Today India passed a grim milestone and is now the country with the second largest number of Covid cases in the world. This comes in the wake of a series draconian lockdowns imposed on the citizens of the country, first by the Central Government and later by various State Governments. Very little justification was given, and the PM even claimed that the disease would be contained in 21 days. Now over 150 days have passed since that time and the country and the world have achieved nothing close to victory against the disease.
It is, of course, true that nature has it’s own cycles and diseases are very much part of the natural cycle. Thus one can always plead that a particular outbreak is unexpected and severe and so on. However, one cannot plead that natural calamities are unexpected or unprecedented. They have been fellow-travellers of civilization and it is the duty of the State to provide for victims of such circumstances. In times when there are no extenuating circumstances, there must be a great deal of thought and investment in building up the requisite health care infra-structure. In the present instance, most of the victims have been thrown to the winds and asked to fend for themselves. Most victims end up in private hospitals and have had to shell out lakhs of rupees for treatment. Thus the inability of the State of provide even the most basic care has been exposed. It is a matter of shame that a country that claims to be an ascendant power is unable to meet basic requirements of health care.
Furthermore, the thoughtless lockdowns and the ensuing disruption of economic life had thrown millions of `migrant’ workers out on to the street. It was not uncommon for men, women and children during the peak summer months to walk home over a thousand kilometers, since most public transport was under lockdown. The utter callousness of the State was there for everyone to see. Rather than providing basic needs, the State provided lathis and brickbats against persons who were suspected of violating lockdown norms. The savagery of the Indian State in face of the calamity were there for everyone to see.
As the tragedy unfolds the Finance Minister herself has said that the economy has contracted by nearly 25% in the recent quarter, and claimed that this was due to the `hand of God’. Nevertheless, during the same period, many big industrialists have been on a buying spree and gobbling up smaller fish. Not only has the economy shrunk, millions of workers have lots jobs, others have not been paid, many who have jobs have had to work longer hours. This is the kind of protection that the State is offering to it’s citizens in the face of this calamity.
There are many other examples one could narrate. What is clear is that the Indian State is not capable of providing for the people. It is only good for collecting taxes and providing a protection for capitalists and industrialists and big agriculturalists to carry out their activities of exploitation of labour and their own self-aggrandisement.
In the light of these experiences the Indian people should ask some hard questions about the nature of the State and ask why things are the way they are. Far from providing `sukh and raksha’ the State has become the purveyor of loot and plunder of the resources and labour of the people. A serious enquiry into the nature of the State and it’s relation to the citizenry is the order of the day. May the discussion begin and pave the path to a better tomorrow.