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Millennium Post

Missing governance

India reels under the Covid crisis perpetuated by administrative failure and political greed

Missing governance
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It's Hell on earth, apocalyptic, purgatory as we know it — if my words fail to convey the absolute hopelessness that shrouds India at the moment, gaze at those unforgettable images of funeral pyres. People, even young and healthy ones, are dropping dead like flies, their bodies packing up against the wily Coronavirus that after lulling us into a false sense of comfort even till a month ago, has hit back with treble the force. Even as brave, untiring medical workers fight day and night to save lives, they are losing many to the Indian mutation of Covid-19. Death numbers cited by the government are highly deflated; workers at crematoriums and burial grounds paint a different story. International experts expect lakhs of lives to be lost in India before the peak of the second wave finally ebbs.

No, we can't talk about anything else anymore. IPL, elections — are minor distractions from the main game that is being played in the arena with our lives. We can't emphasise enough that this government has been caught with its pants down — unprepared, fumbling, scatter-brained. No plan in place, no crisis management, no central leadership that is taking charge or keep the country abreast of measures and provisions. The health ministry's directive on the second wave came only yesterday after numerous lives were lost and chaos and panic had engulfed the nation. We have seen the Centre's primary leadership most active at election rallies in Bengal rather than leading the Covid crisis management. When it comes to Covid, the leadership is missing in action.

Most importantly, how can we not speak of the gross mismanagement of the Covid situation by all? As soon as the cases started dropping and even before the vaccine was rolled out, we had opened up everything. Malls, cinema halls, markets were back to running to full capacity. Elections rallies of thousands of people gathered across states goaded by self-serving politicians driven by political ambitions and greed. And then there's the Election Commission of India (ECI)…who knows what logic governed them to even allow elections to take place this year! The Madras High Court and Calcutta High Court are right — ECI has failed to implement Covid guidelines and should be "booked for murder".

Obviously, it's not just the Election Commission that has blood on its hands; let's not forget who steers the ship. Of course, state governments can be criticised for their role in amplifying the crisis by opening up everything, but the central government remains the captain of the ship, whose leaders were too busy politicking and electioneering to give a damn. With zero foresight and brazen cruelty, Indians have been brought to their knees begging for oxygen, beds, and ventilators.

International press has had a field day with newspaper front page declaring death of governance in India. I spent the last few days answering the queries of concerned friends from all over the world; their parting comment filled with incredulousness — "Kumbh Mela and elections?" they ask. Yes, that's us. Falling over ourselves to play Covid vaccine saviours to other nations even as our own vaccination drive remains one of the slowest in the world. Those over 18 years of age can register for vaccination but it remains as elusive as manna from the heavens at this point.

Even as more people die, we will have many unanswered questions. Why weren't we better equipped to handle the second wave? Why are oxygen plants being commissioned or built now? How much did PM Cares fund accrue and what's it been used for? Must the new Parliament be built in the middle of the pandemic? The optics of it is so wrong and yet its construction has been deemed as essential service. Go figure.

The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal

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