‘Uncaring Govt’: Intellectuals Write to Opposition on Third Wave

The letter was signed by noted scholars, such as historian Romila Thapar and feminist theorist Nivedita Menon.

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A number of noted intellectuals, including feminist theorist Nivedita Menon and historian Romila Thapar, have penned an open letter to the country's Opposition parties, urging them to implore the state and central governments to make ample preparation for the imminent third wave of COVID-19.

The letter conveys the scholars' endorsement of the Opposition parties' suggestions to the Government of India, wherein they urged the Centre to take measures on ‘war footing’.

“It is heartwarming that amid this unprecedented crisis, most political parties are willing to work in a non-partisan manner in the peoples’ interest. Yet, despite the offer to cooperate and work with the Union government, it is shocking that the GoI has neither welcomed the suggestions nor created a truly national task force comprising all parties, state governments, experts and members of the civil society to tackle the unprecedented situation India is facing.”
The open letter

The letter lamented that in the past few weeks, millions of Indians were left scrambling to access basic healthcare services ⎯ hospital beds, ventilators, oxygen, essential medicines, ambulances, hearses, and so on. "The visuals of the deceased lying on roads, floating in rivers and riverbeds has pricked the world’s collective conscience," it added.

The signatories levelled their criticism against the government's tackling of the pandemic, marking discrepancies in vaccination policies and infection containment measures.

“It is very distressing that despite a history of successful mass-vaccination campaigns in the past 70 years, the GoI has outsourced the procurement of vaccines to severely stretched state governments, at differential and exorbitant rates. Likewise, expert advice is repeatedly ignored, while obscurantist, unproven remedies are encouraged. Large rallies and religious congregations were organised, and there was no preparation to enhance the availability of oxygen, vaccines, and beds.”
The open letter

The letter indicated that under the lack of leadership from the government, Indians had to take up the task of helping themselves and others amid despair.

“What is especially nauseating is that amidst this chaos there is an attempt to hide and obfuscate the gravity of the situation while governments harass journalists and citizens for speaking the truth,” the letter read.

The signatories, in light of the several experts' warnings of an even more devastating third wave of COVID in the country, urged the Opposition parties to take adequate measures to prepare for the crisis.

The letter presented several measures for the Opposition parties' consideration.

“If the third wave is as or more intensive and virulent as the current one, many more temporary hospitals, ambulances, oxygen refills/cylinders/concentrators and (additional) food (supply) will be needed. Parties must leverage their connections to stock these in advance, and work with citizen groups to disburse them as and when they are needed.”
The open letter

It also emphasised the need to actualise a free and universal vaccination programme in the country at a steady pace to ameliorate the number of COVID-19 deaths.

"Consultative groups with experts from various sectors can be institutionalised, so they can help all parties and state governments plan for the third wave," the signatories said.

The letter also called for the revamping of public health infrastructure, a cap on medicine prices, and the provision of a financial safety net to those in need.

The signatories suggested that a National Task Force should have been appointed to implement the measures listed. "The bitter reality is that like during the freedom struggle, Indians today face an uncaring and extractive government," the letter stated.

"With their considerable resources financial, organisational and human ⎯ progressive political parties are uniquely placed to empower these noble initiatives," the letter said.

Economist Kaushik Basu, social activist Harsh Mander, and literary critic Ganesh Devy also signed the letter.

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