India today magazine on its cover called India a “Failed state”. Shekhar Gupta in his national interest, a weekly opinion piece called India a “flailing state”. I would like to humbly disagree with both these characterisations, would instead like to say that in my view the Indian state is an ‘evaporating’ one. You may say that all three adjectives are not very distinct from one another and you will not be wrong but you have to accept that despite similar-sounding titles; both India today and Mr Gupta, present a very different description of the state of affairs. While India today, with its cover story is trying to compensate for what it does not calculatedly do from the television studio it owns. India’s largest television network and also the most credible for the political class, when it comes to spreading propaganda. Mr Gupta has recently become soft on the failures of Modi, so much so that in his latest ‘Off The Cuff’ with Dr Jha, he said and I quote “someone forgot to order the vaccine” as if he was referring to a child who forgot to turn the lights off before leaving the room, not sure what stopped him from saying ‘ignorant and arrogant Modi regime did not take steps necessary in the passage of a full year, not ordering the vaccine is one of many missteps taken’. I do know not what stops him from calling the 2nd wave, a Modi creation outrightly? I must however admit that we the citizens have no right to expect anything from either Mr Gupta or any other news outlet in the country because the “truth” is so stark and unfortunately for us so dark too, that no matter who tries or how organised one gets in the attempt, it just can’t be pushed under the carpet.
It is impossible to hide (not report) deaths occurring in thousands, on an everyday basis! Though “undercounting” in the official records can be easily pulled off and as it has been proven by reporting of a few responsible news outlets that the media scene is left with, like the Lallantop, Caravan and the Scroll. Officials are undercounting covid mortality with great alacrity and efficiency. Various mathematical models have also beyond any reasonable doubt have proven that India is under-reporting death by a factor ranging from 2 to 6. To know the real death count, multiply the reported number by 6, that is how grave the situation is.
You might ask why am I bothering to write about it then, am I trying to uncover unknown truth? Nope, that is not the reason. In fact to be fair, with some hesitation, all media houses have broadcasted grim images from India’s many crematoriums and graveyards. We could also argue that they did not have much of an option, with social media rife with helpless images, sore stories and vivid videos, there is no way they could not have reported? The tale of tragedy is available for anyone willing to look around. Like Mr Gupta, they too never name the one at fault, some say ‘system’ and others try and put the blame on the past and the opposition – such is the stronghold of the current regime on the narrative.
And that is why it becomes important for citizens to chronicle the time; as these write-ups will serve as the first draft of history. So in a way, I am addressing the researchers of the future, who would like to dig back to know, what was happening in India in 2021; perhaps a century from now.
Well, coming back to my description of the Indian state, why do I call it evaporating and not failed or flailing. Because it is not as if the Indian state has ceased to exist. It is present in areas of its choosing. Weeks ago, the Indian state was conducting elections, facilitating mega rallies in 5 Indian states. No less than the PM participated in rallies exultant to witness a sea of people, on a day when India reported 2 lac cases, in the books of the government. All of the states that went to polls are now reeling under the 2nd wave pretty badly. The Indian state has not failed in lodging FIRs against desperate citizens who made the mistake of giving out SOS call on social media. The Indian state did not flail in organising the Kumbh Mela, attended by millions, right when the Covid curve stood perpendicular. The mighty Indian state is present and determined to collect GST on vaccines and oxygen concentrators. The Indian state is also intent on broadcasting every inch of movement in any direction, look at Twitter how cabinet ministers post drone shots of 5 oxygen containers being transported by the railways. How could the construction of central vista be categorised as ‘essential services’ if the thoughtful Indian state was not behind it? Therefore, it is wrong to conclude that the Indian state has either failed or has flailed. A truer statement is; that it chooses where it wants to be and evaporates from inconvenient spaces to evade accountability and public scrutiny. PM Modi is the only head of a democratic state who hasn’t done any press conference on the Covid tragedy, that must tell you how healthy is the state of democracy in our glorious nation is.
The truth is that the pandemic has exposed both the shortcomings of an underinvested public health infrastructure and the incapacity of the current rulers. Nowhere in the world, such a shortage of oxygen has been experienced or reported. The government as it comes out now, was sitting on information that asserted eminent 2nd wave. It chose to let elections take precedence over everything else. It just did not act in the interest of public health and safety.
Every crisis brings both the best and the worst in people, this pandemic is no different. Exploiting the pandemic for commercial gain or cheap publicity is not cool, though! Corporate India must know that people see through their “donation schemes”. These circumstances demand sincerity more now than ever. We must never forget what goes around comes around, natural justice is both inescapable and infallible.
We must all trade very carefully!
Humans are dying of Covid and humanity of filthy greed and stinky shamelessness. Ambulance agencies, petty oxygen refilling centres and some hospitals are fleecing the hell out of people struggling to breathe. Makes one sick to the stomach. A careful study of the socio-economic background of black marketers of oxygen concentrator and other essential drugs who have been arrested in the last few days in the Delhi NCR region reveals that these corrupt individuals come from particularly wealthy and well-connected backgrounds, easily from the top 1% of the country (wealth wise).
What does it say about our social makeup and collective responsibility? How morally degenerate and emotionally insensitive can, we get as a society?
Caught between the apathy of the elected representatives and greed of these rich and influential inconsiderate monsters; the common man is dying unable to breathe on pavements of hospitals and on sidewalks of uncaring heartless cities the poor ill has been naively calling their home.
History will absolve none of us for the atrocities that are being rampantly committed against humanity.
In these grim times, I gather hope from the selfless action of civil society groups and the interventions that our wise courts are making, particularly, Honourable ‘Delhi High court, Allahabad High Court, Madras High court and the High court of my city Patna’. We must root for the apex court to recognise universalised and government-funded vaccination for all under the right to life and personal liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution of the Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic of India.
But till that comes by, it is we the people, who would have to assume the responsibility that the elected government has criminally abdicated, in whatever way we can; to save the nation and her people.
National vaccination policy seems informed by Social Darwinism; the fittest in this context means most resourceful. They will get access to the jab first and those who do not have the muscle (of wealth and influence) latter (which is basically in distant and unknown future). PM Modi, in yet another attempt to manage the headline and create a favourable narrative, announced that India will start vaccinating all above the age of 18 from 1st of May 2021, knowing fully well that both the vaccine manufacturers put together do not nearly have enough vaccine in stock to even cover another 10% people with one dose let alone 2 doses and entire population above 18, which is roughly 90 cr. The little we say about deferential pricing for the state and the centre the better – it is foolish economics and shrewd politics.
Racial, ethnic and religious minorities and those economically disadvantaged are feeling the weight of the pandemic more than others. Higher rate of infection and lower recovery in this group point towards biased and collective apathy of one class of citizenry towards the ‘other’. This inequality is a global phenomenon and not just a blot on the Indian spread; though in our subcontinent, the social, political and economic aftereffects are more pronounced than anywhere else on the planet.
Bharat is the ‘herd’ in the ‘herd immunity that India so desperately desires today.
Bharat has been bailing out India since time immemorial, with the only notable exception of the Indian freedom movement. Bharat fights India’s wars. Bharat grows food for India. Bharat erects the mansion India calls home. Bharat lays the roads and the runways on which India rages its motor of choice. Bharat participates in drug trials for India to have safe vaccines. Bharat curls empty stomach in moonlight so that India could party in the empty streets. Bharat toils on assembly lines on hot and humid shop floors for India to test the speed limits of its sports cars. Bharat labours in mines for India to have electricity powered life and lifestyle.
Bharat votes for India to rule.
It is this Bharat that keeps the myth of India alive.
Will Bharat get its due, most certainly yes .. but sadly none of us will live that long to see it, not happening in our lifetimes, so stark and pronounced is the inequality.
Sending a prayer for India that is Bharat.
So for our own good, we must help the underprivileged, today!
India’s ok to do, middle classes and the above, which is roughly top 40% of the country have a choice to either amplify the shortsightedness of the policy with myopic selfishness or to behave in accordance with Gandhian Idea of inclusivity to help those who can’t afford to get a vaccine in an expensive 5-star hospital. Know this, that if the top 40% do not show magnanimity, the virus will continue to infect the poor and in the process mutate and then will come back stronger to hunt those living in the ivory towers later, too.
The anaemic pace of vaccination, coupled with inelastic supply and high hesitancy not just among regular people but also medical practitioners (only 60% took the vaccine when it was available for all of them in the first phase); is going to ensure that virus keeps raging for next 2 years (most conservative estimate).
Given that social vaccine, which is ‘mask, social distancing and hand hygiene’ and state-mandated lockdowns and curfews; blunt as they may be are the only tools that the majority of our country will have access to fight the pandemic.
The sooner we make peace with it the better it will be for us, all.
Don’t let your guard down, not now and not even in the near future.
A palace surrounded by graveyards from all sides, no matter how beautiful & grand, is seen as haunted. If for nothing else then to save the sanctity of our castles save the humble huts from burning in despair and disaster.
If India incorporation (all firms big & small) decided to cut its marketing spending (advertisement) by half for the rest of this year and diverted the funds to vaccination and rehabilitation of those infected from the bottom 30% of our impoverished country. It will become possible for India to imagine a future without Covid wrecking havoc, as early as the mid of 2023.
It may not be a legal requirement, one may argue that welfare is not the core objective of the private entities that operate to earn profit and that they are being unfairly expected to do what the Govt that collects lion’s share of their profits as taxes (both direct & indirect ) have been elected to do. They won’t be wrong, after all, they have worked hard to accumulate, raise the lifeblood of their org, the capital.
As much as they are right in ‘not spending’ it is also correct that the Govt of the day is both incapable and inconsiderate; so someone will have to come forward.
Come forward to help the desperate and destitute of this country today; after all, it is them whom you wish to sell to.
Money is not an issue, collective will is!
The amount of money that India spends each year on weddings and festivals is obnoxious, more than 100 billion dollars (conservative estimate). Imagine, if all of India decided to give up festivities and the expensive circus around weddings for a year – how easily can she wade through the crisis of Covid?
At times like these India misses the charisma of figures like Bapu, Pundit Nehru, even Lal Bahadur Shashtri; who could rally the country behind such a mission.
Well, they may not be around; but their ideals live – we need to take inspiration from them, and give up what must be given up to offer people who would otherwise die if not from the disease then from hunger that would follow; the gift of life.
Think long and hard and then act, we can’t be sitting on the fence.
The national duty of every Indian today is to do everything within their means to not fall sick; thereby saving an already collapsed medical infrastructure from further desecration. Her graveyards and crematoriums and other resting places (tower of silence) alike are tired and exhausted – they deserve to rest.
Shun social, political, religious and economic responsibilities in the interest of national well-being, support the nation: Do not venture out, save the country!
No effort is too small; no contribution, insignificant!
Keep in view the legend from the epic the Ramayana, ‘the little squirrel and the Rama Setu’, whenever you feel small and inadequate when faced with strong urge to help. For matters of kindness are not measured so much in volume but in purity of intent and by the degree of selflessness. Your contribution of sponsoring vaccination of one unrelated and underprivileged individual is in no way any lesser then someone choosing to dump a billion dollars in an already wealthy charity, in the book of the Karma.
I appeal to your humanitarian senses and not just patriotic propriety ; come forward to help, in whichever way you can.
Humanity demands action, we can’t leave those in need today to suffer in silence initially and then settle in eternal quiet eventually. We have to think creatively, cut costs wherever possible to find the ‘funds’ needed for good intentions to manifest in tangible acts of help.
Here are a few things that we can attempt.
1) Healthy individuals: Volunteer for non-medical efforts at hospitals: wheeling patients, filling forms, waiting in queues, distributing food and water, etc.
2) We can lobby with RWAs to cut the maintenance expenditure of the societies that we reside in, divert the saved funds to the needy, instead.
3) We can have common spaces in our gated communities and apartments converted into isolation centres for those who live in houses woefully small to maintain any social distancing; thereby limiting the chain.
4) Cut personal expenditure to the bare minimum: Donate amount equal to electricity tariff of the ACs that we use, drop all non-essential purchases even the budgeted ones. Donate in kinds.
Indiscriminate aid should become the principal character of public policy response and also that of independent social outreach programs funded by concerned citizens and NGOs.
In helping, that is if we have the resources to help, we should not see any group of needy as ‘the other’. Wherever possible, we must direct relief in the direction of those who need it the most and not towards those with who we know or identify the most with.
Helping people is serving GOD.
Take care and stay safe.