Political 'enlightenment' during the second COVID wavetext_fields
The 'second coming' of COVID has created an alarming health emergency. The daily case increase reported in India for the past few consecutive days has been over two lakhs. As seen about this time last year in the US, Italy and some other countries, some regions of India have now become valleys of death, with scenes of mass cremations everywhere. Any one would easily be convinced that the second coming of the virus, which for sometime was thought to have been tamed, has inflicted a blow more severe than the first. Kerala, which had presented a unique model of COVID prevention in its first wave and won global appreciation for the same, is also in the grip of the second wave, with the state having reached an all-time high in COVID spread. The Test Positivity Rate (TPR) which had once reached a low of four has now shot up three-fold. However, various quarters of the population have now started wondering what the authorities are doing at this critical juncture despite the new surge. Their response is probably prompted by the statements and approaches from some of the leaders in the state.
Although the axiomatic advice on COVID used to be 'caution, not scare', people in Kerala will hardly derive any confidence from that advice. For, it was the very leadership who gave that slogan who have now thrown that caution out of the window for purely political gains. The period of the recent assembly election bore witness to that. As early as in the third week of March, the country had indications of a second wave. And various studies had also warned that when it happens, it would be with greater intensity than the first. Still Kerala, like other poll-holding states, faced the election, ignoring all of them. On March 15, there were 15,510 people confirmed with COVID infection. Ten days thence, it crossed 50,000 - in a clear indication of what was going to come in the following days. Overall, Kerala faced the election disregarding all the warnings given by health experts. Despite having meritorious models, like that of New Zealand, on how elections could be conducted during COVID, none of them was considered. As seen previously, ruling and opposition parties vied with one another with celebratory election campaigns. And violation of COVID protocol became a regular spectacle. When the Election Commission prohibited the conventional political farce of the grand finale of campaigns 48 hours ahead of the polling, there came the new phenomenon of 'road show' involving even the chief minister and opposition leader. What the state is experiencing now is the result of all this. In other words, the second wave of Kerala was an 'election cluster'; and the political leaders became the disease spreaders.
In summary, what the election season proved is that no COVID prevention measures beyond political profiting, will work in the sate. And it was in view of the same political goals that the SSLC and Plus-Two exams had to be postponed. Now as a result, the students are writing their exams in the peak of the pandemic. The surprising thing is that despite matters coming to such a pass, they are not ready for a rethinking. Take the call for trimming the Pooram festival of Thrissur where tens of thousands customarily gather, as done last year, to its minimum rites – a reasonable demand raised in common by the Kerala population. Didn't the leadership turn its face away from that call? Even health minister KK Shailaja seemed to be of the line of letting Pooram take its course. When the tents were pitched for the festival, minister Sunil Kumar was in its forefront. There would be scarcely any one who is not aware that if festivities take place as desired by them, that would definitely become a COVID spreading cluster. But despite that, they were inclined to succumb to the wishes of 'believers' and Pooram advocates. The Opposition was not far behind in this, with their meaningful silence. But the ruling class has no hesitation to do some perfunctory gimmicks pretending ignorance about such big hot spots. The one-day lockdown and other quick fixes attempted now, are unlikely to contribute substantially to real COVID prevention, other than creating bigger public gathering on the following days. And they will only result in inflicting another blow to the people, already reeling under economic crisis. The food 'kit' people used to receive as part of the 'care' in earlier times, has also almost come to a halt. The implicit attitude that the government's responsibility is also over with elections, represents a disgraceful approach. If the status of Kerala's internationally lauded COVID prevention goes along these lines, then the less said the better about Modi's central government. For the moment we can only hold our heads in shame thinking about political leadership including Modi, who arrived at an election campaign rally in West Bengal and complimented the people for the big crowd gathered there!