Amidst the loud campaigns going on in the mainstream and social media to pat the ever-willing back of the Narendra Modi government on India having achieved 1 billion COVID-19 vaccinations, examining the COVID-19 and post-COVID mismanagement of the government would be a fitting tribute to the millions of Indians who lost their lives, as also those who are trying to gather their lives and livelihoods.
This credit-giving and credit-taking is misplaced, ill-timed and wrongly targeted on several counts. The scientific community, the medical fraternity and the patient people of India, who despite being at the receiving end of the government’s apathy and insensitivity, managed to stay afloat and keep the country afloat, definitely deserve all the credit. Of the 217 countries vaccinating their populations, India stands at 127, having vaccinated 20.6% fully and 29.6% partially.
Should We Forget the Horrors of the First & Second Waves?
Before we give credit to a credit-obsessed government, should we forget that this data could have been much better had we not exported 66.3 million doses between 21 January and 16 April 2021? Or that the first order for vaccines was placed by the government as late as January 2021? Before that, the Prime Minister was patting his own back at the World Economic Forum for having defeated COVID-19. Should we forget how the unmasked Prime Minister gloated looking at the crowd in his West Bengal rallies?
Should we forget phase one of COVID-19, where millions of displaced fellow Indians were left to their own devices — walking thousands of kilometres, braving all odds and the government?
Should we forget the desperation, helplessness and deaths suffered by millions of Indians, in the second wave of COVID-19? In terms of the number of deaths due to COVID-19, India stands at number three out of 221 countries, where COVID-19 deaths are being tracked.
Here, we are definitely not taking into account those who died without the documentation of hospitals, crematoria or municipality/Panchayats.
Those whose deaths did get documented, but who died due to post-COVID-19 complications or comorbidities, were also not treated as deaths due to COVID-19.
This definitely does not include the thousands of bodies left abandoned in rivers and on the roadside, bodies that made global headlines but against which this government brazenly tried to invoke nationalism to attack anyone who dared to show the ugly truth. Should we forget all this while giving credit to the government?
Not a 'Glass Half-Full or Empty' Debate
As I write to give voice to the collective angst, grief and sorrow felt by millions, I know some of us seek to move on and start life afresh. Of course, life moves on, but we do need to remind the government that those who are no more with us today could have been part of these celebrations, had they lived. They wanted to live, too. This isn’t a “glass half-full or empty” debate. The glass is broken. The shards of the broken glass should not be used to further scrape the already wounded hearts of millions of Indians who are mourning the totally avoidable loss of loved ones gone too early.
Those seeking credit today are fighting hard in the Supreme Court, refusing to compensate those who died of COVID-19. They fought hard in the court to ensure they continue to build the multi-thousand crore Central Vista. They prefer visiting the construction site of their new office and home rather than a hospital or an oxygen plant. They need to be told in clear terms that India seeks an apology from them. Yes, the government is doing everything in its control to shift the collective focus from individual sorrows. But should we help the government in this effort?
As we celebrate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, we are told by our government to mark this day as the “Partition Horrors Remembrance Day”.
If we should remember the tragedy of partition that happened 75 years ago, should we forget the horrors the country went through months ago, just because the government wants us to do so?
And why does the Prime Minister want us to forget the horrors of COVID-19? All because he wants to quickly start addressing election rallies again? So what if lakhs of those who campaigned, fought and voted for him the last time are dead? There are always new voters to target, with renewed speeches and new panna pramukhs.
(The writer is former political secretary to Sheila Dikshit and is currently National Spokesperson, Congress party. He tweets @Pawankhera. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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