Post Mortem

India’s Covid-19 journey

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 3/22/2021 1:48:17 PM IST

 Exactly a year ago, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi called for a janata curfew. The country ground to a standstill, and all activity, except essential services, stopped. The same evening, the PM had called for five minutes of clapping, beating of thalis and blowing of conch shells across the country to support health workers, police forces and people involved in essential services. This was to prepare people for what was to come.

At that time, there was only frightening news from across the world. It had been established that the virus originated from Wuhan in China. The United States (US) and Europe were in a state of panic. Harsh lockdowns were imposed but casualties were rising. But the situation at that time in India suggested that the trajectory of the virus was not so bad.

When the lockdown was announced late on March 24 last year, no one could have imagined that for a long time to come, they would be confined to their homes. But the pandemic was especially devastating to those who did not even have a roof over their heads. People living in the slums and chawls of the metros found themselves unemployed overnight. They had come to the cities from their villages in the hope of a better life and livelhood. All that suddenly went down the drain.

And then, people began leaving the metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, often on foot, covering hundreds of kilometres, disillusioned and sad. Pictures of migrants walking home were splashed across the media. Many people lost their lives on the long trek home.

The government has been accused of depriving people of their jobs by imposing such a drastic lockdown. But this overlooks the fact that since health services were not adequate at that time, the government was really constrained when it came to saving people during the pandemic and had to take tough measures. A total of 536 cases of infection had been confirmed at the time of the lockdown and only ten people in a country with a population of a billion had lost their lives due to the pandemic.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at that time, said in Parliament that people had to be ready to lose their loved ones. During those days, we saw some disturbing images from the US, of corpses being buried in spaces outside cemeteries for lack of space in these. At such a time, there were alarming scenarios about the possible trajectory of the disease in India, expressed by sceptics. Today, a year later, India’s figures have proved them wrong. The death rate in India, in particular, is much lower than in the world’s rich and wealthy economies.

Could this have been possible without the lockdown?

It is not that the Indian government went to sleep after imposing a lockdown. Till March 31, 2020, 183 laboratories were available for testing for the virus across the country. Today more than 2,400 laboratories are doing this. Hospitals too were not prepared for such a pandemic. During this time, PM Modi himself took command and interacted with the chief ministers of states in several rounds, encouraged health workers and kept in touch with vaccine researchers. This is why India, despite its limitations, was in the frontline of the vaccine-developing countries. Today we are providing vaccines to over 70 countries.

During this period, despite political differences, the central and state governments set a unique example of synergy. For those who keep questioning the federal structure of India, this past year is a testimony to our resolve and our instincts towards unity. There may be many unfortunate examples in terms of social, economic and ethical behaviour, but there is no doubt that in the past one year, people have shown an amazing ability to move forward despite an enormous amount of pain and suffering. It is true that Covid-19 has dealt us a drastic economic shock, but it is also a fact that the Indian economy is about to come out of the recession faster than many other economies.

But this process will be able to gain momentum only when our world is completely free from the clutches of Covid-19. It is impossible to predict any timeline for this. The pandemic is an unpredictable creature in many ways. To cope with this, it is necessary to follow all standard operating procedures. Ever since the vaccine drive began, people have dropped many preventive actions they were observing earlier. Among these are social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands often. The pandemic cannot be stopped only with government efforts. We have to be alert at all times until the pandemic is declared to be well and truly over. And this is not likely to happen for quite a while.

Shashi Shekhar, 

Editor-in-chief, Hindustan

The views expressed are personal


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