he Covid pandemic’s sweep in India is widening. It is virtually on a roll, its reach covering the entire nation. From a daily tally of less than a thousand in the beginning of April, the per-day infection rate is currently in the range of nearly a lakh. India is set to climb to the world’s number-one position in infections in a matter of days, edging out even the worst-hit US. Yet, a question could be, instead of preparing for this kind of a fall out, why were we all asked to clang dishes, clap hands and burn lamps?
Out of 33 million cases of infection worldwide, 22 million have recovered, and most others are on the road to recovery. The mortality rate for Covid in India is less than two per cent; and even in such deaths, the patients, we are being repeatedly told, were suffering from other diseases and Covid alone is not the cause. This means, Covid is like no other disease except, probably, something similar to AIDS. It takes any slight thing already present in the body and grinds it down till death.
Since India does not believe in keeping truthful records in details and there never is any cross-referencing of medical data between doctors, hospitals, institutions or even an organization like the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), co-relation can never be done and that will deprive our scientists, technicians and researchers from testing a well entrenched vaccine. That was a reason for many to laugh when PM Modi, addressing the UNGA, talked of India sharing vaccine with the rest of the world. What vaccine, many wondered!
Still, controls were heavy for the past seven months; though they are easing slowly. The worst scenario of a total shutdown effected by PM Modi since March 25 for such a long period was an overkill at that stage. That sent the already weakened economy nose-diving and it is failing to recover even as activities have been resumed at various levels in stages. By now, entire India is hit by the pandemic while two-thirds of China’s landmass is free from it. It speaks for the efficacy of the internal controls China and other countries effected. Sadly India failed to do so because the government preferred to go the mumbo jumbo way by clanging pots, clapping hands and lighting lamps.
There are, of course, the No-Masker types across the world who still feel this disease is of very little consequence and is a ploy to sell vaccines by global pharma companies. It may be that this uncaring attitude has larger number of followers in India. That possibly is a major reason for high infection level in this country. Personal experience shows any one, careful or otherwise, can be hit. However, every one taking utmost care could lessen the burden on medical infrastructure. Therefore, it would have been much wiser for the Government of India and PM Modi not to mislead people into old thoughts which claimed lighting lamps on Amavasya would drive Covid-19 away.
Where China handled matters to its advantage in multiple ways, India failed. Studies now say the operation of flights bringing in rich Indian students and business people stuck in Wuhan, Gulf, and places like London led to a major spread of the Covid infection. That too, if observed, the infections started in places like Gujarat, Mumbai, Delhi, Kerala and Bangalore. All these places have rich people residing or traveling abroad. While mother Nature has protected the Indian land mass for centuries, all diseases that have entered this nation have been through people returning from overseas trips. All that our government needed to do was to stop incoming flights from all countries and we would have been much safer. There would have been no need for lockdowns or such pointless yet disastrous reactions.
While the rich were initially flown in free and later charged for tickets when criticism mounted, the migrant labour force remained invisible to our governments. With the situation improving in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi to an extent, the migrant workers are now finding it difficult to return to these cities due to lack of rail transport; something which they did not get even at the beginning stages of the pandemic. Governments’ failure to help them with food and other essentials in a season of work-loss was also a major reason why they turned restive and sought return to their homes. A sane handling of the situation could have avoided such mass return, which only led to spread of the virus in the eastern belts which were otherwise not much affected. Now, lakhs of youths are cooling their heels back in their homes, with neither work nor a means of livelihood. Governments cannot feed millions for long periods. Nor can governments in their native states find them work with a magic wand. If that was possible, the need for them to cross boundaries and reach distant cities would not have arisen at all.
While the Union government is now sitting quiet, having handed over the crisis management baton to the state governments, no one is questioning why the Indian Railways is still not operating normally. Unless and until that railway services resume, the economy does not stand a chance of survival.
Notably, some 10 states remain the worst-hit, which are where most deaths have occurred. Mumbai fails to overcome the trauma of a long-drawn lockdown and Delhi is witnessing a second wave of Covid attacks. Elsewhere, the fatalities are not high; and for most of the virus-hit, the effect has been debilitating and future complications cannot be ruled out completely.
An economic recovery, though, is a distant call for India. It is only the IT sector that has somewhat braved the odds and has managed to stay afloat. Work-from-home culture suits its systems, but on the debit side, hi-tech cities like Bangalore are badly hurt as the workforce has been deserting it for months. The nation, as also the world, is into a new normal. Cities like Dubai are back in full functional mode, with social distancing norms relaxed and use of masks strictly put in place. The US has taken the virus spread with ease, lost lives heavily, but is still putting on a brave front. That made Americans salvage the national economy to an extent, unlike the total collapse in India. China is fully normal. Even Pakistan and Bangladesh carried on with limited controls and are able to hold their heads high. Our leadership is still confused because it never did handle the crisis. It helped create both the economic crisis as well as the huge spread of the infection.