Freedom fighter, original thinker, prolific writer, a true statesman and also, fortunately, the first PM of Independent India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in his seminal work, “Discovery of India” gives an account of his travel to the far and wide corners of the land in the pre-independence era, in most of these excursions he would hold interactive sessions with the local peasants. He would often pose the question, ‘Who is this Bharat Mata’ to his audience? Different people would respond to the question differently and then he would in summary educate the group by saying, every Indian is a unit of Bharat Mata, therefore, every Indian is a representation of Bharat Mata, and in that manner, every Indian is indeed Bharat Mata (I am paraphrasing it from memory, read the book some 20 years ago). This book was published, 4 years before India got her independence; the scholar penned down this book, while serving a jail term, in Ahmed Nagar Prison. At the time, the Crown’s representative in India had outlawed Indian National Congress and incarcerated all its core members and leaders. Fast forward to 2021, India is independent, but the grand old party finds itself in the cage of its own incompetence and political bankruptcy. It is the principal opposition party in the Indian national parliament though with fewer than 60 seats. The very organisation that once had the privilege of calling stalwarts like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, likes of Nehru among others, their members, in modern India is a Nehru-Gandhi family-run enterprise and does not count for much in the political opinion space. Indian people have stopped taking it for an earnest political force, chiefly owing to the loose-foot, unserious and sporadic politics of its de facto president, Rahul Gandhi.

Do not worry, this article is not another addition to the vicious and continued slugfest that a vast majority of Indian media has been subjecting the collective political opposition to the ruling BJP to without breaking a sweat for the last 7 years. It is a mere recognition of the resulting shrinking opinion and political space of India’s political opposition. So I thought that it is important that we recognise how much of a decline Congress has seen in the course of the last century, as without which understanding the rise of the BJP is impossible. You may also be wondering why have I invoked the definition of Bharat Mata, as delivered by the first PM, in an essay titled to convey concern around the ongoing pandemic. It is because I find no other suitable frame of reference to recognise the lifeless, unidentified, unaccounted and disgraced Indians floating in the holy river, in hundreds between my home state Bihar and UP, and I needed to find a collective identity for them. Collectively both of these states hold the key with MP and Rajasthan to the Lokshaba. UP alone has given India most of its PMs, even the incumbent is serving on a Varanasi ticket and yet the states are in such disarray that they do not have the economic means to conduct the last rites of their loved ones and are therefore force by poverty and social stigma surrounding Covid to give the death of there friends and family such an ugly end. Does it not say a thing or two about the politics that is prevalent in the Hindi heartland? The number of those who have perished outside the official count is unknown at the moment, it is being assumed to be anywhere between 2 and 8 times the reported number, by leading experts in the field of epidemiology. 

Ever since I saw the images and the videos of floating corpses on the holy Ganga, between Bihar and UP, I have not been able to come to terms with it. My mind wonders, what must have been the mental state of those who transported the dead to the banks of the river for such undignified disposal. Surely, they must have felt sick, unhappy and helpless. How easy or difficult it must have been for them at that moment to feel proud of being an Indian. In that grim and dark moment, would the bearer of the bodies pay heed to the mighty propaganda floated by the rulers of the day? Would he have cried that night? What words he might have chosen to convey to his masters that the dead have been gotten rid of? Would he have been sent again with more bodies for another trip to hell or would he have chosen to retire for the day at the end of one round of disposal? Was he paid for the job? Did his hand tremble on accepting the remuneration? Did he sleep the night that followed the abandonment? Could he narrate the story of the day to his family members? I do not know, and perhaps I would never know.

For a moment let’s step back from those involved in dumping Bharat Mata (Indians are Bharat Mata, according to Nehru Ji) on the river to ponder over those who died. Did they have any inkling of what would become of their mortal remains? Did they consent to it? Do they see themselves floating from above (that is if there is such a place where the souls go to, and if they have the vision to see the bodies)? What must be running on the minds of their family and friends? Would they ever forget this ordeal? How must the society around the deceased have reconciled with the horrors? Do the onlookers fear ending to a similar fate?

I am afraid, I do not know, response to any of these.

But what I do know is that a little bit of India also dies with every untimely and avoidable death of an Indian. I can say with certainty that the dead bodies also float the majesty of the Indian state. Who can argue that not counting the death is not honouring the dead? Those responsible for managing the crisis seem satisfied with their performance and have been repeatedly heard saying ‘everything is under control’; what can one say? The visuals of people running around in search of life-saving drugs, battling for admission in hospitals and even the melancholy view of people dying on the pavement of the hospitals – are still, coming from all around the country, and yet the state is missing in action. Goa reported a loss of lives in dozens for lack of oxygen!

When urban centres are being treated in this manner, should I even try emphasising what must be happening in the rural and tribal undeveloped parts of this vast country of ours? It is too much to expect from the media to cover the plight of the villages which have been facing the neglect and the apathy of the urban centres for as long as they’ve become independent. And yet, thanks to social media, desperate tales have managed to trickle down which are so sad that it can turn even the driest pair of eyes misty and moist. Underlined with penniless migrants facing bleak prospects of the future, who have returned to their homes to avoid the nightmare that they were forced to live when India decided to bolt itself down on a notice of 4 hours, last year; the troubles of rural India are serious and painful.

What have we become as a nation? When did the Government stop caring about its people? Where lies the fault? Why is the government appearing so hands-off in the 2nd wave? You and I know that there is not going to be an admission of guilt, both administrators and the politicians of the day just do not have what it takes to own up; the courage. Indian media is hand in gloves with the central government, not all, but a vast majority of it. The country has fewer journalists doing a sincere job today than it has scientific voices informing the nation about the steps that ought to be taken. Our elected PM behaves like an autocrat and a dictator allergic to free and unscripted press conferences. In the last 7 years in office, he has attended zero press conferences. All that India ever gets to know comes from a handful of bureaucrats, who do what they are trained to do the best; talk a lot and yet say nothing. 

Denial and divergence are the weapons of choice of the current tenants of Delhi.

Completely devoid of any remorse for the shameful handling of the Covid challenge the Government of the day is instead engaging in remarkable chest-thumping. No person of science like in the US briefs the nation with some authority, instead, we have information and broadcasting ministers holding high-level meetings to design a strategy to quash the flake that the Modi administration has been getting both in the domestic and international media and more so in independent social media. The foreign minister calls a meeting for all the ambassadors to tell them to put away if not prevent negative reporting on Modi’s mismanagement of the 2nd wave of Covid. State Governments under the ruling party BJP have gone all out to slap FIRs against those citizens who are trying to call out for help. They have kept hospital owners on the leash as well; CM of UP, Yogi is particularly nasty in this regard. The present-day setup looks anything but democratic.

Modi has not apologised even once for massive political rallies that he and his party members took out in all states that went to polls in the last 2 months, particularly in WB. He has not accepted that allowing Khumbh, was a disaster that has provided a pathway for the pathogen to travel to the far rural parts of the country.

Instead, all the focus is on somehow controlling the narrative, managing headlines and shielding the PM from criticism. From sycophantic tweets to paid advertisements; nothing is being spared in praising the PM, even at the time when dead bodies are mounting in crematoriums and the graveyards. To understand the callous and careless approach of the Government, we will need to understand some of these facts.

  • Earlier this year, BJP in its party convention, passed a resolution in which they declared victory on the virus. The text of the letter gives thanks to the PM and gives him credit, at more than 5 places. 

  • The PM gave himself full marks for doing an awesome job at handling the pandemic. He declared victory; do listen to his Davos address.

  • Vaccine export started with a lot of pomp and show. The foreign affairs ministers tweeted pictures from every dispatch dutifully and were RTed by every other cabinet minister. The common thing in all of this is that everyone thanked Mr Modi and praised his ‘leadership’. 

    • Later, when the pressure mounted BJP party spokesperson Mr Patra, admitted that as much as 84% of the vaccines that were dispatched were done as a result of a contract that the manufacturers had signed with the countries and organisations from where they had imported the raw materials; pure commercial exchange.

    • The rest was sent for inoculation of Indian forces working in the UN peacekeeping mission. 

    • Meaning, nothing more than 1 Cr. was sent across as help to other nations.

    • But this fact was kept hidden from people. The propaganda machine was working overtime to announce how formidable and invincible Modi had assumed leadership of the world and he was determined to heal the hurting humanity by sending these vaccines over.

    • The declaration of India being the vaccine factory of the world was also repeated several times.

    • WhatsApp carried this fake news to every corner of India, even those corners where ambulances and oxygen cylinders did not reach, to save the dying.

  • Even the pictures of global help reaching Indian shores were publicised, presented as some sort of victory for Modi’s diplomacy. In reality, those were humanitarian donations made by concerned nations. Most people do not know that it is the first time in the last 17 years that India has stooped so low as it is having to clutch on to the straws of donations from other nations to survive. If anything it is a decline of the image that India has carefully crafted for itself.

  • When the world was busy placing order for the vaccine for their people, our leadership, was busy mounting an electoral conquest of West Bengal.

Masks, social distancing and hand hygiene are important but strenuous methods and are extremely difficult to sustain over long periods of time for a population as large as that of India. It is common knowledge that through vaccines and only vaccines can we hope to tame the pandemic and yet when the entire world was busy ordering doses for their population last year, Modi made no such attempt. He practically held our hands and walked us to this precarious mess. Today, when India is recording ½ of world cases and most of its daily deaths and the medical infrastructure of the country has completely collapsed, the Modi administration has made the unfortunate situation even worse by forcing in bizarre vaccine policy, which is : 

  • Differential vaccine pricing for the states and the centre. States will have to pay more, double the price the centre has paid for the “same” vaccine. 

  • Center will take 50% of the vaccines, 25% will go to the private sector and only 25% will ever reach the states. Note here that the centre has accepted to vaccinate just about 30% of the population, that is 45 years and above and yet wants custody of half of the vaccines produced.

  • It has levied 5% GST on vaccine imports.

  • Given the acute shortage of vaccines the states are being forced to float global tenders, which will effectively mean that one Indian state will compete against all other Indian states in the global market: no matter which states win, Indian people are sure to lose in this contest of stupidity.

If the supply side of the vaccine was not problematic enough; they have further complicated the matters with the process of registration.

Mandatory online registration on the Co-win application is making vaccine access more inequitable in an already unequal society. 750 million Indians own a smartphone with an active cellular internet connection (roughly, 60% urban and 40% rural). But the extent to which they use the phone for “digital operation” beyond messaging, is just about 44% of the 750 million people. India’s population is no secret. It is baffling to note that Modi, the policymaker of the day is criminally ignoring this brazen gap and is refusing to accept registration becoming a roadblock to successful vaccination just as vigorously as they deny the critical shortages that are killing people in thousands every day; many folds more unknown and unregistered than known and accounted for.

‘Triplicate’ is likely to be a part of your vocabulary, if you’ve worked for the government or had the misfortune of dealing with its machinery on serious matters. Lazy bureaucracy subservient to not just thoughtless, unimaginative but also considerably and decidedly illiterate political class, is flaunting their newfound love for mobile apps, keeping the memory of ‘triplicate’ alive. It is being done to soothe the senses of the unicorn rider who came up with the “Digital India” campaign to boost his image. The administrators know that only 6% of rural and 25% of urban households have a functional computer at home, according to National Sample Survey data from 2017 – and yet, he insists on mandatory ‘Co-win’ registration. The glorious past of the ‘Aarogya Setu’ app is still fresh in the memory, it began with a data leak, a suit in the court and a subsequent affidavit by the Govt acknowledging that they do not know, ‘who designed the architecture.


This policy will create ground for extortion of the poor; it will mushroom a fleet of agents who would squeeze the most vulnerable in lieu of “registering” them. Much like the bygone days, which saw “agents” outside Passport and RTOs, available to be hired for all manners of work-from filling forms to faking driving assessment.

None of this should surprise us though because the country at the moment is being led by the same stable genius who thought, pulling 86% of all currency bills off circulation suddenly, will end the problem of black money, solve the menace of counterfeit currency and break the back of terror funding forever. What actually happened? 99.999% of the cash made its way back into the banking system, thereby an official cleaning of all the money (black and white) happened. Both terror and counterfeit continue, there has been no reduction either in their intensity or frequency. In fact, the most ghastly terror attacks on Indian forces, 3 of them have actually happened after this historic move. Our current PM is such a reckless maverick that he thought that locking 1.3 billion people inside on a notice of 4 hours will eradicate Covid in 21 days; instead what we are experiencing here in India is the worst impact of the 2nd wave. We are topping the world not just on the caseload but also on unfortunate deaths, that is just on the grossly undercounted number, as has come to light in recent reports. The little we say about the plight of the migrant workers, job losses and resulting hunger and poverty the better.

In my lifetime I have never witnessed the stark duality of multifaceted India in such prominence as found in grim images of abandoned dead bodies floating in the holy river perhaps with the hope of attaining salvation in the afterlife despite the indignity that these souls have had to suffer in death at the hands of inept “system” on one hand and the unabated construction of the new parliament and brand new home for the PM in the mid of raging pandemic, on the other. If the 2nd turn of the virus on us is being called a “wave”. We should brace ourselves for the tsunami of death by starvation, coming towards us; as countless millions drop to the bottom of the social and economic structure and scale. Mass drop out from school will deny India a generation of ‘educated and skilled’ citizens.

When rulers of the day are lost in just the ‘seen’ effects of the pandemic, it is anyone’s guess how much they must be up to the task of the ‘unseen’ challenges that this threat poses.

India needs the spine it showed in 1960ties when it converted acute food shortages into the reason for the “green revolution”; then the country adopted science. The current leadership has thus far embraced arrogant denial and shameless silence.

Take care and stay safe; we are truly on our own!

By lavkush