Six months have passed since the country's lockdown declaration to prevent Covid pandemic which engulfed world. When prime minister Narendra Modi on 24 March declared a 21-day lockdown for the country, the number of Covid cases recorded was just above 600, and deaths below ten. Now the number of patients has crossed 58 lakh and death 92,000. So devastating has been the jolt by the virus during the lockdown period so far. In spite of the lifting of lockdown in phases, and the introduction of packages running into lakhs of crores of packages by the prime minister and the finance minister, reports emerging each day suggest that the country has not been able to mitigate the economic and social damage inflicted by the pandemic. Although health workers are building a fortress of prevention with utmost dedication, the inability hitherto to develop a vaccine is standing in the way of effective disease prevention. Due to hunger and job losses resulting largely from lack of planning and failure of authorities, people are being forced to shed caution and thus the spread of disease tends registers increase. The words during the prime minister's address to the nation on 24 March seem to have made an eerily prophetic impact: " To break the transmission cycle of the virus, at least 21 days are required. If we are not able to tackle it within 21 days, the country will go back by 21 years." The crash in the stock market to the tune of Rs 11.3 lakh crore over the last six days speak for the bleakness of the country' economic prognosis.
What let us down completely is the fact that Covid prevention endeavours got reduced to mere optics aiming at image boosting. What can be more shameful than the fact that the recognition received from the world for the blunders of our government is an Ig Nobel prize! The Centre summarily dismissed the warning by social scientists and economists that the country is facing its biggest crash in the last 41 years, when GDP showed a contraction of 24 per cent and 2.2 crore people lost their jobs between April and August. Factories and commercial centres remained closed. In the unorganized labour sector, reports tell of hunger getting rampant. One study cites a spurt in suicides prompted by mental stress in the last three months. Still, the Centre is inclined to flash the fallacy that the country is making steady progress. The government has not been able to even gather data about the people who lost their jobs and land and while on the long walk back to their homes, died on the way. No further evidence is needed for the Centre's apathy and inaction in real Covid prevention.
Kerala state government, which had performed creditably in Covid prevention, is also accepting defeat now on completion of six months in the endeavour. Disease spread and deaths look ascending to its peak. What failed the government, which had attained initial success is, is not only the slackening of people's vigilance, but it is also because of yielding before the advice of half-baked health experts who blocked the changes in approach as demanded by newly acquired insights about Covid prevention. The chief task before the governments is to ensure care and caution for the aged (when 70 percent of deaths are from the 60-plus age group), and a life culture of living with Covid clubbed with normal life. How this can be achieved, even as we reach Unlock 4.0, is a matter on which, both governments are groping in the dark.