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The unexpected lethal Covid-second wave caught India napping complacently after the first wave’s containment. This double-mutant coronavirus has struck like a bolt from the blue. Though this tsunami took the lives of the most vulnerable, the number that escaped from the jaws of death is, in comparison, far greater. However, precious lives lost cannot be estimated in terms of numbers.
Many in the opposition are holding the power at the Centre accountable for this devastation. The critics of the Prime Minister started to strike with cudgels. The wave is still on, but the blame game started too early. During the first phase of Covid-19, the Government at the Centre acted very swiftly in its planning and execution for containing the loss of lives at the expense of the country’s economy. The second wave of the virus is a shocker to the Centre and to State governments, as well as to people at large. For, after the apparent victory over Covid-19 in the first phase (in spite of the warnings from top epidemiologists that people could fall like flies) most became complacent. “Indian exceptionalism” was extolled within the country and outside by other countries.
The Prime Minister from time to time warned the population to follow the Covid-Protocols: masking, social distancing, maintaining healthy lifestyles etc. It is pertinent to recall that soon after the first wave receded, many panicked citizens did not resume their regular activities. So, some State Chief Ministers appealed to them to come out freely to work. They also assured them that the coronavirus was like any other flu virus and that one needed not to get scared. Once the fear was dispelled, people started exercising their freedom, as they had done earlier.
As in most other countries, in India too the vaccination drive started phase-wise. First with health workers, then with the elderly and people with co-morbidities. But these categories of people were also hesitant to take the vaccine, as they felt that the pandemic was nowhere around. Some of the educated and well-aware sections too were sceptical about the vaccination due to blood-clot issues that arose in European countries and elsewhere. Then the virulent second wave made people throng vaccination centres, resulting in shortages. These hiccups have given the opposition weapons to go on the offensive. The double-mutant strain of the coronavirus (an Indian variant plus the U.K stain) has symptoms that are different from others.
In the second wave, more and more people are gasping for oxygen. This phenomenon was not observed in the first wave. The Government is making all-out efforts. Many other nations are also helping. Voluntary organisations and NGOs are trying their best. Yet the needs are often not meeting the expectations. However, the opposition is arguing that the Government did not devise a proper plan of action for the second wave; it conducted election rallies, allowed the Kumbh Mela to take place etc…These are all 20/20 hindsight.
During the election rallies, not only the people but political leaders of high stature also risked their lives, without realizing the novel intensity of the virus mutant. Similarly, the Kumbh Mela is a major religious festival. Faith is paramount to many in India and it would have been difficult for any government to ban such a traditional celebration at a time when the sanitary situation appeared to be under control, after one year of restrictions and emergency measures which had direly affected much of the population. Cancelling elections would have been widely interpreted as a high-handed affront to democracy.
Unlike the former U.S. President, Narendra Modi never called Covid-19 a hoax and did not rail against masks or cast doubt about vaccines. Yet, the opposition and foreign media are fond of making parallels between the Indian Prime Minister, former President Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil.
Even when actions taken by leaders are guided by good intentions, the opposition never goes by ‘intent’. It assesses the ‘consequence’ of the actions. The opposition after seeing the havoc created by the second wave, going by consequences, asks questions as to why many more brands of vaccines were not released. Even, Vaccine-Maitri (i.e.; supplying vaccine to neighbouring countries as a goodwill gesture), is now being found faulty by opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The intent of Vaccine-Maitri is good. Going by successive mutant virus attacks, one cannot judge the policy to be wrong. If it was wrong, why was it hailed by many diplomats and politicians from all sides within the country, when it was initiated? Even the WTO praised India for helping other countries.
The opposition parties and journalists always castigate the Government for the implications of its decisions. They think, “reason/reasoning” and questioning is their preserve. But they must know “reason” is a double-edged tool. The Government. has its reasons too. Eventually, the Prime Minister will answer the charges laid against him befittingly.