It was on 6 March 2020 that researchers at the Imperial College University of London gave a warning about the intensity of the spread of corona virus in America. The essence of the report submitted by the research team to President Donald Trump, was that if no immediate steps were taken to prevent the virus, including means like lockdown, a minimum of a million people would die of the disease. Trump, given to conspiracy theories and anti-science stances not only refused to take that report seriously, but even publicly ridiculed those researchers. His rationale went along the lines that the previous year 37,000 people had died of flu when nobody had demanded lockdown. The fact that at that time a mere 14 people had died from Covid, may have prompted the President to take it lightly. But within a month, the entire picture of his country changed: the death toll crossed 12,000 and only when cities including New York had become hotspots of disease spread and death, did Trump get seized of the gravity of the situation. It took the the biggest economic power of the world several months thence to bring the virus under control at least to some extent. One year since then, the number of Covid deaths in the US is close to six lakhs. Had that report been taken seriously with consequent action, history would have been different.
In the second phase of Covid, a similar story is being heard from India. If the valley of death then was New York, now it is places like Delhi, Surat and Lucknow. The world is marking the country for its tragic spectacles of rows of funeral pyres, and half alive people making a beeline for a moment of breath. For a few days in succession, the number of Covid-affected patients has been recorded at over three lakhs. The total deaths has also crossed two lakhs. For one thing, this is also a time to ponder why the country has come face to face with such a terrifying health crisis with a second wave of the virus - which had almost been brought under control. When most countries of the world put to scientific use the preventive technology including the vaccines, which had been developed over the period of a year, the central government was focusing on making them the means of its own populist politics. Despite being in possession of a notable vaccine, the Centre's attempt was not to distribute it among the people in a calibrated manner; on the other hand it tried to export it to the world to pose as supplier of vaccine to the world as if everything was hunky-dory domestically. Add to it, the government also allowed the export of a good portion of the vaccine in stock, and left the remainder of it entirely to the market. The reason for shortage of oxygen is no different. By now figures are out of the quantity of oxygen exported to other countries in the last few months. Then, if even after this the Modi government is not prepared to retract from its policy, it will not be due to lack of conviction. There can only be one reason for this apathy and silence and that is the ideology of hatred that guides him and his coterie.
Be it the pandemic or hunger, the fascist regime of Modi can follow only the preventive measures of Hindutva. And the country is now paying a heavy price for the resort to prevention by such an ideology of division and hatred. Any humanitarian and scientific concepts beyond that is anathema to them. When at the beginning of Covid, lockdown was imposed in an indiscriminate and unscrupulous manner, the government also had an ulterior motive of demolishing the Shaheen Bagh protest tents that were active then against the Citizenship Amendment Law (CAA). As soon as Covid showed signs of retreat came Amit Shah's statement that the CAA would be implemented soon. And Covid was no bar for the government to take up other items of its divisive agenda such as the Ram temple construction. It may be recalled that it was about the same time that several studies had come out that the country was falling into unemployment and poverty. It has become clear each day that the Modi school has no other weapon than the strategy of whipping up frenzied nationalism with such designs to take on the pressing issues of the people. But none of these sentiments incited by Hindutva will wipe off the starvation of the nation, nor supply any oxygen to the people. For that to happen, there needs to be a government with efficiency and due regard for democracy. And there is no point in expecting it from the champions of Hinduism, who have seized upon this phase of pandemic too as a golden opportunity to usurp even the democratic rights that remain.