The second wave of coronavirus is wreaking havoc in India. It has killed more people in 2021 than it did last year. The country has been caught off guard by the outbreak's rapid revival, despite apparent progress in suppressing it last year. So, what went wrong? To find out, the Business Standard has collected some of the excerpts written by Indian intellectuals in various newspapers.
The system hasn't collapsed. The government has failed
Arundhati Roy, The Guardian
It's hard to convey the full depth and range of the trauma, the chaos and the indignity that people are being subjected to. Meanwhile, Modi and his allies are telling us not to complain. As this epic catastrophe plays out on our Modi-aligned Indian television channels, you'll notice how they all speak in one tutored voice. The "system" has collapsed, they say, again and again. The virus has overwhelmed India's health care "system".
The system has not collapsed. The "system" barely existed. The government – this one, as well as the Congress government that preceded it – deliberately dismantled what little medical infrastructure there was. This is what happens when a pandemic hits a country with an almost nonexistent public healthcare system. The system hasn't collapsed. The government has failed.
I was premature in congratulating the country
Shashi Tharoor, Los Angeles Times
It is humbling when a writer must retract his words. Less than two months ago, after India rushed millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries, I praised the country's "vaccine diplomacy." India's aspirations to be recognised as a global power had been given a real boost. But now, with more than 300,000 new cases a day and the death toll very likely much higher than reported, India is no one's idea of a global leader.
No surprise, the initial lockdown was mismanaged. State governments, the public and even central government officials were caught unprepared. Like India's government, I was premature in congratulating the country on its vaccine diplomacy. At a time when Indians were unable to access the vaccines that might have protected them, India's "Vaccine Maitri" program was not smart, but hubristic.
This may be the gravest crisis the nation has faced since Partition
Ramachandra Guha, Scroll.in
In the year that the nation has been at war with the virus, the personality cult of the prime minister has steadily expanded, while the government's approach towards the Opposition has become ever more confrontational. Moreover, the pandemic and its successive waves have come on the back of a flailing economy and a fragile social fabric. This may indeed be the gravest crisis the nation has faced since Partition. More than ever before, we need a government that learns to listen, that listens to learn, that can bring itself to act in the interests not of one party or one religion, and most emphatically not in the interests of one Leader alone. On when, and whether, we can get such a government the future of the Republic may rest.
An invisible virus has punctured the bubble of our pretensions
Karan Thapar, Deccan Chronicle
It wasn't so long ago that we convinced ourselves we are a superpower or, at least, one that's definitely in the making. The RSS was convinced this was because we are a Hindu majority nation. The BJP was more specific. It was because of Narendra Modi.
Well, an invisible virus has punctured the bubble of our pretensions. As Covid-19 increases by nearly 400,000 cases a day -- mathematically projected to possibly reach a million a day in two weeks' time -- our friends have shut their doors on us. From Paris to Hong Kong, Canberra to Dubai, flights from India have been barred. Meanwhile, our "enemies" are reaching out. China has offered assistance. Charities in Pakistan were the first to write to our PM. Days later Imran Khan tweeted his offer to help. This is, of course, kindness but it's likely to rattle the government.
Tackling a social calamity is not like fighting a war
Amartya Sen, The Indian Express
Tackling a social calamity is not like fighting a war which works best when a leader can use top-down power to order everyone to do what the leader wants — with no need for consultation. In contrast, what is needed for dealing with a social calamity is participatory governance and alert public discussion.
Listening is central in the government's task of preventing social calamity — hearing what the problems are, where exactly they have hit, and how they affect the victims. Rather than muzzling the media and threatening dissenters with punitive measures (and remaining politically unchallenged), governance can be greatly helped by informed public discussion. Overcoming a pandemic may look like fighting a war, but the real need is far from that.