As India’s shocking death wail continued to echo throughout the world, it brought home to all the horrendous tragedy that awaits a nation when its irresponsible leaders fling caution to the winds and, in pursuit of economic and political goals, embark upon a reckless policy to keep the floodgates open at all costs for the [...]


India’s harrowing death wail shocks and stuns the world

Are there lessons for Lanka to learn from‘Modi-made disaster’

THE COVID PIED PIPER OF HARIDWAR: In the midst of the pandemic, 9 million devotees gather by the banks of the Ganges to celebrate the Kumba Mela festival unhindered

As India’s shocking death wail continued to echo throughout the world, it brought home to all the horrendous tragedy that awaits a nation when its irresponsible leaders fling caution to the winds and, in pursuit of economic and political goals, embark upon a reckless policy to keep the floodgates open at all costs for the rivers of the coronavirus pestilence to flow berserk and wreak havoc on the broadacres of the land.

Dubbed the ‘Modi-made disaster’ by the vociferous Indian media, public outrage rose to a crescendo at the ‘policy paralysis’ of the Modi Government which has led inexorably to India’s COVID Catastrophe.  For the last six days ending Thursday, India had seen over 2,200,000 new cases and reported 18,000 deaths. And there’s no let up. The toll keeps mounting at an alarming rate: 300,000 cases and over 2000 deaths per day. So how did India go terribly wrong?

Only four months ago, the political mood in India was euphoric. The Central Bank of India in its official bulletin of January 21st went lyrical to express its unrestrained glee, declaring in Shakespeare’s flowery line, ‘Soon the winter of our discontent will be made glorious summer’, while its Prime Minister Modi hailed the resilient spirit of self-reliant India, crediting her atmanirbhar as having triumphed the Australians on the cricketing field and the coronavirus in the pandemic province.

Claiming the laurels, a jubilant Narendra Modi proudly declared: ‘A positive mindset always leads to positive results.’ Even disturbing detections showing the virulent virus was on the march again in some key states, were not allowed to dull the lustre of his fleeting victories.

Modi’s vainglory peaked when on February 21  his own ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, passed a resolution declaring: “It can be said with pride, India defeated Covid-19 under the able, sensible, committed and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Modi . The party unequivocally hails its leadership for introducing India to the world as a proud and victorious nation in the fight against Covid.”

The man’s vanity was insatiable. It also doomed India to the very depths of hell where today, in darkness visible, in harrowing scenes of excruciating anguish and exquisite sorrow, stand revealed the full horror of a nation’s trauma.

Not that India’s vaunt was all hot air. After peaking at more than 93,000 cases per day on average in mid-September last year, the number of those testing positive had, indeed, steadily fallen. By mid-February, India was recording an average of 11,000 cases a day; and the average of daily deaths trickled down to a mere 100, a trifle in Indian terms.

The fault was that the boast, which led to Modi’s rush to claim for himself the ephemeral kudos before anyone else pipped him to the post, was far too premature. Indian Ministers went overboard and celebrated the heady tidings before waiting for all the chickens to hatch.

The same driving force prompted the Health Minister of India, Harsh Varadhan, to seek his own hour of glory. On March 8, following in his leader’s footsteps, he proudly announced: ‘India is in the end game of the COVID pandemic.’ He saluted the Indian Prime Minister’s leadership saying: “At a time of global crisis, under the leadership of Modi Ji, India has emerged as an example to the world in international cooperation, It was Modi’s insistence that COVID-19 vaccines should be provided with no strings attached, and the countries without the vaccine supply should not be taken advantage of at the time of a global humanitarian crisis.

The Indians sighed in relief that the worst was over, little realising that the worst was only just beginning. The COVID dread was now slowly lifting, and, in its stead, complacency was fast setting in.

With schools opened and life briskly streaming, weddings celebrated with song and dance, with vaccinations underway and with Modi hailed the nation’s ‘vaccine guru’, Bharat’s billion odd population let their hair down along with their protective guards.

But the sin of complacency demands public penance for atonement.

Since January 14, hundreds of thousands people have been arriving at Haridwar, a city in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand.  This city, situated by the banks of India’s most sacred river, Ganges, is playing host this year to the Kumba Mela, a Hindu religious festival held every 12 years of the Hindu Lunar Calendar.

Already over 9 million devotees, armed with faith and braving the corona spectre, have thronged this vantage spot to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges, in the belief that a ritual dip in its waters will cleanse them of their sins and bring their salvation nearer.

According to the organisers, a government body named the Kumba Mela Force, the bulk of the 9 million pilgrims, numbering 6 million or so, came in April. Despite the occasion being considered as the largest gathering of humanity on earth, the Central Government of Modi has taken no steps to ban the event, billed as a COVID super spreader, but looked askance, even extending sponsorship. Neither has the State government of Uttarakhand taken any preventive measures but had blithely allowed this fifty five day mega festival to proceed unhindered. The festival ended on April 27, with the average rate of COVID infection standing at 350,000 per day.

NARENDRA MODI: Positive thinking comes a cropper

But it seems not only religious festivals are considered sacred to Modi’s India. Fanatical worship is also paid before the altar of cricket.

The same indifference to the corona scourge manifested on the playing fields in mid-March when the Indian Cricket Board brazenly permitted more than 130,000 fans, mostly unmasked, to watch two international cricket matches between India and England at the Narendra Modi stadium in Gujarat, Ahmedabad. The T/20 match played on March 12 to nearly full capacity of the stadium, which is 132,000, was won by England by 8 wickets.

The same sorry story was repeated without remorse in another field of activity India’s politicians supremely revere and hold as their very own stomping grounds: The Holy Hustings.

At the end of February, India’s election authorities announced key elections in five states where 186 million people were eligible to vote for 824 seats. Beginning March 27, the polls would stretch over a month and be held on April 29, and in the case of the state of West Bengal, held in eight phases. And did Prime Minister Modi give his blessing for the campaigning to go ahead full swing, in spite of the surging COVID toll? You bet he did.

On April 17, on the day India set a record COVID high of 234,000 positive cases, he not only gave his blessings from afar but appeared incarnate on the West Bengal stage and declared: “I have come here twice during Lok Sabha elections. Last time I came to seek votes for the Union Minister Babul Supriyo. The first time I came for myself. But the crowd was only a quarter of this size. But today, in all directions I see huge crowds of people. I have witnessed such a rally for the first time. Today, you have shown your power. The next step is more important — go and vote and take others also.’

Can you believe it? The former chaiwala who sold tea at his father’s tea kiosk near Vadnagar railway station to shuttling train passengers in Gujarat, and rose from poverty to power, to now stand in earnest on some Bengali election platform and, as Prime Minister of India, to praise an unmasked and sardine packed mammoth crowd for turning up at his rally in so large a number, defies belief.

It’s not only conduct unbecoming on Modi’s part but borders on the criminal, for such tacit encouragement given to flout all health guidelines and imperil India’s safety and well-being,  came at a most alarming time when the nation was, and still is, reeling under an unprecedented resurgence in COVID cases and deaths.

Considering the sacred cow status granted to people participating in their millions, without health guards and social distancing, in the Indian triumvirate of holy activities, namely, religion, sports and politics, little wonder why the masses are dying like Mayflies and their bodies cremated on the streets like rubbish burnt in a bonfire. There but for the grace of the pantheon of Hindu gods lives the hapless Indian under Modi’s wretched rule.

Has the Sri Lankan Government any lessons to learn from the deeply distressing Indian experience? Any findings to be garnered, any conclusions to be drawn from Modi’s disastrous experiment which has made India so terribly suffer?

Can it, at least, discern in the hunky-dory attitude and carefree activities preceding India’s downfall, a startling similarity of note with the nonchalant air and casual lifestyles exhibited in the days  before  the current resurgence of COVID enveloped Sri Lanka in utmost dread? A striking similarity that demands serious introspection?

Today in Lanka, is seen a situation relatively similar to that of India. In the past week, an alarming resurgence in COVID cases and deaths has gripped Lankans in mortal fear. For the last five days alone ending Friday 10 am, the Epidemiologist’s report reveal a total of  6,793  COVID cases and 29 deaths, with the last three days, namely Friday, Thursday and Wednesday recording a hat-trick of over 1000 cases on three consecutive days.

After the COVID crisis erupted full blown, the charge was laid at the Government’s door, why it had not taken preventive measures in anticipation of the Aluth Avurudhu holidays? Of course, it had preached no end of the corona consequences but had stopped in its tracks when it came to taking any meaningful action that might be deemed unpopular. Or be viewed as a killjoy Government coming to spoil the masses’ Avurudhu fun.

Charges were also levelled against the Government when in December last year, while the country was just beginning to slowly raise its head from the Brandix cluster that had triggered the second wave, against all advice and warnings, it opened Lanka’s secured doors to groups of Ukraine tourists coming from their godforsaken COVID stricken land to find a piece of heaven on Lanka’s soil and thereby exposing the local populace to COVID risk.

Though the President has now said that vaccinations are the only solution to vanquish the corona presence, the Government’s encouragement of a dubious indigenous concoction branded the ‘Dhammika Paniya’ and plugged  as the panacea for COVID prevention and cure with the Minister of Health foolishly drinking the untested mocktail on national television and implicitly giving it the official thumbs up, served only to delay reserving the credible vaccines scientists were developing in American and British labs.

Going around with the beggar’s bowl in hand, with no plan in mind but only an ad hoc approach, Lanka was fortunate enough to administer the first dose of the Oxford AstraZenica vaccine to 925,000 people; and that, too, thanks mainly to India. The second round is underway and is being administered now, the officials assure the public but, apparently, though the stocks have been ordered much earlier it still has to arrive.

COVID Minister Sudharshani Fernandopulle, who says she is disillusioned with politics and is thinking of quitting the game soon, says the period in which the second must be taken is between 6 to 8 weeks after the first dose, then shifts the goal post and says the optimum time to get the second jab is between 12 and 16 weeks.

Indeed, there may be some lessons to be learnt from Modi’s errors. Especially, Modi’s belief that ‘a positive mindset always brings positive results’. Apart from his own brand of positive thinking bringing positive COVID test results to millions of Indians, the Lankan leadership should bear in mind that what passes for positive thinking may well be nothing more than pedestrian optimism, which is often the straw the drowning man clutches at in an abundance of hope.


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