Friday, 2 December, 2022
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I am no fan of Modi, but I support coronavirus lockdown. Opposition should too

India needs both the government and the opposition to face this crisis. For the lockdown to succeed, opposition needs to ask, be alert and expose.

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The state comes into existence for the sake of life and continues to exist for the sake of good life.” The first half of this famous quote from Aristotle’s Politics sums up why we must support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unprecedented announcement of a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The state exists precisely because, when needed, decisions like this can be taken to save lives. The second part of the quote invites us to nuance our support.

I am no fan of this government. I have repeatedly characterised it as “electoral authoritarianism” and held it responsible for dismantling our republic, brick by brick. Its cynical use of communal divide and stoking of anti-Muslim hatred is nothing short of treason. I find this government incapable of managing a large and complex economy, far less a multi-ethnic society, like India in the 21st Century. No PM has been as economical with truth as Narendra Modi. I find no reason to change any of these views.

Yet, at this stage, we must check our oppositional instinct and support the PM’s decision for lockdown. It should not be merely verbal support. We should actively work towards successful implementation of this lockdown. This is not the moment for adversarial politics. India needs both the government and the opposition to face this crisis.


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No right path

A call for support does not mean that nation-wide lockdown is the only possible or sensible decision. There is more than one opinion about how to assess the risk of Covid-19. And there is a debate about how to mitigate the health hazard that it poses. Some experts say that the dangers are overstated, since the mortality rates may be lower than feared. In any case, the virus is bound to affect the entire population sooner or later. In this reading, the economic and human cost of lockdown outweighs the benefits of slowing down the spread of the virus. Aggressive testing in suspected population groups and widespread random checking could be more prudent than locking down the whole country.

The Modi government has gone by the other, currently dominant, line of reasoning. According to this, we simply cannot risk the level of active coronavirus cases that Italy or Spain has today. Given the sorry state of our public health infrastructure, we would be courting a catastrophe that could lead to millions of avoidable fatalities. For India, prevention is the only cure. A lockdown at this stage may not prevent eventual spread of coronavirus to most of the population, but it would defer the process. That would avoid a sudden raid on our hospitals, and the collapse that is bound to follow. We can spread the risk over a longer period and prepare ourselves better and research vaccines. Lockdown is a regrettable yet inevitable path for saving India’s future. That’s basically what PM Modi said in his address.

Now, there is no way of telling which of these is the right path. Political leaders who have to take this call face a situation that has few parallels and no readymade dos and don’ts. Even the best of leaders, and not just the less-intellectual ones like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, can look bad in the mirror of history. So, in such a situation, we must support their choices unless we are absolutely sure that the path chosen by them is malicious and ruinous for the country. In this instance, we don’t know what could be ruinous. And we do know that Modi would like to get this decision right, or at least be seen to have taken the right decision. Unlike 2016 demonetisation, this is not a solution in search of a problem. And unlike the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, this is not a design to divide India and reap political benefits. The oppositional response cannot be the same as in those instances.

Add one final consideration. A crisis like this calls for a clear, authoritative decision. Indeed, a crisis like this is one is the reason human beings need state in the first place. Indecision is worse than a wrong decision. And a half-implemented decision runs the risk of combining the worst of both worlds. So, once the decision is made, the only sensible way forward is to back it in full. The use of the National Disaster Management Act to declare ‘lockdown’, overriding the powers of the states over law and order, may be legally suspect, but that seems to be the best way of handling the pandemic within our constitutional scheme.


Also read: Modi’s Covid-19 lockdown speech shows he doesn’t learn from past mistakes, or doesn’t care to


Ask, alert, expose

The success of Modi’s decision depends on the opposition. The opposition need not and must not endorse whatever the government does in pursuit of this decision. Speaking of the King’s rights in the British system, Walter Bagehot said he has “the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn”. Similarly, in this context, the opposition has three rights: to ask, to alert, and to expose.

India needs the opposition to exercise these rights. For, left to itself, the Modi government could go for lockdown without any safety net. That would be ruinous for the country and might lead to failure of the decision itself. This constructive opposition must begin right away. We already know the enormous human cost of the lockdown, especially for the poor and other vulnerable sections of society. So far, the central government has dodged its responsibility on this score.

The task force promised by PM Modi in his first address is yet to materialise. The much-awaited economic package is nowhere in sight. The PM did not mention anything about immediate relief for the millions who have and will lose their livelihood. If the opposition is quiet, the government may turn its back to these pressing concerns, as it did during demonetisation.

The government also needs to be pushed for taking more active responsibility for the health care of those infected. In a pandemic, the government cannot pass the buck to individual citizens to save themselves from infection or go for unaffordable private health care. Similarly, having rightfully taken the charge, the Modi government cannot now pass the buck to state governments that are strapped for resources. In an extreme situation, the government must be prepared to ‘requisition’ private hospitals.

Finally, given the proclivity of this government, the opposition needs to be on guard to prevent this national health emergency from being used for eroding democratic rights and usurping extra-constitutional powers. The opposition must ask questions, alert the authorities at various levels and expose the gaps to ensure a successful implementation of the lockdown.

The author is the national president of Swaraj India. Views are personal.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. I honour the Prime Minister ‘s decision for a nationwide lock down from March24 since Corona outbreak in the Capital city and all over the country. But I would like to draw the attention of the Government that it should have been implemented much earlier a month before as it would have given the clear picture of how the pandemic was slowly creating panic and outburst all over the country and all states of the nation. Since everyone was aware that it was coming through China and other countries imposing a through check on the travellers coming in and moving out would be a correct step to combat the pandemic. Declaring an emergency in the first week of March 20 would have eased all tensions arising from any communities .
    However the Government is on right track and we need to follow the guidelines issued to everyone and come out successfully in controlling the deadly pandemic.

  2. YY should tell us three names from the opposition who are extremely honest and capable leaders. India would like to know.

  3. Modi has done reasonably good job in handling virus. As a NRI I know India started shutting international flights much earlier than most nations. No one want to know real reason behind spreading virus. This virus is extremely tricky to find in first days. Infact there are no symptoms upto 14 days. They screened people and that was what they could do. However even 5 people managed to sneak out and can spread virus everywhere. People like kanika kapoor ignored govt guidelines to self quarantine if travelled abroad. But instead they threw parties. This virus has already proved that it cannot be controlled just with money and govt but need corporation from everyone.

  4. Modi has done reasonably good job in handling virus. As a NRI I know India started shutting international flights much earlier than most nations. No one want to know real reason behind spreading virus. This virus is extremely tricky to find in first days. Infact there are no symptoms upto 14 days. They screened people and that was what they could do. However even 5 people managed to sneak out and can spread virus everywhere. People like kanika kapoor ignored govt guidelines to self quarantine if travelled abroad. But instead they threw parties. This virus has already proved that it cannot be controlled just with money and govt but need corporation from everyone. Print you are disgusting and suffering with hate virus. You don’t need to remind viewer how much you hate modi and you are destroying ethical journalism. Shame on you. Your favourite rahul Gandhi made Amethi one of most backward district in world so blaming modi for economic problems is hypocrisy. Its shame that you guys driving personal agenda. I would support CAA any day because minorities have suffered badly in neighbouring countries just because muslims are in majority there. Stop pretending human activist. You cover one minority death over beef for 3 months but minorities almost non exist in pakistan with horrible fall from 18% to under 1%. Where is human right for them. Where they all gone. Here muslim grown by more than 30% and hindu sikh Christian even cease to exist in pakistan. Then you say modi is anti minority. Really sad and pathetic journalism

  5. In our federal system it is duty of all of us to contribute and cooperate with the measures taken by the center and state governments and Local government to work to mitigate the woos of the poor and who depend on daily wages. It is for the society also to look around and help the poor in need of any help by showing kindness.Prevention is better then cure and so every one should observe social distancing and look at the lock down as time for self restraint and time for introspection.

  6. Dear Anwar
    Why most Muslims are filled with imaginary atrocities against them . Your eyes are closed to the atrocities by Muslims on other Muslims and venom on others in the name of purity of religion in the last 3 decades. Downfall of Muslim nations are your own making. Europe is not creating adults. Afghanistan is the world’s biggest producer of drugs

  7. Support Corona Bandi, provide constructive ideas but point out & hold Modi gvot responsible for failures of omission and commission.
    Don’t let Modi govt wash hands off responsibility like economic failures during last 6 years.

  8. To combat a serious disease Lock down is a way . But people have to be idle and financially weaker sections will suffer. Govt should take care of their survival. Seperating the people is not a clear solution . Identification of the virus affected people and their isolatioon is what required. Every panchayat and wards had to organise volunteers . Now lot of yuth will be available. They should go to every house hold ,check the temperature of people. Now there are instruments to do it without physical contact .Enquire about peop;le having cough etc. this is a simple method.success depends upon how well you are able to mobilise people for a good cause . Same panchayat/ward you can identify people who ha d returned from other districts or countries and they can be given special attention for testing. The movement of strangers to be checked. So Isolate the areas to be followed by identification of the affected .Have control over peoples movements. Essentials can be distributed through ration shops with te help of volunteers .Purchases from cities/towns ad to be through TRained personnel

  9. Abhijit Iyer Mitra is criticizing Modi, Yogendra Yadav is praising Modi.

    These truly are unprecedented times!

  10. The worrying part is not the lockdown per se, which is bad by itself. (Numerous reports of police high handedness already – and we are on Day 1 of 21) The real worry is the after-effects. The record of this government in working to get the details correct after grandiose announcements is so bad, perhaps the worst amongst all full-term govt. Recall the botch up of demo or GST to get an idea. Economic devastation is bound to occur with 21 days of this lockdown. So we might have saved lives from virus for now, but I am afraid that long term health of this country, her citizenry and her economy are all in grave peril. And Mr Yadav what do you mean by “requisition private hospitals”? Who is going to pay for it? If the hospital shuts because govt won’t pay its dues, then more jobs will be lost and the community it serves will be left bereft of healthcare.
    The misfortune of this country is that on one hand u have an incompetent govt and on the other an opposition whose lack of sense boggles the mind.

  11. The Print should do a deep dive into the timing of the lockdown to explain why its editorial team thinks the timing is right. For example in a world where global responses are required to keep a check on travel etc it would be unrealistic to enter national lockdown mode indefinitely. Countries instituting lockdown earlier because of regional hotspots didn’t close there entire economies. There are several concertina effects to consider. Finally, it would be good to do a deep dive into the “we should have had more tests available” aspect too. In a world scrambling for primers and reagents for conducting appropriate PCR tests, where was India’s roadblock? It takes 2-3 weeks post recovery for serology tests to get proper calibration etc could India have done this earlier? There are several aspects of the Covid response that are being orchestrated, who is the conductor?

  12. The World health organisations declared an international health emergency on 20th Jan 2020 , and Modi did not took any corrective action to lock down international flights and airports and restriction on inbound travelers ( who are the route cause of the virus spread in India ) till 22nd March and locking down whole country for not taking prevention at the root cause and citizens of India are suffering . With no proper emergency health planning to face such crisis .

  13. YY need not begin with “I am no fan of Modi …” as every body cell of YY knows how much it’s drown in Modi hate venom. YY had successfully fooled the stupid Muslims on CAA , NPR and NCR but he can’t fool the Corona Virus which is pure secular from all standandards. However, YY would have ample opportunity to empty his bile on Modi as the 21st lockdown day approaches.

  14. Modi locked down Kashmir, now entire India is locked down. The God all Mighty; the Creator & Sustainer of all the worlds was neither nor is sleeping. The world was silently watching brutal killings in Kashmir, India, Palestine, Burma, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria etc and did not utter a word of condemnation. . Killings was not only by arms but also by heroin which is massively trafficked from Afghanistan to the world under patronage of NATO. A UN report estimates annual 62 billion heroin growth in NATO controlled areas. The victims of this latter group is the citizens of those very countries which are active members of NATO. For this massive drug trafficking 9/11 was carried out by this international drug mafia. Its time we learn to respect human rights and also the right of the God Mighty who has created us and providing us everything and to Whom we shall return when there will be strict accountability with no respite. Its time to repent and correct ourselves!

  15. Who has asked for your views on the lockdown ? the Print ? In that case you could have personally emailed these views to Shekhar Gupta and his team who would have happily chewed every sentence bashing Modi for next 5 years. Why bombarding readers with your biased and hate filled opinion. Fact is you have miserably failed as a leader. No wonder you were once a Guru to Rahul Gandhi. Today the whole world knows where the Guru Shishya team stands and where the Karmayogi Modi stands. We know that you will continue to bring in Muslims in your discourse because that is the last resorted of the frustrated and defeated at polls. The people of this country have shown you your place and if you feel you can repeatedly play the communal card and somehow bring down Modi govt then you have not understood the pulse of the people. When you say that no package was announced, then what was the Rs 15000 crores announced for ? Have you gone mad ? Is Modi bashing your only hope of defeating Modi. Well if that is so I am happy because I see BJP getting atleast 45% votes in the next election. The Karmayogi works 18-20 hours a day while the jobless hitmen of the congress do what they are best at, abuse Modi.

  16. You mentioned there are other ways to fight this. Please feel free to suggest couple of other practical measures

    • Do you really think that jernos with their heads filled with Hate-Modi poison can suggest practical measures? They can even think of how to come out of the mess they have put themselves into.

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