Why is India Unlocking in a Hurry? We Risk a Catastrophic Third Wave Unless We Learn from the Past.
India is opening up, and how!! Right from Unlocks that open up all sectors of the economy to permitting large congregations for religious festivals, and allowing weddings and other social activities, there is nothing left untouched by what I call The Great Unlock. Indeed, it is hard to remember that the country was in the grip of a vicious and brutal Second Wave of Covid Infections just a Month ago and that the system came close to collapse.
It is also harder to fathom how the Central and especially the State governments can feel so blase about ignoring the risks associated with opening up and so oblivious to the dangers lurking ahead. It looks as though the authorities have embarked on their version of Revenge Unlocking, to paraphrase the term Revenge Tourism, which describes tourists flocking to resorts and other holiday spots in large numbers, just for kicks after being confined to their homes.
While this gung-ho attitude is not limited to India, with the United Kingdom being a case in point, there are some specific characteristics to do with India that need mentioning. For one, India is a country of Teeming Millions and sans Herd Immunity, it risks a catastrophic Third Wave as the hordes of masses can turn superspreaders in no time. Next, with Vaccination Rates being abysmally low, when compared to Western standards, India is inviting disaster through its reckless approach to the Great Unlock. Third, there is widespread skepticism about the official statistics related to Infection Counts, Mortality Figures, and even Testing rates and this means that the Third Wave might be already upon us.
On the other hand, even the otherwise cautious experts seem to be egging on the governments to open up, though they were the ones who were predicting doomsday only a month or so ago. What is even more baffling is the overall smugness and complacency that has set in among Those Who Matter as far as Unlocking is concerned. Perhaps it is now up to the notoriously Hyper Ventilating Media to play Devil’s Advocate, so that there is some prudence about the whole thing. Indeed, the images of crowded markets, choked roads, and overflowing public transport should heighten the sense of alarm and dread that is needed at a time when there are no proper preparations for the Third Wave.
While it is no-one’s case that India should not Open Up, given the prioritization of livelihoods in a poor country, at the same time, such carelessness can be counterproductive given the dismal and disastrous way in which the Second Wave was handled. Do we need viral social media messages of people dying on the streets, waiting for treatment, to jolt us out of our senses, or do we have to bear witness to desperate scrambles for everything from medicines to Oxygen cylinders to Hospital Beds? Are we so hooked to Fear Porn that only doom and gloom mongering can make us act or at least be aware of the dangers. And, wouldn’t that be Too Late?
Last, without sounding alarmist, one needs to make a case for more sanity and rationality in the way we approach the opening up of the country. There must be Graded Unlocks and that too correlating with the Vaccination Rates and the Hospital Situations. Unless we adopt a Scientific approach to Unlocking the country, the Third Wave would surely be a matter of time, and this time around, any excuses would be unpardonable. This is more the reason why I am cautioning the Powers That Be that History Tends to Repeat Itself, especially when the Lessons of the Past are forgotten. May some sense prevail in the Rush to Unlock.