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Coronavirus Or Lockdown

Coronavirus Or Lockdown

Corona is the most often used word today. Our internal and external dialogues are all about Corona, be it the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Radio, Television, the educationists, social activists, religious leaders, politicians, our friends and our families. The Hindu newspaper of Delhi edition carried the headline in its first page on 19 May 2020: “India’s virus tally crosses 1 lakh; fatality count mounts to 3,157”. The Table in the same report mentioned the list of 15 countries with more than 1000 average cases a day between the period May 11 and 17. The other details shown in the Table are doubling time, tests per positive case in mid-May and change since mid-April. The first country is US having 22,500 as the average new cases. The fourth country is India where the average number of new cases everyday since May 11 has gone up to 4,077, while the average number of fatalities per day for the period is 115. Our neighbouring countries Pakistan and Bangladesh showed low numbers like 1,402 and 1,087 respectively. As on 21 May the global statistics are: 5 million infected and 330,000 deaths; In India: 113,000 infected and 3,500 deaths. According to social activists and medical fraternity the number will keep on increasing everyday irrespective of lockdown or no lockdown.      

When Covid-19 started spreading in China in December 2019 the Union government in India never bothered. In spite of the caution by World Health Organization the health minister assured the people saying that the spread of the deadly virus was not a health emergency. From the time the news about the spread of Coronavirus reached India in December, travelers arriving India from January were not thoroughly checked and quarantined. Whom to blame?

Amid the spread of the deadly virus a mega event named “Namasthe Trump” was organized in Gujarat where more than 2 lakh people gathered and in Delhi where the president and most of the parliamentarians and government officials were present. There was no scarcity for “touching, embracing and handshaking” during the events in Gujarat and Delhi. The virus spread from whom to whom? Since the federal government never took the spread of Covid-19 seriously, they never had an all-party consultation to face the crisis. Even when the one-day Janta Curfew was announced, nobody had realized the seriousness of the situation. No preparatory plan or scheme was announced except the clapping, ringing bell and beating plates. The federal and some state governments placed order for Rapid Testing Kits from China after ICMR certified the quality of the kits. When the kits arrived and were used, it was found that the kits were not of good quality and reliable. Hence ICMR asked the states to return all the kits to China. In the name of conducting tests, the medical staffs have played with the precious lives of the people using the sub-standard testing kits. Whom to blame?

National lockdown was announced from midnight of March 24 in a ‘hurried manner’ without foreseeing its negative impacts on the marginal farmers, small scale business, students, migrant labourers, those living below poverty line and the nation’s economy. Now the lockdown has been extended until 31 May. Professor Michael Levitt, who teaches structural biology at Stanford University Medical School, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is obviously a serious scientist. Regarding Covid-19 pandemic he said, “There is no doubt in my mind that when we come to look back on this, the damage done by lockdown will exceed any saving of lives by a huge factor. The lockdown in other words, is killing and will kill more people than the virus. And that’s just talking about the damage in terms of death. The damage in terms of life is beyond belief. There are tens and millions of people who are out of work. See, the elites do not lose their jobs. They have contempt for the people demanding that states open up. It is a very big crisis in the world created by experts”.

He further said, “Remember that the experts have destroyed the lives of hundreds of millions of people – not the virus! That is key to remember. The human tragedy today is the lockdown and not the virus. And the politicians who believed in them like the Prime Minister of India, a country of 135 million people. The death rate is low here while compared to other developed countries. Yet he locked down his country. Do you know how many people are on the verge of starvation now there? Friends who differ must respond to what I have said. Is the misery on earth today overwhelmingly caused by lockdown or the coronavirus? This is the ultimate question. We know the answer. The only question is: Do we have the courage to face it?”

There is also another interesting Facebook information by Nandhini Anandan. “What is the plan of Modi behind Covid-19? To project himself as the supreme world leader; To usher in dictatorship rule; To blame coronavirus for the economic disaster; To stop people’s agitations in the name of social distancing; To push 80 percent of the population to the status of beggars; To weaken the people’s will power by making them become sick; To help pharmaceutical mafia to loot the people; To snatch away all the legal rights of the workers; To reduce the employment opportunities by retrenchments; To open of the liquor shops, swindle the hard-earned money of the poor people and destroy the family systems among them; To help the corporates to capture the poor people’s settlements in cities; To loot people’s land and gold ornaments by creating economic crisis; To take revenge on the opposition parties by blocking all their pro-active initiatives; To become a junior rowdy by joining hands with the senior rowdy (US)”.           

Two more heart-melting messages: In Tamil Nadu a daily-wage labour woman is beaten up by his alcohol addicted husband. The woman says, “The Supreme Court has permitted the liquor shops to open without bothering about the subsequent domestic violence on women. Ask the Supreme Court to give permission to open ‘red light areas’ where women can sell their bodies and give the money to their husbands. What men need is their selfish enjoyment. What the government needs is money. Who is bothered about the dignity of women?”

A 15-year old girl who was walking on the national highway in north India, with a heavy luggage on her head, spoke to the media: “My family did not migrate to city in search of luxury and comforts. We wanted to work and earn our daily food. Today we are unable to go back to our own village. Instead of begging from the government we decided to go walking. We are determined to continue our journey even if we die on the way. You media people, do not project us in a bad manner. Tell the country that we decided to die with self-respect. Today the country is wealthy but we are forced to live in poverty and die of starvation”.           

Can all countries blame China for spreading the deadly virus?
Can the federal government blame the state governments?
Can the government blame the medical fraternity?
Can the government blame one particular religious community?
Can one religion blame another religion?
Can all of us blame God for sending this pandemic to this world as a punishment?
Can all of us take the blame on ourselves?

This list can go on endlessly.

Will any one come forward to take the blame? We need to wait and see.

The one important lesson that we in India have learnt is: Lockdown has caused irreparable damages to the lives of the people, especially, middle, lower middle and those living below poverty line. It has also damaged the social, economic, religious and political systems to a very great extent. For the vast majority of the people (above mentioned categories) there are only two options left. One option is: survival by hook or crook, facing all types of hardships. The other option is: starvation death at any time. There is no middle path. Shall we survive or die? The choice is ours.

(Published on 25th May 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 22)