There is a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in India and this has brought back the optics of the ghastly lockdown nightmare to traumatise the economically devastated working class, especially those in the unorganised sector. In Maharashtra, the Uddhav Thackeray-led coalition government has imposed partial lockdown and evening curfew, while in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-ruled Delhi, a night curfew is imposed from 10pm to 5am. More states are mooting the possibilities of imposing partial, complete or night lockdowns.
Even the judiciary has jumped into the fray to push forward the COVID-19 paranoia. The Gujarat High Court has suggested the state government moot the possibility of imposing a four-day-long lockdown or curfew in the state to break the virus’s chain, while the Allahabad High Court has reprimanded the Director-General of Police for the flouting of COVID-19 guidelines in the state and asked to enforce mask usage.
The surge in COVID-19 cases questions the Central Government’s claim of successfully vaccinating millions. While so-called experts and healthcare megaphones of the state machinery are blaming the people’s “reckless” behaviour for the surge in COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are openly flouting the COVID-19 guidelines regarding usage of masks, “social-distancing”, etc, during the canvassing for the assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Yet, no one is calling these rallies, which are also organised by other contestants as “reckless” acts.
Amid this chaos, the traders of Pune, where the local administration has issued an order to arbitrarily shut down all businesses that deal with “non-essential” commodities and services, staged a protest outside the collector’s office. The traders are requesting Chief Minister Thackeray and Prime Minister Modi to take into consideration their plight and take other routes to combat the menace, especially by augmenting the public healthcare infrastructure to provide better care to the patients who need intensive care. But the governments have largely remained indifferent to the responsive approach.
It’s doubted that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is a result of the corporate-controlled mainstream press’s constant amplification of the menace, allegedly to cajole the paranoid upper-caste Hindu elites and urban middle-class to participate en masse in the vaccination drive to increase the sale of the vaccines that have 60% efficacy and await completion of final human trials with years of analysis. The participation of more individuals in the vaccination drive will help the big pharma giants to mop up more profits amid a gloomy economic scenario that is pushing millions to an abyss of sheer poverty and despair.
While many have applauded Thackeray’s mature and transparent approach to deal with the rising healthcare crisis in Maharashtra, where the public healthcare system is in tatters, uncomfortable questions are avoided conspicuously. There is an ominous silence on how successful the lockdown strategy has been in tackling the surge in COVID-19 cases last year. Despite Modi’s tall claims and the BJP’s incessant chest-thumping regarding the COVID-19 cases, no data can prove that even a nationwide, stringent lockdown that went on for more than 60 days in 2020, could destroy the chain and stop transmission.
Rather, the lockdown proved very disastrous for more than 40m people, who lost their employment due to it. The same lockdown added more people to the poverty list in India, while, at the same time, it helped the big corporate tycoons like Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani to garner more wealth. While Adani added the highest amount of wealth to his portfolio in 2020, Ambani became the world’s sixth-richest man. These contrary optics provide the real-time scenario of India.
Neither the untested and contentious vaccines nor the clampdown on people’s lives can break the chain of transmission. It’s only the public healthcare system that can tackle the issue effectively, but the neo-liberal economy has destroyed it. In the absence of a strong, proactive public healthcare system, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases will help big pharma corporations to market their vaccines, untested for long-term repercussions, and lure the paranoid urban elites and middle-class with the bait. The working class and the poor need to thwart this conspiracy by upping their ante against the corporate loot and plunder.