Coronavirus is wreaking havoc. Lives are at stake. The economy is in a tailspin. Stories of anxiety and misery abound. There is panic all-around. Our Prime Minister has addressed the country thrice, live, in less than a month. Narendra Modi reckons a war that Indians have to win against the invisible enemy.
The Prime Minister is, of course, right. All hands have to be on board. This is no time for a parallel discourse. Just that, is coronavirus the only culprit for the health and economy crisis that we find our country in? Is coronavirus the only cause for all the hardships facing the Indians? But for the coronavirus, have we been flawless in our approach towards our country and fellow citizens?
To be honest, apart from holding a mirror to us, what is the other wrong that coronavirus has done?
Reckless Optimism Bias
All children read the story of an ant and a grasshopper. Grasshopper made merry when the sun was shining and the ant was preparing for the monsoon. When the rains finally arrived, grasshopper had nowhere to go. In the history of mankind, coronavirus is neither the first epidemic nor will be the last.
Leave aside the epidemic, there can be natural calamities. There can be a war, for we are in a difficult neighbourhood. Internal to the country, we could have had riots or extended periods of strife. Climate change can lead to extreme weather conditions.
In any of the above ways, we could have had a national emergency. Did our political leaders, the masters of our country’s past, present and future, try to prepare for any of these urgent situations?
If we are unprepared for a rainy day, as a nation, how can coronavirus be blamed?
Public Health Infrastructure
I am no expert to quote public health expenditure as a % of GDP or % of a budget or whatever. It does not matter, though. For the status of public health infrastructure in India is known to all. It is in a condition good enough to make a healthy person sick.
Did coronavirus tell our political leaders to not make public health a priority? How can we blame coronavirus if we, as a country, do not invest in keeping our citizens healthy in an affordable and accessible manner, to all?
Economy In Shambles
Even without coronavirus, India was heading for a downturn. The GDP numbers of the country are a joke. With so many revisions, I do not suppose even the Government was aware of what was happening to the economy.
I buy hair-pins for my five and half-year-old-twin daughters and they are made in China. I buy nail-cutter for them, it is made in Korea. The shop-keeper puts it in a shopping bag, which is also made in China. No further comments about Make In India.
We are a profligate and an inefficient country that cannot pay for anything but the salaries and the perks of the government employees and the political leaders. Hence, at this time of the crisis, when every other nation is busy announcing a relief package for their country-men, our Finance Minister is just twiddling her thumbs.
Did coronavirus ask us to screw up our economy and be wasteful in our expenditure? How can we blame coronavirus, if, for our central banker, the only answer to every crisis is interest rate cut?
Coronavirus v/s NPR & Census
The Government officials were going to visit every household of the country, twice, for the NPR and the census. If the Government can come to me to collect my data, why would the Government not come to me for my well-being? This is what has led to half-baked lockdown yielding half-baked results.
The Government of India announced the Garib Kalyan Yojana, yet the migrant workers just walked off. So much for the trust in the broken Governance and ineffective delivery of so-called relief measures.
Did coronavirus ask us to be incompetent in our welfare approach? It is the year 2020 and the Government is quoting figures of migrant workers from 2011 census. Did coronavirus eat up data for last nine years?
Learning From Past Mistakes
I agree this is not the time for nitpicking. But then, what is the time for it? When do we realize that we have been chasing wrong priorities all through-out? When the goings-on was fine, so to say, we did not make amends. Our political leaders would make us believe that we are on cloud nine and we let go off all our gains.
Our political leaders are at their best, putting the entire blame on coronavirus, to ensure that we do not realize how we have been taken for a ride all these years. Be it 60 years of Congress rule or 6 years of Narendra Modi. None of the political leaders is going to own up messing up each and every aspect of India, governance and people.
We should be facing the current crisis as one nation, one voice. Just that, as and when coronavirus will finally leave, the fact that we all were in shit even without coronavirus courtesy our political leaders will also be overlooked.
Just for us to end up in a larger mess, the next crisis.