The second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic is still raging. Experts are already signalling towards possible signs of a third wave. Amidst it all, the black fungus disease has also surfaced. With the economy in shambles, not only has poverty and unemployment increased but people are faced with crises engulfing them from all quarters. For weeks, the country looked like it had no leadership. Supplies of essential medicines and medical oxygen ran out in several places. Health workers had no idea who to raise the issues to. Even though state governments have the responsibility of health, the Centre has an important role to play in co-ordinating these efforts. The import and supply of vaccines and oxygen have been monopolised by the Centre. And then, they practically disappeared. It is responding to these criticisms that the Prime Minister did hold talks - one with states' Chief Ministers and health workers, and the other with the health workers of Varanasi, the Prime Minister's constituency. Both were online meetings. In the second one, he shed tears over those who succumbed to the disease, garnering much media attention. It is the apprehensions and rage against the negligence of the government that came out as criticisms alleging that his tears were not genuine. At the same time, the people are now prompted to watch whether the genuineness of the tears will lead to necessary corrections and improved plans and actions on tackling the situation at hand.
One of the government's failures is wilfully making democratic processes and structures inactive. Democratic deliberations and planning are required to decide how to mobilize, utilise and prioritise the resources at the country's disposal. One of the major failings of Modi governance is lack of space for such consultations. From demonetisation to the COVID lockdowns, and the citizenship, farm and Kashmir laws to the Central Vista construction, this anti-people thrusting of positions has been much in display. Even with such a majority in the Parliament, the fact that discussions are not happening there must only be because of the decision to have democracy be subject to the dictatorial will of the leadership. It is not just discussions, but the spirit and the rules of the constitution that are being violated.
When the pandemic started showing its true form, the country and its government were taken aback not because the country was facing such a situation for the first time, as Modi had suggested, but rather because the democratic governing system was paralysed. In this scenario, that some states, which did not have the economic strength of the Centre, took forward Covid, defence is indeed a good lesson.
Federalism is a strength of the nation. The prime minister's two latest meetings also fell short of being in line with this federalism. While it is not illegal for the PM to hold meetings directly with collectors and other officials bypassing the state government, it sets a bad precedent. The state leaderships were not heard properly either, which was why the West Bengal CM alleged that such meetings were a 'super flop', and the state ministers were invited just to be insulted as spectators. Jharkhand CM Shibu Soren called these meetings 'monologues like the Man-ki-Baat.' Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray had also stated earlier that the Centre and the PM were not available to discuss the COVID situation. On another subject, i.e education, Tamil Nadu, citing federal interests,did not send anyone for the meeting called by the Union Education Minister for all states' officials. The huge amount being spent on the Central Vista, the ethics surrounding it, or the several rules being flouted for it are not signs of clean administration or efficiency of governance. Only when these are fixed will the tears the PM sheds have some meaning.