India's Covid mission derails

Enough Indians defy the lockdown and the rules because they have to survive first before they become potential candidates for infection



By Bikram Vohra

Published: Mon 27 Jul 2020, 10:22 AM

Last updated: Mon 27 Jul 2020, 12:31 PM

In the beginning India was lauded for the incredible collective response to the Covid-19 virus and the manner in which the government and the people showed maturity. The first two months displayed a togetherness to keep the figures down. Then it just got struck by the meteors of ennui and exhaustion and the sheer need to survive. Having crossed the 1.4 million mark it is expected to peak now mid-September if the public wakes up to the reality bite and behaves.
In the next two months five million is not out of the park of possibility and with the death rate hitting 32,000 at that average we could be looking at another 140,000 deaths and that is untenable.
Ironically, in the US, with both these nations on the dubious podium for the sheer heft of number, it is the arrogance of plenty that prompts Americans to ignore the rising damp and engage in Covid parties and war against restrictions as a strike against their fundamental rights. Hitting 4.25 million in short order and running up 149,000 deaths and rising you would think the issue of wearing a mask is not even debatable.
Yet, there is an ironical resistance on both sides. Again financial restraints on one side versus a mindset of hubris in the other.
Two democracies coming from different and dramatically different ends but to the same point of reference. A defeat staring them in the face as their publics refuse to accept what the common sense dictates.
If there is anything common in this it is the spectacular unworthiness of both stands and how they impact on those who still have a grasp on plain simple common sense.
Albeit for entirely different reasons the numbers keep rising. In India with a new series of lockdowns likely to come into effect there is anguish about the lack of funds and empty pockets means deprivation. Covid-19's threat diminishes against the dust raised by the evil horsemen of poverty, hunger, homelessness and weather.
That sort of abject poverty is not manifested in the US in such a numerical fashion. There it is more a question of personal space, a man's castle and the anger over interference by the state. There is also a natural sense of entitlement that it cannot happen to us, we are American. And if it does occur we shall overcome. The US has this conceit in its public because any such huge catastrophe is unique and being without precedent allows the element of disbelief to stay alive for a very long time. The defiance trumps (oops) good sense.
In anthropological terms two kinds of people, poles apart in culture, lifestyle and wealth settling for the same obstinacy makes for a fascinating study. Enough Indians defy the lockdown and the rules because they have to survive first before they become potential candidates for infection. What price the Covid fear when you haven't eaten for two days? In America the majority are fully fed and clothed and see every restriction as an impediment to living life to the full. Glass half full and glass half empty. Same difference.
Are there any silver linings to these schisms in thought? One cannot say much about silver linings per se but yes, it is teaching the Americans that they are not infallible and if anything, an infection like this plays no favourites. That they are unable to comprehend the intensity of the danger despite its toxic nature is baffling.
For Indians who wish to learn lessons Covid has made a splendid and well-deserved mockery of the grotesque caste system in making everyone untouchable and evened out this cruelly lumpy playing field.
And yet, the more things change the more they stay the same. -bikram@khaleejtimes.com


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