When can we return to a normal world where we greet friends and family with handshakes and hugs? Normalcy is now a distant memory. As is a responsive and people centric government which too is becoming a pixelated part of our collective consciousness. While we process how the world and India in particular descended into this quagmire, the end of the crisis is not in sight either. Not even in the distant future. After all, the economic wreckage the pandemic will leave behind will be another crisis which India will have to overcome.
To overcome a crisis, it is imperative to first understand it, identify the solution, acquire the resources to implement the solution and to finally execute it methodically. Unfortunately, the priorities of the government lie elsewhere, and that is why it so often fails to even comprehend the problems India faces.
India’s tragedy is that despite the incumbent government enjoying a full majority, there is a crippling policy paralysis. The deadly concoction of ignorance and arrogance pervades all levels of the government. In fact, the malaise originates in the highest echelons of the government which is severed from both reality and reason. What else explains the premature self-congratulation that the Prime Minister indulged in January claiming that he successfully defeated the pandemic? How else do we understand the BJP passing a resolution in February thanking Narendra Modi for ‘defeating Covid-19’?
While the world was busy formulating vaccine procurement and distributing strategies, the government had requested the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to investigate whether Ganga-Jal could be a cure for Corona. Meanwhile several BJP leaders including some ministers repeatedly claimed that cow urine could cure Covid. Parallelly the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19, cloaked the government’s complacence in trite and deceptively proactive sounding words like, ‘conceptualization and implementation mechanisms for creation of a digital infrastructure for inventory management and delivery mechanism of the vaccine including tracking of vaccination process with particular focus on last mile delivery’.
The government’s fetish for the word ‘digital’, which it seeks to peddle as a panacea for everything from corruption to contagion made it blind to the challenges of vaccinating a country of 130 crore people with an acute digital divide. There was no attempt made to seek the counsel of the opposition and benefit from collective wisdom. Instead, the government deepened its fealty to spurious nationalism. Blinded by vaccine nationalism, the government ironically bragged at the UN that it had exported more vaccines than it administered to Indians.
With no respite in sight, and a complete lockdown not being an option for a shattered economy, the BJP must swallow its ego and chalk out a plan to ensure free and universal vaccination for all Indians at the earliest.
While Union minister Prakash Javdekar has announced that all Indians will be vaccinated by the end of this year, the BJP government suffers from a crisis of credibility. Any announcements made by the government may be treated as a ‘Jumla’ intended to shield it from facing accountability. From demonetization—which destroyed the economy—to the failed response to the pandemic, the BJP government has never accepted its mistakes or accountability. It is now clear as day that the BJP’s model is ‘minimum governance and maximum complacence’!
If the government is truly serious about its plan to vaccinate all Indians by December-end, it must convene a special session of the parliament and make the announcement on the floor of the house. A joint parliamentary committee must also be formed to investigate the lapses in strategy and policies of the government in dealing with the pandemic. The people too must question the government, and demand answers from it, rather than suffering silently.