Are we doing well?
By Vivek Pattanayak*
When the national lockdown was peremptorily announced in India with four hours of notice, the cases under Covid 19 were modest. Now after more than a month and half, the figures have increased substantially although we are still under China. Although some sections of electronic and print media are taking every opportunity to paint the picture of optimism by making comparisons with other countries, there is no ground of complacency. While we have created more of hospital facilities, increased stock of personalized protection equipment (PPEs), sanitizers, masks, oxygen supply, ventilators and increased testing, the risk of community transmission has not perhaps vanished particularly with the movement of migrant workers by trucks and trains, and airlifting of non-resident Indians coming from the Middle East and UK etc. One must give credit to the State governments especially Odisha and Kerala who have made advanced arrangements for quarantine facilities. More importantly the redeeming feature now is the central political leadership has started consulting the State leaderships on a regular basis apart from close coordination between the State and central government functionaries. Undoubtedly, the doctors, nurses, and other hospital and medical staff along with civil servants, para-military force, policemen and media fraternity by providing exemplary support service have shown their marvellous sense of duty. They are the brave soldiers of the war for whom the whole nation should be proud of.
Although the politicians at the national level and State level are conspicuous by their absence at the operational level and from media glare, the grass root public men and officials are doing a splendid job. Although political rumbling is finding its undesirable expression sometime bordering on one-upmanship and certain sections of media understandably adding fuel to this uncalled-for fire, the encouraging news is that there is an atmosphere of cooperation generally.
Darker side of this lockdown was pathetic conditions of migrant workers. Their long march reflected utter callousness of the authorities both at the centre and the State to give much needed succour giving them food ,arranging shelters or transport to take them to their villages or places from where they began their marathon journey. It is most unfortunate that although there is so much of talk of nationalism at every other time, but it was singularly missing at the most crucial time. All of them are Indians no matter where they hailed from, whether Odisha, Jharkhand or Chhattisgarh or whether they worked in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Punjab. They are all the citizens of India and human beings of the modern human society. Did they receive the protection of their rights as citizens or as human beings? Do not they enjoy right to life and right to freedom both being fundamental rights under the Constitution of India. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also cover these hapless people. We are reminded of phrase “the world is one family”. Do not these forgotten people come under that family?
Was it not the responsibility of the State governments where they were working and central government and other functionaries of the sovereign state to come to their rescue? The most surprising was the controversy over as to who would meet the cost, when any amount of money can be spent on publicity and stunts. What could have been worse tragedy than when they were run over by the goods train. Will not the political class and governing echelon soon run the risk of losing credibility already dented?
Economies have been wrecked by a long period of lockdown. This is the situation globally, not special to India. We have been persuaded by the thought a few days back that this is the opportune time to concentrate on exiting industries from China to bring them to India. Hence labour laws should be suspended, and land bank should be created. Now there is advocacy for self-reliance which has been an idea which can be traced back to the early days of independence. While making every effort to reconstruct the economy one should reflect on what has been the level of our success under the much publicized “Make in India” endeavour and then what has been the cause of high level of unemployment before the Corona crisis? One pertinent question should also be asked to the captains of the Indian industry as to how far have they gone to make tangible investments under Make in India, Start Up India, Stand Up India, Digital India, Clean India etc.?
Generous monetary measures announced by the Central bank followed by the government’s stimulus packages announced earlier have now been further buttressed by recent ten lakh crore massive bonanza. This is intended to cover MSME sector, infrastructure, technology and a host of other areas. Now an important question also arises is there is a climate of confidence in the bureaucracy and banking sector for decision-making. Will there be no fear? Scams, scandals, media glare, audit, investigations, incarceration and finally policy paralysis had all followed financial crisis of 2008. Will they not haunt public functionaries?
One should also introspect as to whether we were all adequately prepared to cope with the pandemic declared since the end of January. Was this gargantuan lockdown avoidable? Was there any transparency in our plan of action? Is anybody accountable? Or is it business as usual?
*The author is a former bureaucrat and held important positions in aviation and power regulatory body. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.