Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: Where elections cannot wait when Covid kills

Filed on April 20, 2021

On Tuesday, the country reported more than 213,000 new cases of Covid-19. More than 1,300 people died.

We have to protect the nation from lockdown, said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday evening in a televised address to the country that is in dire straits. But how? There is no silver bullet for a nation that has been so callous in its ways of life during a pandemic. The world has been grappling with Covid-19 for over a year now, but some countries have failed to learn their lessons and India tops the list. On Tuesday, the country reported more than 213,000 new cases of Covid-19. More than 1,300 people died.

The blame lies squarely with the political leadership that allowed people to lower their guard. Political interests matter more to the Modi government and the opposition than the health of the countrymen. Board examinations of millions of students in class 10th and 12th were cancelled for risks of exposing students, teachers and parents to Sars-Cov-2, but elections couldn’t be postponed, and rallies could not be banned. The Election Commission of India didn’t just hold elections as per schedule but stretched it for as long as possible with polls in West Bengal happening in eight phases. Rallies were held, religious festivals too allowed, with millions in attendance and no care for Covid-safety rules.

From people on the streets to governments at the centre and states, the sheer apathy exhibited by one and all is to blame for the rising number of cases and deaths. No one is immune to the Sars-Cov-2 infection. The pandemic has claimed lives of over three million people globally and yet India at large has exhibited arrogance in its way of life and governance and is now paying a heavy price for it. There’s chaos and confusion as the rate of infection is rising and overwhelming a healthcare system that is yet to recover from a gruelling year. Individuals, families are grappling to find beds. There is a severe shortage of oxygen cylinders in private hospitals in the National Capital Region. Delhi Chief Minister, looking helpless, has been tweeting and asking for support from the Modi government for quick supply of oxygen.

There is a severe delay in getting test reports from laboratories. The entire Indian establishment has been caught off-guard by the resurgent virus. In some places, even the dead are not being given the dignity of final rites. Vaccination is the only way out. India needs to speed up the process. It needs the political leadership to communicate well on the importance of vaccination. India has a big cohort of anti-vaxxers. How will it convince them? The Modi government has said all executive decisions have been made to take control of the situation, but isn’t this too little too late?

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