We still don’t know who will win the West Bengal state assembly elections on May 2 but, what we do know with certainty that India would have lost.
India would have lost because all political parties continued to have large public meets with no evidence or masks or social distancing. Rahul Gandhi, former Congress president, who has the least skin in the game announced on Sunday that he would not do any more public meetings.
If you hoped that the Prime Minister would lead by example, well then you hoped a lot. It did not happen. Amit Shah, Union Home Minister, who is the nodal minister for the public health emergency continued his schedule of four hectic public meetings.
Dr Harshvardhan, India's Health Minister, and a doctor himself, actually retweeted the pictures of large crowds in Modi’s rallies.
If schools and important school examinations are cancelled, why can’t public meetings be cancelled as well?
A massive disappointment
If you hoped that the Election Commission (EC) - a Constitutional body created to uphold and run free and fair elections - would curtail the eight phase elections, seeing the explosion in Covid cases that India is unable to tackle, you would be wrong.
Despite, many parties including the ruling All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Bengal asking for the final phases to be clubbed together, the EC refused.
Is this really how a Constitutional watchdog takes decisions in national interest? The EC had earlier drawn flak for announcing an unprecedented eight phase election schedule for West Bengal, now with the second wave covid bomb exploding, it did not seem to care.
If schools and important school examinations are cancelled, why can’t public meetings be cancelled as well. And, the Maha Kumbh where lakhs of people have gathered unbothered to take basic precautions in the pandemic and are all bathing together cheek by jowl.
Modi is always projected as a “strong leader” by his starstruck supporters. Shouldn’t he have taken the decision to call off the mela specially as the administrator seemed overwhelmed and unable to keep track of the devotees? The Kumbh going ahead can only be majoritarian pandering by the government.
And, the consequence of all these reckless decisions will be paid by every Indian. A doctor told me that we had already lost control of the battle to fight the epidemic but, with lakhs of people returning home the spread of the highly infectious disease would be a disaster.
Worse, growing complacent after the first wave of COVID-19 the BJP government did not display any urgency in mass vaccination. The two initial vaccines which were allowed were trapped in the clutches of the officials who decided arbitrary allocation and the age groups who would receive them.
Virulent second wave
The evidence is in and the virulent second wave has affected those below 35 years badly. The government goofing up its lack of orders and allowing all vaccines is a COVID-19 catastrophe. (Update: On April 19, 2021 India finally decided to open up vaccination for everyone above 18 from May 1)
How untouched the government is by the panic is evident in the fact that it came up with “Tika Utsav” (vaccination festival) when all states were running short of the vaccine.
The only way out of the COVID-19 catastrophe is mass vaccination and India is now lagging far behind. The government spends only two per cent of GDP on health infrastructure and that is now catching up badly with us.
Currently we face an endemic lack of hospital beds, Intensive Care Units (ICU), oxygen and ventilator equipment. Even the drugs used to treat COVID-19 are not available.
Desperate people are begging for medical facilities on social media as cremation furnaces meltdown and an 10 hour waiting period is the norm for cremation. Wood is now in short supply. An unimaginable tragedy unfurls before us as COVID-19 is the crisis of our age.
So we still don’t who will win Bengal on May 2 but India seems to be losing the battle.