The Coronavirus is spreading in India like a wild fire. India is the third country in the world in the number of Coronavirus infected persons. Three democratic countries – the United States, Brazil, and India – are among the top five in the world in the infections league table. By July 25, the number of infected in India has reached almost 13 lakhs and the death toll was about 30,000. Hospitals are overflowing with Corona infected patients and in many places patients do not get a bed. Some state governments appear to be helpless and clueless. “Only God can save us from the highly contagious disease”, said the Karnataka health minister on 16th July.
The economy is crashing, leading to loss of job to millions of people. India is set to lose around 130 million jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and 40% of those would be blue-collar jobs, says a report by Global Consultants. The strictly imposed lockdown took away the livelihood of lakhs of people. This is the time when people desperately look towards the government for their safety and livelihood. This also the time for the elected representatives of the people to demonstrate that democracy is a government for the people. Angela Merkel of Germany and Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand have proved that their governments are for the people through their proactive and people oriented approach.
It appears that our political leaders, irrespective of party affiliations, are becoming insensitive and they are indulging in character assassination and mudslinging of each other even during a huge crisis caused by the pandemic Covid 19. The drama that has been enacted on the political stage of Rajasthan for about a fortnight exposes the callousness both of the ruling Congress party and the opposition BJP that is behind the toppling game by taking advantage of the rift between the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. The recent raid of the house of Ashok Gehlot’s brother by the Income Tax department is a clear indication of the involvement of the BJP in the toppling game.
An overambitious Pilot has no patience to wait for some more time to sit on the chair of the Chief Minister. His revolt against the Chief Minister at a time, when the whole attention of the government is to be focused on tackling the Covid 19 pandemic, shows his utter insensitivity towards his people.
The failure of the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to accommodate the young leader and thereby precipitate a political crisis is also lack of sensitivity. His personal attack on Sachin calling him nikamma, nakara (worthless person) is a new low in the political discourse. His government has been on a fire fighting mode to save itself when it is expected to fight the Coronavirus. This is a grave injustice to the people who have elected the party to power. Rajasthan had more than 30,000 confirmed cases on 23rd July. More than 16 lakh migrant workers who have returned to the state are in need of employment as well as livelihood. If our political leaders are conscious of their responsibility to the people, they would not have indulged in power struggle and hara-kiri at this juncture.
The BJP with the support of the Congress rebel Jyotiraditya Scindia toppled the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh in the month of March when the Kamalnath led Congress government was struggling to contain the spread of Covid 19. The political ambition of “maharaj” combined with the craftiness of the BJP to recapture power resulted in the toppling of the one and half year old Congress government. The power struggle between the Scindia group and Shivraj group within the BJP delayed the formation of a full pledged ministry for 100 days after the Chief Minister took oath. It took another four days for the allocation of portfolios to the ministers. The whole energy of the political leadership was focused on conflict resolution within the party apparatus rather than on governess. The BJP that came to power at the Centre promising good governance has conveniently put governance on backburner for the sake of capturing power.
Ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014 it has been in election mode and engaged in toppling state governments in the opposition ruled states. With power and money at its disposal in abundance, it could easily buy MLAs. After capturing the governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh its eye is on Rajasthan. Exponential increase in Coronavirus cases in the country doesn’t seem to be a serious issue for the party. The Prime Minister, who encouraged the people to clap and light candles to honour the Corona warriors (health care workers) at the beginning of the spread of Covid 19, doesn’t speak much about it now, when the virus has infected about 12 lakh people. The Central government that tried to control the states at the initial period seems to have now left it to the state governments to fight the pandemic. The Union government’s attitude towards the lakhs of migrant labourers walking hundreds of kilometres to their home states exposed its insensitivity.
The main subject for the spokespersons of the BJP is allegations against the opposition party leaders, particularly the Congress and those who criticize the BJP governments. The shadow of Covid 19 was made use for targeting those who opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act. Women leaders of anti-CCA protests in Delhi were arrested, being accused of fomenting violence. With access to the courts being restricted and with no possibility of citizens mobilising to protest these vindictive arrests, the Delhi Police, which is directly under the Union Home Ministry, used the lockdown to take revenge against the protestors. In order to hide its failures in tackling Covid 19 and responding to the intrusions by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) at the Indo-China border the BJP has adopted a policy of attacking the Congress, especially the Nehru- Gandhi family.
Many religious leaders in India seem to be more concerned about opening the worship centres and resuming the rituals than the safety and wellbeing of the people. Despite the phenomenal increase in the Coronavirus infected people the main concern of many religious leaders is opening the worship centres and gathering people for religious ceremonies. They know that any gathering of people is full of risk and should be avoided in the present scenario. Still their self interest motivates them to gather people for religious rituals. It simply shows their insensitivity or lack of compassion which is supposed to be the core of any religion.
Many political leaders, irrespective of their party affiliations, collude with the religious leaders in organizing religious programmes, risking the lives of many people who take part in these programmes. Even during the unprecedented spread of Covid 19 there is no decline in using religion for political mobilization. Why do the politicians and religious leaders come together for religious programmes at the peak of coronavirus infection? For them, their vested interests and hidden agenda are more precious than the lives of people. Hence they are not able to see God in the human persons, even though almost all religions teach that God’s presence is primarily in the human persons.
In a democracy the rulers are the elected representatives of the people and they are accountable to the people. The politicians will always have a tendency to limit democracy to election which nowadays is won mainly on the strength money and mussel. Democracy becomes alive and relevant only when people ask questions to their elected representatives and make them accountable. It is the responsibility of the people to make the political leaders accountable by asking them questions. If the people become brainwashed or intoxicated with religion or caste or regionalism, they will not be able to question their representatives. Politicians will always try to intoxicate people with the drug of religion or caste or regionalism. Here comes the role of education.
Against this backdrop the definition of education given by Swami Vivekananda is pertinent. Swamiji says, “We need an education that builds character, increases strength of mind, expands intellect and equips a person to stand on his/her own feet”. According to Swami Vivekanda, one of the goals of education is expanding intellect. It means the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong and make right choices in life. It also means critical thinking. If people develop critical thinking they will not be brainwashed. A person of critical thinking will not follow anyone blindly or indulge in hero worship. Definitely a person of critical thinking will take inspiration from great leaders and saints and learn from them, but will not follow anyone blindly.
Unfortunately, in our country education is being reduced to a means for getting a lucrative job and earning money. That is why the so called highly educated persons are easily brainwashed by the crafty politicians and fraudulent religious leaders. Even when the leaders become highly insensitive to the people, the brainwashed persons are unable to discern their insensitivity and inhumanity. Developing critical thinking in the people and asking questions to the political leaders are the only way to make the leaders sensitive and responsive to the needs of the people.
(email@example.com)(Published on 27th July 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 31)