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Dear PM Modi, Mahabharat was a bloody war. Coronavirus fight mustn’t be one: Kapil Sibal

We pray that the tragic consequences of the Mahabharat do not visit our population. This war against the coronavirus will not end in 21 days for several reasons.

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On November 8, 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi demonetised high denomination currency notes, he assured the people that in 50 days the adverse consequences of the cash freeze will be resolved. This ‘surgical strike’, he claimed, will eliminate unaccounted money, put an end to terrorist activities, rid us of fake currency, and corruption.

If at the end of 50 days people’s problems didn’t get resolve, PM Modi had said he was willing to suffer any punishment at their hands. The problems facing the poor and businesses did not end after 50 days. The impact of demonetisation is being felt even today. The country lost 1.5 % to 2% of its GDP and the poor suffered the brunt of this ill-thought decision.

The Prime Minister now says that the war against coronavirus, like the Mahabharat, which was won in 18 days, will instead take 21 days to break the chain of virus for people to be safe. Modi’s comparison of this war against coronavirus with the Mahabharat is ill-conceived. It only reaffirms his penchant for promising the moon and later faltering.

Also read: Govt prescribes ‘Yoga with Modi’ for foreign envoys battling stress of Covid-19 lockdown

Let’s hope it’s not a Mahabharat

To see why the PM’s comparison is ill-conceived, we need to recall what happened in Mahabharat. It was one of the bloodiest wars ever fought. It was so monstrous that almost 80 per cent of the male population died. Mahabharat symbolised the victory of ‘good’ over ‘evil’. Pandavs won and Kauravs lost.

The curse of Gandhari resulted in the exodus of the entire Yadav clan to Prabhasa where after a murderous rebellion, the Yadavs ended up killing each other, almost wiping out the entire race. While stopping the rebellion, Krishna was also killed when a hunter mistakenly shot him with an arrow, after which he merged in the image of Vishnu, leaving his mortal human body.

Indeed, Ved Vyas tells Arjun that the purpose of his and his brothers’ lives is over. The Pandavs finally decided to climb the Himalayas as a final penance to reach heaven. As they started climbing, they too died leaving Yudhishthir alone to make it to haven.

We pray to the god that the tragic consequences of the Mahabharat do not visit our population. We must save lives. This war against the coronavirus will not end in 21days for several reasons. We do not even know how many people are carrying the virus. We do not have the testing equipment needed, in terms of quantity, to determine the number of people infected. Our doctors do not have personal protective equipment as they put themselves and their families at risk. There is no vaccine in sight.

It will perhaps take one to one-and-a half years to have a vaccine. The virus has already reached Stage 3. Unless providence proves otherwise, the number of those affected will increase exponentially even if we are able to provide for testing equipment and qualified doctors.

We do not have enough isolated beds and wards to ensure that the virus does not spread further. There are not enough ventilators and their timely manufacture to meet our requirements is unlikely. Even in the developed world, ventilators are in short supply. Given these circumstances, the lives of the elderly and those already suffering from other ailments, being more vulnerable, are at risk.

Also read: Migrant workers stranded in their own land while buses practice social distancing

The invisible enemy

The analogy with Mahabharat is also flawed because there the enemy was known and visible, unlike our battle against this killer virus.

The reality is that neither we nor the world is ready to meet this challenge. The US is having a sudden surge, especially in New York of those affected. They neither have the beds nor the equipment to deal with this emergency. The US has cleared a $2.2 trillion package to deal with this pandemic. In the course of this battle, many may succumb against this unforgiving enemy.

Also read: ‘No one wants to go near them’ — returning migrant workers in Bihar face social boycott

The economic consequences

PM Modi should also be cognizant of the enormous economic consequences that our government will have to deal with after the 21-day lockdown. Tragic human stories will be told in times to come. The plight of migrant labourers; the consequences of joblessness; the travails of the unemployed and the helplessness of the poor, who have no access to decent healthcare. These are concerns that the government must recognise and provide for.

The ₹1.7 lakh crore financial package is inadequate, both in terms of quantity and quality. All affected need immediate succour with a one-time financial package and not just those covered by the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana. The jobless, the migrant labourer, the unemployed and daily wagers, along with those in the wholesale and retail business also need attention.

Small businesses too will see a steep fall in earnings. Some tax relief for them is necessary. Those indebted to banks need loan and interest payment deferment. Even the financial package announced requires meticulous implementation efforts. Even after providing for this, there will be many who will be left out.

In the meantime, supplies of essential commodities will be disrupted and anti-social elements and black marketeers will exploit the poor who will be the hardest hit. Corruption, favoritism and discrimination will be the order of the day. For the privileged, who have space and resources, these 21 days will pass, but those without resources and space may be subjected to untold sufferings.

The impact of the economic crisis of this pandemic will begin to be felt this financial quarter itself. We may lose at least 2% of our GDP in 2020-21. Businesses will shut down. Non-performing assets will increase. Banks will be stretched and credit off-take, which fuels the economy, will be limited.

We are already witnessing the consequences of this ill-planned lockdown. First, the states were not consulted. They were totally unprepared for the migrant exodus. The long march on highways and waves of humanity desperate to reach home have brought home the realisation that you cannot lockdown a nation without being prepared for the fallout.

The lockdown hasn’t worked and social distancing is a non-starter. That explains the decision to discontinue the complete lockdown after 14 April. But images of sanitisation of migrant workers, who walked hundreds of kilometers without food or shelter to reunite with their families will haunt us for years. The lockdown resulted in an economic blockade with businesses shutting down and movement of goods and services reduced to a trickle. The long-term economic costs, in the middle of a global impending recession, will be felt in the years to come.

Also read: Sanitisers to migrant shelters — Rajasthan’s Covid-19 fight is a public-private venture

Inadequate preparations

We are in it for the long haul. This government’s response to this pandemic, considering the gravity of the situation, is to say the least was inadequate. It is true that we should not spread panic but it is also true that we should not provide false hope that after 21 days of the lockdown the danger of this pandemic will have been adequately addressed.

There is another fallacy in Modi’s comparison of the present crisis with the Mahabharat. Mahabharat represents triumph of good over evil. The real evil in this war against the pandemic is not the virus. The real evil is ‘us’. We have plundered nature for our own selfish ends, for our comforts. We have ravaged every possible living and non-living bounty of nature. By our ever increasing greed, we are trying to interfere with the way nature works. It works for the preservation of the species. We are ensuring its destruction. The enemy, dear Prime Minister, is not the virus, like the Kauravs. It is us and we certainly are not the Pandavs.

Kapil Sibal is a senior Congress leader and a member of the Rajya Sabha. Views are personal.

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  1. By Contradicting Modi, Sibbal is finally getting aligned with his analogies. He fails to fathom the spirit of war of Mahabharat fought with when compared with war against Corona and lands up with the conclusion that Corona war may be more severe than Mahabharat war due to the silent and invisible type of the enemy.. At the same time Sibbal takes it for granted as if that the war preparations against Corona has been forgotten by Govt, Considerations of Economic consequences with the financial agonies in the aftermath of Corona has been kept shelved by the Govt, Matters relating to adequacy of preparations to combat corona has taken a back seat in this Govt etc.
    With such kind of depth of analysis of matters, how could he remain existent as a practicing lawyer in the apex court of India. God save the Judiciary and the Nation.

  2. I think traitors or Modi worshippers only Belo gs to Hindi belt or those who don’t know English but I was wrong.

  3. Comparison of the Corona pandemic with Mahabharata is ridiculous, which only Modi can do and all Modi Bhakts will clap for it.

    Modi is a master in arousing the sentiments of Hindus and taking stupid policy decisions without consulting the experts, as he is suffering from megalomaniac syndrome.

  4. It is crisis time where hygiene condition of our country and as whole world is testef. Now successfully full lock down for 21 days remaining 3 months we can come outside work but with mask social distance for 2meters?? Get sanitized every 1hour means handwash shift system of food work that started already in abroad no religious social political commercial entertainment gathering keep in vigil all infections and get quarantined immediately. Pray no corona no rift between human equal world STAY HOME KEEP SANITIZED EVERY HOUR JAIHIND

  5. Sabbal. a spent force and venting out his.frustration of being out of power
    Piddi.needs to stay home and bark..not in media

  6. The author only seeks to pick on the negitivity from what the government is doing. We should at least appreciate what the government is doing, no matter a bunch of idiots are hell bent on making the quarantine and lockdown a major failure.

  7. What else could have been from him? After all, this senior Congress leader too is an ardent follower of Rahul Gandhi, who is better known for making the whole lot of immature utterances and even some wild comments in the public domain. One wishes that he had instead come out with some viable solution to deal with the dreaded Covid-19 that is fast spreading its wings throughout the country.

  8. Depends on how one interprets the Mahabharata. One on hand it is, as Mr. Sibal says, war and bloodshed. On the other hand it is also interpreted as the constant battle that our senses wage against a multitude of temptations. Irrespective of how or what one sees, the Mahabharata is much more than just a fratricidal conflict between cousins, although that is the core of the epic.

  9. The impact of demonetization is being felt even today. I agree, probably a lot of fees used to get paid in cash and the impact is bound to be felt.
    Are people in this country stupid to give up gas subsidy on one call, stay at home on one call.
    The advocates of democracy should accept that Modi has a better credibility, although he does not write articles or give press conferences.
    Face to face if a stupid question is asked a befitting answer should be given, but that a PM should not do, he has his dignity to maintain so better option is not to tangle with the cock-fight experts.
    In one of his discourses OSHO said the most interesting word in English is a four letter word XXXX, just by sound it can describe pain pleasure hate and love. In language it falls into many grammatical categories and it would serve as the most appropriate description of the uninterrupted governance model we have had till 2014.
    The eco-system and the beneficiaries of that, always believed that no matter who came to power the system will remain. So now the philosophical analysis and justification that the current phase is only transient like the 370 &35A and will go at some point of time. Even the most secular are ready to quote from MahaBharata.

  10. There might be a real solution at hand, despite Mr Modi’s many faults, real and imaginary. A doctor in a very close-knit Jewish community in upstate New York has stated that he has cured hundreds of coronavirus infected patients without having to resort to extreme measures such as intubation and ventilators, and without recourse to large-scale testing. He has used a combination of three commonly available medicines, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and zinc tablets. These are readily available in India, and we can readily produce enough to take care of all the cases in India. (In addition, we have large stocks of chloroquine, a close analogue of hydroxychloroquine. These are malaria drugs.) The symptoms of Covid-19 are well known. Early symptoms are dry cough, sore throat, loss of taste and smell, and fever. Next comes breathlessness. We do not have the luxury of large-scale testing or lakhs of ventilators and ICU beds. Best if we instead empower every dispensary in the country to follow the protocols spelled out by Dr Vladimir Zelenko:

    1. Any patient with shortness of breath regardless of age is treated.

    2. Any patient in the high-risk category even with just mild symptoms is treated.

    3. Young, healthy and low risk patients even with symptoms are not treated (unless their circumstances change and they fall into category 1 or 2).

    My out-patient treatment regimen is as follows:

    1. Hydroxychloroquine 200mg twice a day for 5 days

    2. Azithromycin 500mg once a day for 5 days

    3. Zinc sulfate 220mg once a day for 5 days

    We should give wide publicity to common sense safety procedures such as frequent hand washing, avoidance of physical closeness to one another, the widesoread use of masks even if these are homemade, and the isolation to the extent practical of the vulnerable. That would go a long way. And the widespread availability of an easy cure should be stated endlessly on mass media. If we do that, why should we not return to our normal activities?

      • That “coz” is very cute. Not so cute is your ignorance. Here is a summary by a doctor, also formerly a governor of an American state:

        “For my entire career, I have taken a conservative approach to medicine. I don’t want to give false or premature hope. All of this is subject to further refinement as more information arrives. But likewise I can’t ignore the available evidence. This appears to be the best widely available option for treating Covid-19 and not merely easing the suffering from the disease. It would be irresponsible not to pursue this option aggressively.”

        An Update on the Coronavirus Treatment:
        Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin continue to show results for patients,
        By Dr Jeff Colyer, Wall Street Journal

  11. Very well analysed . Should be an eye-opener for Prime Minister Modi who went about mindlessly drawing his analogy with the Mahabharay..
    👍Mr Sibal for telling Mr Modi how he went wrong.

    • Even secular is also started quoting from Mahabharata. That is called Modi. Does any of the congressi have any solution to the problem?

    • A stupid is more dangerous motor mouth when he is not aware that whatever he says is stupid.

  12. No comments or efforts on part of the first family of Congress or AAP on Tablig e jamaat in Delhi of around 3500 people. No of people gathered refer to The Print snehesh. Will Soniaji or Arvindji have guts to oppose the gathering of evangelist Jamaat or will vote politics triumph

    • Why should Sonia be asked to condemn or defend the Tableeghi Jammat’s behaviour? In case you are unaware, Muslims in Delhi all voted for AAP. The congress candidates lost their deposit in more than 90% seats. The congress does not represent Muslims of Delhi anymore. They are represented by AAP and BJP which won every MP seat in Delhi. Ask Kejriwal and Modi for an explanation. It was the duty of the central govt to stop foreign delegates from Malaysia/Indonesia who brought in the virus instead of trying to create riots in Delhi and it was Kejriwal’s duty to enforce stoppage of large religious gatherings in Delhi. Both failed and now you are demanding answers from Sonia Gandhi and congress. That is quite unfair.

      • Wov. If we go by your logic then, Modi is elected with absolute majority among 130 crores people. The other opposition members should shut their mouth for 5 years. You should ask them to follow the dictum.

        • Are you non sense from fool Kingdom even modi cannot legally talk like this voted for 5 years for what governance freedom assurance human rights not sit like donkey

      • Most of the those who commented here appear to be modi bhaktts who do not have the guts to hear any criticism of their popular pm and his disastrous action even if when critism is constuctive. The senior congress leader an mp is not an ordinary politician . He has not only alerted the pm about what is going to happen in a couple of months if the furious march of the virus is not contained but also suggested measures that need to be taken to deal with the horrible consequences of the crisis. Lest the disazter like demonitisation and ill planned gst shoul d repeat mr . sibal has forewarned the modi govt. There is nothing wrong about this

      • Most of the those who commented here appear to be modi bhaktts who do not have the guts to hear any criticism of their popular pm and his disastrous action even if when critism is constuctive. The senior congress leader an mp is not an ordinary politician . He has not only alerted the pm about what is going to happen in a couple of months if the furious march of the virus is not contained but also suggested measures that need to be take to deal with the horrible consequences of the crisis. Lest the disazter like demonitisation and ill planned gst shoul d repeat mr . sibal has forewarthe modi govt. There is nothing wrong about this

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