There was much to celebrate as India entered the new year in January 2021. With the economy turning around after the havoc caused across the world by the Chinese SARS-CoV-2 virus—the cause of the Covid 19 pandemic. It took almost a year to contain the virus and India’s track record in combatting the pandemic as well as in coming up with two vaccines was indeed a signal achievement, despite the numerous challenges that a country of India’s size and diversity faced.
Externally, Pakistan was stymied to a large extent in continuing with its proxy war against India, though it has by no means given up its old policy of bleeding India by a thousand cuts. China too has been given a message that good relations between the two countries cannot be divorced from stability on the land borders. Internally, J&K is witnessing a decline in terror-related activities and democracy at the grassroots level is gaining increasing traction.
Terror related incidents in India’s Northeast and in areas impacted by Left Wing Extremism (LWE) have witnessed a steep decline, despite the deadly ambush on CRPF personnel in early April in Chattisgarh’s Bijapur district, which shows that the Maoists retain the ability to carry out well-coordinated attacks on specific targets of their choosing. This will have to be addressed.
In the euphoria, perhaps the coming of the second wave of the pandemic appears to have caught both the centre and the states by surprise. The situation on 1 March presented a rosy picture, with the number of Covid cases having decreased to the lowest level. It was perhaps assumed that this trend would continue. However, from the very next day itself, we saw a small surge in cases.
A one-day surge obviously is not something that excites suspicion, but when the trend did not reverse for a week, the bureaucrats responsible to monitor the Covid impact should have raised the red flag. This was not a Black Swan event that hit the nation with sudden ferocity. It was a Grey Rhino. The evidence of what could happen was available and should have been foreseen by the secretaries working in the health department in the States and in the Centre and they should have advised their Ministers accordingly.
Now, a massive effort is required by the nation as a whole to rid ourselves of this scourge. Let us plan for a year without election rallies, religious festivals, bandhs and dharnas. This needs to be factored into law by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The people of India too must rise up as one to face the challenge. Yes, work must not suffer, but we can ensure social distancing and wearing of masks in public spaces. This, by itself, will restrict the surge and enable control measures to be put in place.
Another dangerous trend is some people in the media asking for action against hospitals for lack of Oxygen supply. This is as ludicrous as it gets. Our hospitals are doing yeoman service in fighting the pandemic and such calls are obviously being made to undermine the national effort, most likely for some ulterior motive. Legal action needs to be initiated against such people for undermining the effort to control the pandemic.
We as a people must unite to win this battle. India’s destiny is at stake.