India is experiencing a raging virus that has exhausted the entire system, including its hospital staff, workers, doctors, and patients who are gasping for oxygen in horror that can save them from the jaws of death. As a result, we are witnessing a public health crisis in India at a scale never been experienced in a pandemic before. Deep at the heart of COVID failure lie irrationalities among people and political leaders along with their messed-up priorities, lack of empathy, and last but not least, administrative and systemic flaws.
The government of India scoffed at science when they decided to go ahead with campaign rallies in States undergoing elections, ignoring the warnings of scientists and other experts. Especially in West Bengal, where Prime Minister Modi made dozens of personal appearances without fearing neither the health consequences it could bring upon people nor the political consequences upon his party. You can stupidly escape science but not the repercussions of it. And he lost the state he tried too hard to win, but many lost their lives fighting the monstrous disease. No gain, only loss.
As of today, the official figures stand at 412262 new cases and 3980 recent deaths. However, it is estimated that the actual numbers may have been extensively fudged/underreported.
Unfortunately, our adversary is of a completely different nature — a virus — which has made our political battles even more challenging than before. I have no quarrel with the opinion that public healthcare of any country would come under stress, given the nature and magnitude of this pandemic. However, there are no two ways about it that the misery could be far less if Indian administration and the Modi government were better prepared for it. But, on the contrary, he has been shamelessly exploiting human suffering for political gain.
The biggest strength of India — its democracy — is being turned on its head as politicians are pretending to deepen it through elections during the pandemic. Confusing democracy with elections and thinking it is the end of it is a very narrow idea of democracy. That is why politicians ensure that the election process doesn’t stop at any cost, even when it costs them human lives.
In India, any criticism raised against the inefficacy of the Modi government is regarded as anti-national. Nationalism is marketed as a value that’s synonymous with singing praises of just one leader/one-party/ one religion — Narender Modi/BJP/Hindutva. BJP is exploiting people in the name of religion. Even today, for all the talk of whatever little they understand of democracy and nationalism, Indian people still lack legitimate representatives who can represent the aspirations of people. It has only been a compromise for the lack of ‘no other alternative’ available to them.
India has never got more centralized and autocratic than under Modi’s rule. For example, Modi recently passed a law which curbs Delhi assembly’s power to conduct proceeding. Delhi’s Chief Minister, now, cannot take any executive decisions without consulting the Lieutenant Governor of the UT. A step like this goes against the people of Delhi and would make matters worse for them as broad executive powers are needed to battle the crisis.
Given a massive shortage of oxygen, why does the top court even have to tell the Centre in such crucial times that they have to provide the stipulated quota to the national capital of Delhi? Is it not their task to see to it that they don’t, at least, falter in matters of life and death, if not other things? We have reached a point where some of our own people are taking undue advantage of the sick; instead of helping them in grave times, they are selling oxygen and other amenities like ambulance service at multiple times its original price.
The past one and a half years have unfolded before our eyes the devolution of democracy, from not so great to begin with to almost a tyranny in many countries. To name a few, India, America, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Myanmar were among many. Democratic institutions in these nations have been humiliated to varying degrees. That has brought to our attention the ideological heart of democracies in these nations. When democracy is not done right, it, instead of providing solutions, becomes a problem itself.
The U.S. could have been railing under the same situation had the 2020 elections there gone in the other direction, observes Jonathan V.Last. He says in his essay named India’s Humanitarian Crisis, “When you look at India, you see the alternate universe of what might have happened had our 2020 election gone differently.”
“Government spending generally rises as a share of the economy as countries grow richer. Indeed, India spends about as much as a typical nation in its income class. About 30% of its gross domestic product. So, the problem is not the size of India’s state, but how it spends”, says Ruchir Sharma in his article, A broken state is failing India under Modi too.
A broken state is failing India under Modi too.
The writer, Morgan Stanley Investment Management's chief global strategist, is the author of 'The Ten Rules of Successful…
Like the Government of India, big broadcasters have also understated the ferocity of the virus and overstated the ability of the government to deal with it. But, at the same time, some local channels and newspapers have done a brilliant job.
This situation reminds me of Arundhati Roy’s words in her book, The End of Imagination. She says, “The crisis of modern democracy is a profound one. Free elections, a free press, and an independent judiciary mean little when the free market has reduced them to commodities available on sale to the highest bidder.”
It is indeed very disheartening to see so many lives being destroyed by a cruel disease, mostly when mishandled. What makes it even more difficult to maintain calm is the fact that so many lives could be saved had it not been for the ‘poor/overburdened health care and less-burdened still poor administration.’ Less noise is made when the poor get hurt. It just happens very quietly after a bit of forgettable and short-lived upheaval. This is mainly true for the less developed economies where the gap between the rich and poor is ever increasing.
“Values by themselves are mere words, or symbols until backed by empowerment, but the same values, sharpened by the ideological conflict in a democracy, empower those who know how to lead,” says James Mac Gregor Burns. In the case of India, those who have led the battle are its people and civil society. Unfortunately, Modi has managed the crisis ineptly and clumsily. His demagoguery must be recognized, understood, and admitted by his followers and BJP. Otherwise, the same old saga of distress of ‘how a democracy went wrong’ would continue.
 ROY, A. R. U. N. D. H. A. T. I. (2019). END OF IMAGINATION. Place of publication not identified: HAYMARKET DOYMA.
 Roy, A. (2012). The shape of the beast: Conversations with Arundhati Roy.
 Burns, J. M. G. (2018). Transforming Leadership.
 Posner, E. A. (2020). The demagogue’s playbook: The battle for American democracy from the founders to Trump.