How Narendra Modi And The Government Failed To Understand The Ongoing Coronavirus Crises

The ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic has already engulfed the entire world, and by the time I completed this article already, there were more than 32000 deaths and 683,691 active cases in the world. The virus walloped the most developed and advanced countries in the world with the USA, reporting more than one lakh cases in one week. Everyone on this planet is aware of the impact of the virus, how it is transmitted, and what precautions one should take to prevent its spread. In the case of India, the spread of Coronavirus is in its initial phase, and let us pray we don’t reach to the horrifying figures of those in Italy and Spain. The current situation in India is that the number of active cases has crossed the 1000 benchmark causing 27 deaths. The most affected states by COVID-19 in India are Maharashtra (193 cases seven deaths)Kerala (182 cases one death), and Gujrat (58 cases and five deaths). Going by the global trends, it looks like the situation in India is yet to go worse, and we can’t do except following the government order of complete lockdown. We all know the level of healthcare facilities in India and how efficiently it is accessible to ordinary citizens of the country ( I know organizations are working on testing kits and ventilators). So I am afraid if the cases cross the 10000 marks, it is going to be very difficult for India to contain the spread of the virus. We have already seen some stupid acts by both the literate and illiterate citizens in spreading the virus and creating panic among masses. The purpose of this article is to understand the spread of Coronavirus in India and to analyze if we missed some precious time in understanding the impact which will jeopardize India’s Fight Against Coronavirus. In this article, I will be sharing the insights were I find the lack of government willingness to fight the virus in its initial phase, which has lead to the current situation, and now we are unsure where it will lead entire India. 

Details of Coronavirus Trend In India. Source: https://www.covid19india.org/
Details of Coronavirus Trend In India. Source: https://www.covid19india.org/

Before starting the article and bashing the Government, it is a humble request that kindly don’t label me as Anti-National and book my tickets to Pakistan. Although I love to travel yet nowhere, I intend to go to Pakistan (except Gilgit Baltistan Province of Himalayas). So lets me bring out some information on why the current Government of Narendra Modi Ji missed some valuable deadlines and delayed the entire fight against the Covid-19. Due to this delay, India is on the verge of getting engulfed by a deadly disease. The impact on economy jobs and daily lives are yet to be evaluated. Still, the bottom reality is that the Coronavirus is spreading in India and is spreading at a faster rate. 

The reasons why I think the Government failed in handling the current impact of COVID-19

Delay in identifying the disease and taking necessary precautions

The earliest known case with COVID-19 symptoms was discovered on 1st December 2019, while the first death from the virus took place on 9th January, killing a 61-year-old man who was a regular customer at the seafood market. On 13th January, the first case of Novel Coronavirus was reported outside China, involving a 61-year-old Chinese woman in Thailand who had visited Wuhan. On 20th January, China announced that the virus was human-to-human transmissible. The WHO watchdog released statements about testing and preventions, yet there was no response in India. The first case of Coronavirus in India was reported on 30th January in Kerala, and he was a student at Wuhan University in China. Despite the virus reaching India by January end, the Government failed to understand the threat it posses. There were no nationwide advisory or instructions for officials or state governments. 

Lack of seriousness about the virus by Prime Minister

While the world reported first death and India its first case, there was no concrete communication from the Government. Form the day India reported its first case (30th January) to its first death (13th March); there was no communication from the Prime Minister about the disease. Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned Coronavirus for the first time on 3rd March 2020, nearly one month after the first reported case in India and thousands of deaths worldwide. The first tweets from PM about Corona Virus was that he won’t be playing Hoil this year and that everyone should wash hands while Italy and China had already reported hundreds of deaths by that time. By this time, it was already known that the virus transmits from Human to Human and has killed thousands in a country close to India. The first serious notification for fighting Corona Virus came on 12th March, nearly 1.5 months after India reported the first case. By that time, it is assumed that the virus had already found a lot of carriers in India. 

Ignoring Warning by Health Organisations and Leaders

China already confirmed that the virus is human-to-human transmissible and WHO, in its report, warned about the virus. Yet no lessons were learned from Italy, and China and the country continued following its usual course. Even the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted about the deaths on 31st January and warned the Government on 12th February about the virus. Still, his warning was either ignored or taken as a joke. If the suggestions of a leader are not taken into consideration, then it is sad, and probably we deserve the current circumstance. By the time the virus was spreading in the entire world and India, Prime Minister was busy in Delhi Election Rallies. I agree that as a Prime Minister of country, he has enormous tasks to handle, yet missing a disease that quickly spread is a mistake.

Busy With Campaigns and Rallies While Virus entered India 

During the entire month of February, there is a possibility that a person who might be infected with Coronavirus continued arriving in India. Even many traveled to the epicenter of the virus hit zone due to work. Travelers continued visiting Europe as the area is a favorite travel destination. Yet there was no screening at airports, no orders by the Health Ministry, or any response by Prime Minister. He was busy welcoming USA President Donald Trump on 24th February, a gathering which was attended by more than one lakh people. India completely ignored that Gujrat has direct international flights to Gulf Countries, and cases were already reported in Middle East Countries. While the counties infected by the virus were requesting less human touch and more social isolation, in India, a mass gathering took place to welcome Donald Trump.

No Proper Guidelines For Visitors Arriving In India

As I said above, it was the month of February when thousands of people who might be infected with Coronavirus entered India. If the central Government had acted soon, the spread could have been avoided. We know that the disease didn’t originate in India and instead transported by travelers visiting China and other parts of the world. I checked the Airport Authority of India website and found that there are only 17 airports in India which connects India to the world. Out of these 17 airports, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Kolkata have maximum connectivity and handle the majority of traffic. A preventive measure ensuring temperature check of everyone arriving and identifying those infected with the virus would have saved India from the situation it is at present. A notification on 21st January from the Civil Aviation Ministry has the following notice for seven airports in India:

Airlines flying in from any airport in China including Hong Kong have been asked to make in-flight announcements requesting passengers with history of fever and cough and travel to Wuhan city in the past 14 days to self-declare at the port of arrival in order to facilitate early isolation, according to an official statement on Tuesday.

The guideline says that the passenger has to self declare if they feel ill and we now know how it all went. Many travelers took pills to lower temperatures before arriving in India and misled the thermal screening. My point is we know how stupid people act and the Kanika Kapoor incident is a perfect example of this. At the same time, a passenger traveling from Beijing shared his experience of the thermal screening and how active official were. Issuing strict guidelines at ten airports serving international destinations is not a mammoth task. The Government canceled the visas on 13th March and stopped international flights on 22nd March, fifty days after the virus was first reported in India and ten days after the first death. It is assumed that by the time India started acting on the isolation, the virus had already found many carriers. If a proper screening of anyone arriving in India had started earlier, we wouldn’t have been in the situation as we are now.  

A List Of Airports Managed By Airports Authority of India
List Of Airports Managed By Airports Authority of India

Delay In Declaring Nationa Wide Lockdown 

Again the Narendra Modi Government delayed on declaring a nationwide lockdown in India. My thinking says that the Government delayed the lockdown by at least two weeks. India celebrated Holi on the 9th and 10th March, and it was the perfect time to declare a nationwide lockdown. The reason is that during Holi, most of the Indians return to their native places and hometown to celebrate the festival. Students at Educational Institutes, Coaching Classes, and laborers working in different sectors return to their hometown. Although the festival is not much celebrated in southern India, yet southern India has millions of people earning their livelihood, and they too go back to hometown to celebrate the festival. A press conference by Mr. Narendra Modi on the eve of Holi declaring a national wide lockdown would have ensured that the majority of Indias are at their hometown without giving much trouble to the Government on handling the spread. Yet the only tweet from Narendra Modi was that he wouldn’t be playing Holi or handling his social media account to women achievers(a noble cause but I am talking about priorities). Instead, he declared the first one-day lockdown on 22nd March, followed by a 21 days lockdown.  

Cabinet Secretary has said there were over 15 lakh international arrivals in last two months while adding that there could have been a gap in monitoring these passengers.: Source:  Indiatoday
Cabinet Secretary has said there were over 15 lakh international arrivals in the last two months while adding that there could have been a gap in monitoring these passengers. Source: Indiatoday

Lack of Communication With State Government

It is evident that there is less communication of states with Center which are ruled by Non-BJP Parties. Apparently, the lack of communication between the Central Government and the State Governments created more chaos and less solution. While the number of coronavirus cases kept on increasing in India, the states were forced to take their own measures. Punjab declared a complete lockdown followed by Maharashtra. A decision like a curfew and a lockdown should be taken in unison, yet the states who had most numbers of cases took the whip in their own hand. A guideline for declaring a complete lockdown should have come earlier in consultation with the respective state government. Yet BJP and its top leaders were more focused on the Madhya Pradesh Government crises and less on COVID-19. There was no communication with the state government about how they are going to handle the lockdown (at least in the public domain) and how they will manage the migrants settled in a different state for livelihood. Yesterday we saw what happened at Delhi-Uttar Pradesh Border, where thousands of people gathered to board the buses heading to UP and Bihar. 

A Hasty Decision of Complete Lockdown for 21 Days

Again the Modi government made a blunder by imposing a national wide lockdown for 21 days without planning. I agree isolation is necessary, but lockdown for a day is different from a lockdown of 21 days knowing that the majority of the workforce in India constitutes of laborers who work hard to earn their daily food. They can survive a lockdown of a day or two, but they can’t survive a lockdown for 21 days unless the government provides some relief. The lockdown news came on 22nd March, while the finance minister released a package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package on 27th March, five days after the lockdown came into effect. If the government intended to declare a relief package, it should have been announced on the same day when the lockdown was ordered or at max the next day. A five-day delay meant the laborers had already exhausted their savings and were forced to find any escape suited them. Many started walking for their hometown situated 1000 kilometers from the national capital Delhi. The entire lockdown saga looked like the Demonetization when the old 1000 and 500 rupees’ notes were no longer valid, and all banking agencies and Reserve Bank of India were clueless. Every time there are issues with the execution of the plan and the ultimate sufferers are ordinary citizens of India. 

No Proper Guidelines for Security Personals Handling the Lockdown

There were no proper do’s and don’ts for the local Police and other security forces, and they acted as they wished. Let me give an example; the government amended the Motor Vehicle Act in parliament, enabling hefty fines for breaking the traffic rules, yet when it comes to issuing such advisory for Police, there were none. Police started exploiting the lockdown, assuming whatever they felt was right. I agree that most of the policemen followed the procedures, but the merciless beating of one person defies the entire purpose. A single deviation from the principles break defies the purpose of entire operations, and this was the reason why Mahatma Gandhi withdrew the Non-Cooperation Movement during India’s Independence Movement

Thousands of workers gathered on Delhi-Up Border Amid lockdown to reach their hometown.
Thousands of workers gathered on Delhi-Up Border Amid lockdown to reach their hometown.

Also, the mess at Delhi-UP border is the failure of Modi led Central Government as the Delhi Police reports to the Home Minister and not to the State Cheif Minister Arvind Kejriwal. There were a few reports which said that local labors were instigated to reach the Delhi-UP Border, but the question is why Police didn’t act while thousands of people roaming on the streets of Delhi and converging at one place. Police beat everyone, and we have seen a lot of videos on social media, yet how come so many people were able to reach the state border while Police roamed on the streets? It is an apparent failure of Home Ministery, and no matter how much one debate, he/she has to accept that it is a failure of Police which reports to Center and not State. Moreover, Economic Times reported that a railway official took a bribe to escort passengers to their hometown on an empty train. Although he was caught and suspended later.

Conclusion

There might be a few more points which will prove that the current Government completely missed the seriousness of COVID-19 and the problems aftermath. I was forced to write this article after yesterday’s blunder of thousands of workers standing at Anand Vihar Bus Stand on Delhi-UP Border. What is the purpose of me or you sitting at home when lakhs of people gather at one place to reach their respective hometown amid lockdown? What if even one person among them is infected? They will be transmitting the virus to the rural and backward parts of the country where health care is running on God’s grace. These are the questions whose answers we will get in the future, but the current situation is that the Indian Economy is talking a heavy toll due to the measures, and we are nowhere near the solution. 

I agree that the lockdown is necessary, but if these measures had been taken earlier, we would have been in a better situation. The current situation is that the entire country is at a standstill, yet people are traveling, and they might be unknowingly spreading the disease. In the initial phases of COVID-19, India took it lightly, but then it was the government’s responsibility to identify the threats and take preventive measures. The government can’t ignore these threats like ordinary citizens. They should have been more vigilant and should have acted swiftly, which was not seen in the case of Coronavirus. Italy and China should have been an eyeopener for the government when the virus started creating havoc, but we were busy with other priorities. Now China has successfully isolated the infected patients, and things are returning to normal, but the same can’t be said for India. The strict measures of China are hard to implement in India as we are a country where everyone exploits the word “Democracy.” 

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