BA and Venkatesh Sundaram

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We are now nearing the second anniversary of the draconian lockdown announced with four hours’ notice towards the end of March 2020 by the Prime Minister in order to contain the spread of the virus that is said to have caused the dreaded pandemic of Covid-19.  It is said that the virus first was detected in China and spread across the world causing devastation and havoc, and variants of the virus are continuing to cause devastation until today, albeit at a lower level in terms of hospitalisation and casualties.  In the ensuing two years, a variety of vaccines have been made available which appear to have curbed the spread of the disease and have brought down the fatality rates.  The dictionary of the peoples of the world have been enhanced with knowledge of variants such as delta and omicron, after the initial alpha and beta variants.  People of the world have also been asked to educate themselves about saturation oxygen levels, steroids, as well as a range of other self-care methods, as well as about oxygen concentrators and ICUs in hospitals.

The response of the government in India has been particularly noteworthy in lack of care, inconsistency, and self-contradictory stances.  On the one hand a lockdown was announced, and on the other it had been declared that the disease would be conquered in 21 days, and that beating of plates and lighting of lamps, as well as ingestion of various animal excreta would come in handy in beating this deadly disease.

At the end of the first wave, there was great jubilation because of the low numbers of fatalities, and government claimed that India was somehow exceptional.  India was slow in certifying vaccines and even as the second wave began to show its deadly potential there was greater laxity in public health and prevention methods.  Elections were held in some states despite the fact that there was fear of the disease spreading.  Very little was done to take any kind of a scientific approach.

By the end of the second wave which left a devastating effect of practically millions dead and many more hospitalised and debilitated by the effects of long Covid, there was great apathy.  The events showed the utter inadequacy of India’s profit-driven, private owned medical services, with government hospitals unable to handle even a small fraction of the caseloads.  There was no attempt to dovetail all the facilities available, even if in private hands, to put them in service of the needs of the people, but instead, the people were left to fend for themselves, and to face financial ruin.  This was even justified under a noble title, namely ‘atmanirbhar’ – which originally stood for self-reliance as a nation, but which now meant that people had to rely on their own wits and resources to save their very lives, as the governments had abdicated all responsibility towards the people.

In the meantime, as the Ganga began to see hundreds of bodies tossed into it, government officials and ministers stated that there were always bodies in the Ganga!  The utter callousness of the government and the system was there for everyone to see.  Across in the state of Gujarat, which was one of the worst affected, the Chief Minister had to step down due to indirect pressure coming from his administration as having been seen as thoroughly incompetent.   State after state witnessed such a sorry spectacle.

The two years have also coincided with the collapse of the economy, of service as well as of small manufacturing, of MSME and other enterprises, and under the mantra of work from home, one has seen the rise of more and more exploitation of hapless workers.  Children have been subjected to isolation and have been at the receiving end of tortuous online `education’ the effects of which will unfold in the coming years.  Mental health has been severely challenged by the climate of fear and uncertainty and there has been great stress on families and on society.

One cannot but summarise the situation arising from what is called a `black swan’ event, as being one of utter chaos and destruction across the board.  Indian society is completely unprepared for any calamity of this kind because of the dereliction of duty of the government from its basic duties.  Welfare and Security are guarantees of well-being are the cornerstone of statecraft in the Indian tradition.  By adopting a model of being mere guardians of `civil society’ a condition where those with property will reap the maximum benefits, the Indian situation has embarked on the path of disaster.  Even the lip service paid to members of society at large has been thrown out of the window.  It is time for everyone who is interested in a safe future for the country to engage in a serious debate as to what the direction of this society is.  The aftermath of Covid will provide such an opportunity and should not be lost.

The Covid situation has once again brought into the limelight the dire situation facing the people of the country. If anything, the past two years have underscored the fact that we, the people of India, are totally powerless in the current political system. It is imperative that we think of how we can remedy this and become the masters of our own destiny. Indeed, the main focus of the work of the Lok Raj Sangathan is to involve all sections of society to work towards an alternative system where the people are truly represented and empowered. To do this, we must also improve our understanding of the underlying causes for the political, economic, and social phenomena that exist today. We urge everyone who has the wellbeing of the toiling people of India to participate in this and help take it forward.

By admin