media outlets. The only discourse that’s getting momentum right now is how India is faring better than other countries in terms of recovery. This narrative eulogises Modi’s leadership without any material basis and heap praises on the regime for crumbs. India’s COVID-19 situation is precarious, and it needs urgent attention. But who is listening?
By magnifying the pandemic from the last week of March, after blatantly ignoring it since January 20th when the first case was diagnosed in India, the Modi regime has utilised the chaos to push its long-standing agendas like massive privatisation of public sector industries, liberalisation of mining, and open-up all sectors to the big foreign and domestic corporations to profiteer from. Also, under the pretext of combatting the stress caused by the lockdown, the labour laws in states like Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, were liberalised to provide an edge to big capitalists to profiteer by exploiting the workers without any legal hindrance.
When Modi announced a nationwide lockdown from March 25th to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and flatten the curve, there were 564 cases and a very few deaths. Today, when the number of infected is nearing a million, with a record number of infections detected every day, the government has relaxed all restrictions as per an obnoxious herd immunity strategy. The total failure of Modi’s lockdown in tackling India’s COVID-19 situation, along with aggravating the on-going economic crisis the country was going through since 2016-17, is now hidden under tall praises for the prime minister’s vision. No self-criticism can be expected from a truly fascist state and therefore, Modi remains unscathed despite wreaking havoc.
India’s COVID-19 situation needs mature handling and provision of sanitisation, a safe distancing between people and proactive testing and treating facilities. While the Modi regime didn’t shy hyping the delivery of the first batch of the controversial Rafale Jets, there is no transparency over the huge amount collected under the PMCARES Fund, which didn’t reach anywhere except for some faulty ventilators for patients. Even the Right to Information Act isn’t helping people to garner information about this obfuscate entity and its expenses.
While COVID-19 killed 57,542 due to the infection and co-morbidities, it will be never known how many actually succumbed to poverty, hunger and stress of unemployment. Not only the Modi regime’s reluctance in handling India’s COVID-19 situation worsened the health condition, aided by a dilapidated public healthcare system, but its sheer apathy towards the cause of the working class, who are either laid-off, or forced to walk back to their villages amid the lockdown covering hundreds of miles, and the indifference over the rapid pay cuts used by the corporate houses to pile up their profits, has worsened the scenario. Rather than using a single penny to fund the cash-crunch facing medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs), the government simply provided them liquidity. This has gradually killed the MSMEs and now the big corporate houses will have a leverage to setup their own MSMEs under the new norms.
It’s high time that the Modi regime publishes a whitepaper regarding India’s COVID-19 situation and inform the people what are the cards in its hands. Without any transparency, accountability and collected leadership, no pandemic can be effectively fought. It’s imperative that the progressive opposition forces instigate a strong, real movement to push the government back and force it to scrap the anti-people measures taken under the guise of fighting the pandemic, and to make it adopt a realistic, pro-people and transparent COVID-19 policy along with a national public health revival policy.