Never must have these true followers of their great leader ever imagined they would be left stranded like this. Never before have citizens been treated with such disdain.
Reading social media posts on a daily basis is now like reading online obituaries – someone bidding adieu to their aging parent, child, sibling, friend or colleague – all succumbed to Covid-19. Apart from the dead, there is news of senior citizens struggling to get a slot for vaccination, people running from pillar to post, many waiting for hours to get their jabs. The others, meanwhile, continue to struggle to try and get an oxygen or ventilator or ICU bed. The public is struggling to keep itself alive, either safe from Covid-19 or struggling to earn a living. In the middle of all this, one receives yet another shock as the leader of this country, seemingly indifferent to mass suffering, tweets his thoughts. What, you ask, could they be? They’re the monologue called Mann ki Baat – he will not just speak but celebrate the power of positivity and the strength of 130 crore Indians. There you go, we have a Prime Minister who seems to care two hoots about your woes or mine and honestly, there is not a smidgen of positivity in the current scenario, except of the viral kind, let us not even fool ourselves.
Never must have these true followers of their great leader ever imagined they would be left stranded like this. Never before have citizens been treated with such disdain. The last time I saw such long queues were outside the Roxy and Opera House theatres (single-screen cinema halls) when some popular Hindi film would become a hit. This time the queues are for getting spots at the crematorium to send their loved ones onward into the universe.
Bodies wrapped in bags, left on gurneys, footpaths or the roadside have been now recorded for posterity. History will not be kind to the leader who has let down his own people. Take the example of Gujarat, with a Bharatiya Janata Party government, where horror stories are tumbling out like skeletons. People have shared firsthand their experiences of getting RT-PCR tests done in the hospitals there. Only the negative tests were being recorded, not the positive ones. At the airport in Ahmedabad, even if one were to show an old Covid test report, nobody would have cared to check. Given this disdain for the living, why would they bother about the dead? No surprises there, there are no records of those who died. Nothing could be more tragic than the fact that there is no dignified exit in this country even for the dead. A news agency Sandesh in Gandhinagar began investigating whether there are records of the dead.
Then there is the ongoing saga of those who are being deliberately made to suffer. Natasha Narwal, who has been in jail for a year was deprived of the opportunity of caring for her father. She was arrested in May last year and was finally given interim bail for three weeks, but it was too late, coming a day after her father succumbed to the virus. Restrictions and a personal bond of Rs 50,000, though she has not even been proven guilty. This surely is a case of justice delayed being justice denied. A 26-year-old junior resident doctor at GTB Hospital also died on Sunday after testing Covid-positive. His broken-hearted father tweeted the news of his death. On Tuesday, over 100 bodies were found floating on the Ganga in Ghazipur. Lack of wood for the pyres is one harsh reality but the Hindus in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar simply dump half-burnt bodies in the rivers. The magnitude of the health disaster waiting to hit our country is just unimaginable. Nature’s scavenging forces will gorge on these corpses rotting in rivers which supply drinking water to many surrounding areas. The complete collapse of the entire administrative machinery in BJP-led states is simply appalling. Basically, orders should have been issued under the Uttar Pradesh Public Health and Epidemic Diseases Control Act, 2020, and similarly in surrounding states, enforcing the burning of dead bodies on pyres only. Every state had one full year to have put in place electric crematoriums; doing so should have been made mandatory under the Epidemic Diseases Control Act in every state. There was enough time to plan this.
Slowly, those who voted for the lotus are realising how they have been left to fend for themselves. A woman wrote on her Facebook wall, lamenting how she had been left in the lurch after donating to the PM’s relief fund. One such is Debika Chaudhary, whose sister passed away and all that remains of her is in a black box. She questioned the PM, “Where’s the money your government took from each one of us for the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund? Where are the crores we pay in multitude of taxes?… In a country where people are dying like mosquitoes, you Sir, are building the world’s largest cricket stadium and breaking down heritage structures. You had promised India a report card, looks like you have failed us miserably.”
What we saw was a jamboree literally, of naked sadhus, devotees and even leaders who supported the festivals. When did turning a blind eye to ground realities qualify as a sterling attribute for the leader of a country? To make things worse, today there is a yawning need for vaccines, more hospitals, health clinics, health workers, nurses and doctors. But what are we getting instead? Our dear leader is hell bent on offering us the Central Vista project. The PM’s building a brand new house. What is wrong if opposition leader Rahul Gandhi quips, “Country needs breath, not the Prime Minister’s residence.” Citizens are outraged to the point that many have said the new design resembles a coffin. The situation is tragic, with India needing help from across the world. The Shiv Sena has criticised the PM for going ahead with this project even as smaller countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan have offered aid to India.
We are now getting reports of how the previous CM of Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat was fired overnight in March because he was insistent on restricting the Mahakumbh. It tells us of the sinister mindset of the head of the country. Any other head of state would have called upon experts, the CM of that state, virologists, scientists and taken their advice. Instead, here we have a leader who would rather listen to Hindu priests. And the result is there for all to see.
Political games during corona
But the BJP is not a party to keep quiet, especially in the states where they have lost power. It is a fact that people have been saying that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has handled the pandemic a lot better in Maharashtra and especially Mumbai; even the PM called Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and lauded the way his government has been handling the pandemic in Maharashtra. Not that former CM Devendra Fadnavis was going to concur so easily. On the contrary, he has begun a campaign accusing the MVA government of fudging data and hiding facts from public. Since then more people have appreciated the MVA government and even Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has alerted the partymen in Nagpur saying, “We are behaving overconfident in these times, it is not good. Don’t indulge in politics in these times.” He urged everyone and named Fadnavis, saying Covid-19 protocol needs to be maintained. Gadkari has asked his party people to join hands with everyone.
Then there are the superstitions keeping the poor and illiterate from getting vaccinated. One female BJP leader said people should undertake yagnas in the morning that could ensure corona would not spread. While at one Covid care centre in Gujarat run by an Ayurvedic specialist, concoctions made of herbs, cow urine and homeopathy are being offered, which he believes will help alleviate the disease. Such centres are mushrooming. The height of ridiculousness was an Indian passenger being caught carrying a suitcase full of cowdung cakes – such faith in quackery despite warnings from Indian doctors against the use of cowdung for curing Covid-19.
Meanwhile, one is hoping Indians have thrown away or broken all their Chinese made gadgets, instruments or cellphones, since the PM had called to boycott them. However, it must be noted, many Indian companies have placed record orders with Chinese companies manufacturing oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies for April and May.
Neeta Kolhatkar is a senior journalist with over 30 years of work experience across different media platforms. She is currently a freelancer and media consultant.
(Views Expressed Are Personal)
As an independent media platform, we do not take advertisements from governments and corporate houses. It is you, our readers, who have supported us on our journey to do honest and unbiased journalism. Please contribute, so that we can continue to do the same in future.