To conquer Covid-19, we need to be united in this hour
We divorced caution, lowered our guard and became careless in a denial mode that corona was over when the PM and the government kept emphasising the need to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and norms
Upon the outbreak of Covid-19 last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the epitome of inspiration and sterling leadership in the most trying, challenging and unprecedented catastrophe of the pandemic. Immediate proactive steps, backed up with an unflinching resolve, were taken in unison to enforce the lockdown; strengthening our medical infrastructure as also all other conceivable enforcement, containment, medical, safety and relief measures for the benefit of every section of society. India’s prompt, preventive and pre-emptive response to the foray by this invisible viral adversary helped it cope better or else the situation would have been unimaginable.
Having adroitly succeeded in the initial fight for life survival, a graded and staggered programme for opening up of the key sectors was effectuated for economic survival. A stimulus for industry was also announced. Assistance was provided to small businesses and workers. Full-scale operations of agricultural activities, from the farms to markets, were ensured.
Enormity of relief measures
Around 200 million women from low-income groups were provided support through the direct benefit transfer scheme in their Jan Dhan accounts. Further, under the PM-Kisan scheme, ₹2,000 each was transferred to 84 million farmers; 80-million beneficiaries of Ujwala LPG scheme received three cylinders free of cost. India had the biggest food security programme in the world in which 800 million people were given 5 kg of wheat/rice at ₹2 a bag. The Prime Minister announced a ₹20-lakh crore economic package to benefit farmers, entrepreneurs, the poor, the migrants and industry, with major incentives for the MSME sector.
Our recovery rate, as on 26 January 2021 was nearly 97%, one of the highest in the world, and fatality rate was 1.4%, one of the lowest in the world. As on 29 June 2020, India had 1,600 Covid-19 dedicated laboratories, 1,055 dedicated Covid hospitals, 1,77,529 isolation beds, 23,168 ICU beds, 78,060 oxygen supported beds, 2,400 dedicated health centres and 9,519 Covid care centres with 8,34,128 beds and had achieved a daily testing capacity of 10 lakh persons.
In the battle against coronavirus, many democracies had used authoritarian and emergency measures and also called in the military on the streets to implement restrictions. It was to the great credit of the Prime Minister that he had neither invoked any emergency powers nor resorted to authoritarian measures, but reposed this trust in 138 crore Indians by involving each one of them as equal and voluntary stakeholders in the fight against coronavirus. And his leadership and measures were praised all across the world by the WHO, IMF and Bill Gates. The Prime Minister’s approval rating on April 21 was 83 per cent according to Morning Consult, a US-based survey and research firm.
Complacency and the surge
Then having greatly succeeded in our tirade against this pandemic, we felt there would be no second wave and did not take the Dos and Dont’s being reiterated by the government seriously. We thronged market places and public places, most of us without masks or wearing them as chin straps.
Attendance at weddings and functions was several times the permitted numbers, again violating the norms of social distancing. We divorced caution, lowered our guard and became careless in a denial mode that corona was over when the PM and the government kept emphasising the need to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and norms. As a result, cases rose in geometric progression. Hence, it is incorrect for some sections to criticise the government. It is extremely sad that the wave took a heavy toll.
Containing the contagion
To counter the onslaught of the pandemic, Modi, with unstinted grit and conviction, and his team left no stone unturned to take coordinated measures by increasing supply of oxygen, medical resources/equipment and vaccination for all adults. India’s testing journey and our vaccination drive — the world’s largest — is a remarkable achievement in itself. It is only because of the PM’s stature that there was global support and solidarity with India in medical assistance from all quarters. No government could have visualised or anticipated the scale of the monster crisis. The United States, with immense resources, infrastructure and a developed health care system, too, suffered multiple waves of this devastating pandemic.
In the calibrated war against this unknown enemy, there are far too many imponderables. In the absence of any cast iron standard as to the adequate required duration of a lockdown for complete success, or the barometer of immunity or behaviour of the virus or strains of the virus with exactitude, we are truly constrained. Despite this, the Prime Minister converted a peace-time process to a war-time machinery.
The persevering endeavour of PM Modi in this war, which requires unity of purpose and participation of all, has ensured that cases have drastically reduced and the monster wave has been controlled. To prevent a third wave, we must be one in our support to follow all Covid norms and win the war against the pandemic.
(The writer is a retired IPS officer and former chairman, Haryana Public Service Commission. Views expressed are his personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)