(Dr RK Chadha)
Yes, it is true that cases of Covid-19 are increasing rapidly in the second wave. Yes, it is true that more people are dying. Yes, it is also true that there is scarcity of oxygen. And yes, it is no denying fact that there is shortage of beds in the hospitals.
But, this is “the reality” today, a Fate Accompli that has to be dealt first on a war-footing. The blaming and shaming can wait for some other day after we come out of this crisis. Each one of us has lost a near and dear one, either in our families or amongst our friends. But, let us at least make an attempt to douse this fire rather than pouring oil in the already engulfing flames.
The single point agenda should be to save human lives. We have to decide whether we want to be a part of the problem the country is facing today or we want to be the part of solution. How we, the politicians, the common man, business houses, the institutions, the executive, judiciary and people from all walks of life stand united behind our frontline doctors and the medical fraternity, who are facing the brunt with their selfless service without caring for their lives, will show the character of our society and the image of our country.
The response of the people and the government of Japan after the Fukushima Nuclear disaster in 2011 is a lesson for the entire world community, where humanity emerged a great winner. The world needs to follow such examples. I had personally experienced this during my multiple official visits to Japan post Fukushima, where examples of people caring for their fellow citizens were so heartening that words defy an expression and incidents observed stand very tall. The efforts of the government too, were exemplary.
There are no such parallels in the world where self-interest takes over and people hoard things to earn profits even when their fellow beings are dying. After the damaging earthquake in Muzzafarabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) in 2005, several cases of Pakistani people cutting off hands having gold bangles or even wrist watches were reported widely. Some stray incidents of theft and misbehavior were also reported after the heat wave in France in 2003. Such incidents reflect the darker side of the society.
Though, India has always seen helping hands, irrespective of religion for the needy in such dire circumstances, there are some stray cases where people were caught hoarding oxygen cylinders in Delhi few days back during this pandemic. We have to shun such incidents that spoil the country’s name and such people should be severely punished as per the law of country.
In these difficult times we have to understand that we are living in a world where there is cut throat competition and one-upmanship amongst leaders of different countries. Nothing comes free and we need to pay for everything in some form or the other. There are no free lunches. Our political leadership and the foreign offices are best advised to tread cautiously without being extra benevolent, a quality that underpins our Indian Culture and ethos. Help others for sure, but also think of self-interest. Cosmetics are what on display today, play to the rules accordingly. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.
It is pertinent to point out here that the world and the vested interests in India are busy painting a very gloomy picture of our country. There is no dispute that the condition in India today is extremely alarming, but presenting it as a doomsday scenario reflects their ‘sick’ minds and a desire to put a surging India down.
Few examples are in order to support the argument. TIME magazine in its May 10, 2021 issue showed a very repulsive image of a “shamshanghat” (crematorium) from India where several pyres, some lit and some burnt out are displayed on the cover page with a title “India in Crises”. The magazine is published from USA.
Contrast to this with the TIME magazine coverage of Covid-19 pandemic situation in America. They published more than half-a-dozen cover page stories since the beginning of pandemic in late 2019. In none of the issues a cover page showing piled up coffins was published even though more than half a million lives are lost in US, 576,000+ to be more precise and still counting.
Why is there this contrast on the part of “TIME” magazine? The reason is obvious. It is a deliberate attempt to put down a surging India and a hidden feeling of their white supremacy. So much is talked about equal rights and treatment to all in the USA, but agitations like “Black Lives Matter” exposes their duplicity and double standards as a society where hidden hatred for colored people comes out every now and then.
Human psychology is such that a visual or a picture has a devastating impact on the human mind. This can make people very depressive and in despair with no hopes. That is why gruesome photographs during any disaster are generally avoided as decent journalistic practices, until and unless a necessary point has to be made.
In Washington Post newspaper, again from the USA our homegrown female journalist who could not find employment in India, shouts in headlines “India is collapsing, blah blah……..callousness and incompetence are killing us”. Earlier, the same person could not find fault with the killings of innocent Kashmiri people by the son of a poor schoolteacher. A battery of such a brigade at national and international level is bent upon defaming the country. We have to be careful and alert from them by giving appropriate rejoinders.
The story repeats everywhere, be it The Guardian, New York Times, BBC, ABC or the Reuters. Do we need to give credence to what is appearing in these media reports? Unfortunately ‘yes’. We live in a global village today where global opinions does matter and so we need to counter their narrative with facts, however inconvenient they are. People appreciate truth and honest admission of mistakes is perhaps the best medicine against such a tirade.
There is no denying that people today, understand that there had been lapses on the part of government and lack of planning which has aggravated the situation in the second wave of Covid-19. The government should not waste time to justify their actions that may otherwise, prove futile, “Yeh public hai bhai…. yeh sab janti hai”. Rather they should concentrate and highlight the positive steps taken by them now.
As citizens of this country we are equally to be blamed. I have not seen any Government of India circular telling people not to follow Covid-19 guidelines or not to wear masks or maintain social distancing. Few relaxations were given based on the data available at that time. In fact, there were instances where people refused to take vaccination in the initial stage when GOI started its vaccination drive. People were worried with Whatsapp messages on imaginative harmful effects of the vaccine and some self appointed leaders of the minority declaring the vaccine as haram. Later on, better sense prevailed.
We now know that there is a combination of reasons that led to this situation. Starting with a natural mutation of the virus where none of us have any control, things got aggravated when we felt a sense of security due to the falling cases of Covid-19 cases since September last year. This made us, both the political class and the common citizens, complacent and we all relaxed. The entire country was already frustrated with lockdowns that have tested our patience and also led to the economic downfall in the last financial year and increase in unemployment. There was an unrest amongst the masses.
All these factors are enough explosive material that just needs a trigger to ignite. This trigger was provided in terms of Kumbh Mela, elections in Assam and West Bengal where government failed to assess the repercussions of its decision to hold both these events.
We have to understand that no politician worth its salt will let go of an opportunity that will reap rich dividends for his or her party. So, this was a calculated risk taken by the government, which I am sure that no other government would have done otherwise.
But the results in five States, which have gone for elections during Covid-19 times, show that the gamble of BJP has backfired in West Bengal, their main target. Results in other states also did not throw any surprises and are almost on expected lines.
So, it is time to move on. The government should retract to gain the lost ground and address the issue on hand. There are several positives which government have not en-cashed and can be used to blunt the narrative of the naysayers and the skeptics.
Several emergency steps that were taken to address the crisis are highlighted here. The iron meant for preparing special cylinders for oxygen was imported. Oxygen concentrators from Singapore and other countries were imported. Portable oxygen generators from France and other countries reached India.
Our industrialist rose to the occasion and converted their plants to convert industrial grade oxygen to medical grade. Railways ran and still running Oxygen Express. Indian Air Force ferried the empty oxygen tankers to the plants for refilling. Oxygen tankers were allowed to ply through green corridors. The GOI promised and provided funds for Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) oxygen generation plants for every district in India. These are enormous efforts backed by firm decisions.
Above all was the performance of our Serum Institute in Pune and Bharat Biotics in Hyderabad, which became cynosure of all eyes. The world leaders and their representatives made a queue to these places and appreciated the facilities and the capacity to deal with the global crisis. These companies not only produced millions of doses of the Covid-19 vaccines for our people but also became hubs for vaccine supplies to the entire world. It becomes our duty to safeguard such jewels in the Indian Crown and acknowledge the efforts of their leadership.
The conditions are improving but at a slower pace and are bound to speed up. There is always a hope for better things to come as the Government is now concentrating fully without any diversions. This crisis has provided several lessons to be learnt for the government and also the people of this country.
This crisis has also exposed several big names and their interests and has shown their real faces. One example would be worth mentioning here.
Mr. Bill Gates, a multi-billionaire, philanthropist and the co-founder of Microsoft, said in an interview to Sky News Global vaccine rollout is not a intellectual property. It’s not like there’s some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval that makes magically safe vaccines. You know, you’ve got to do the trail on these things. Every manufacturing process needs to be looked at in a very careful way,”
In simple English it means that he is against the idea of sharing the vaccine formulae with developing countries like India.
I think this is a great opportunity for India to develop its own capacity based on our resources and intellectual bench strength, which is available in plenty. India has always struck back whenever the technology and raw material was denied to us. Take the example of cryogenic technology, which we developed on our own in space programs in India or the progress in the nuclear field when the world denied us with raw material, equipment and technology post our nuclear tests in 1974 or 1998.
Today, India is on firm ground as far as the science and technology is concerned, thanks to the untiring efforts of our scientists since our independence in 1947. They have made us proud and self-sufficient, be it a green or a white revolution.
The simple mantra for the political leadership is to build on the solid foundation provided to us in India and build a country so high that it should be visible from every nook and corner of the world’s highest platforms. Let bygones be bygones and put India First.
I am sure we have the right leadership and people who can make our dreams come true.