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Indian leadership : the first victim of Corona pandemic

New Delhi | Welcome to the darkest hour of the democracy in India. If the coronavirus outbreak has taught us anything beyond the necessity of careful hygiene, it’s that the first victim of a pandemic is leadership. At no time in the past 73 years has the country been in more need of a “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” moment; and at no time have Indian leaders so utterly failed to deliver.

Many people blame the coronavirus epidemic on globalization, and say that the only way to prevent more such outbreaks is to de-globalize the world. Build walls, restrict travel, reduce trade. However, while short-term quarantine is essential to stop epidemics, long-term isolationism will lead to economic collapse without offering any real protection against infectious diseases. Just the opposite. The real antidote to epidemic is not segregation, but rather cooperation.

Epidemics killed millions of people long before the current age of globalization. In the 14th century there were no airplanes and cruise ships, and yet the Black Death spread from East Asia to Western Europe in little more than a decade. It killed between 75 million and 200 million people – more than a quarter of the population of Eurasia.

As India grapples with Corona virus, which has been declared as pandemic by WHO,  that has killed at least 140 people and sickened hundreds, the country’s 1.2 billion people are asking what went wrong. Senior officials are engaging in an unusually blunt display of finger pointing. So many officials have denied responsibility that some online users joke that they are watching a passing-the-buck competition.

While, at this crucial time, the country needed leaders, who come forward and make the citizens aware about the pandemic by whatever medium they can, using television, newspapers, social media campaigns; all they have done is almost zero.

Like the virus itself, which scientists have traced to the Chinese city of Wuhan , the prevailing political strategy by Indian leaders, for confronting the crisis was Made in China.

While the PM of the nation, just cancelled his foreign trips, after the outbreak, and just tried to speak to his counterparts from the SAARC nations, very little was done on ground for the preparedness of the spread of the disease. Raising a platform ticket price from Rs. 10 to Rs. 50 can’t be termed as a solution for corona widespread.

Similar is the case with the opposition leaders. While they kept on shifting the goal post, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, did sensibly made few tweets about the impacts of Corona virus, but that was, too little, which can be expected from a leader of opposition leaders.

The story doesn’t end here. There had been leaders as dumb as Suman Haripriya, an elected member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who said that cow urine and cow dung could be used to combat the outbreak. Chakrapani Maharaj, a Hindu leader, told a news site he would be organizing an event to educate people on the use of cow products to fight the disease.

Baba Ramdev, a popular guru, told a television channel that Ayurvedic remedies could be deployed. And a few days ago Yogi Adityanath, the fire-breathing Hindu-nationalist chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, exhorted Indians to practice yoga to overcome stress and stay strong against various diseases, including the coronavirus.

People have come across, and asked a question from themselves, as when the health minister claims of cent percent preparedness of the country about the COVID-19, why is there a scarcity of face masks and sanitizers. Why a stock was not prepared for it, well in advance, why is the government dependent on only few test centres for confirming the cases of COVID-19?

If there’s one leader who should recognize the historic gravitas of the moment and rise to it with stirring rhetoric matched by action, it’s the woman who modeled her political career on Indira Gandhi, her grand daughter Priyanka Gandhi. She did sensibly tried to make people aware about the outbreak of the virus, which showed that she cared about the outbreak.

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