PM Narendra Modi addresses the nation on Covid-19, on 20 April 2021 | PIB
PM Narendra Modi addresses the nation on Covid-19, on 20 April 2021 | PIB
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Today, a large number of Indians are living in fear with deep anger and frustration. Maybe the anger and frustration was hidden somewhere deep in our hearts and has now surfaced because of the unprecedented misery that has befallen on this nation. I wonder if there is a single indian who has not lost a family member, friend or acquaintance to COVID. It is even worse because a common man is left with the feeling of having been abandoned by those who were voted to power. 

So heart rending are the scenes on television and the stories one hears. What makes it worse is when those in power instead of acknowledging that they should have been proactive are either passing the buck or carrying on huge PR exercises to wipe the slate of all the negative publicity. Even though the government machinery has started to get its act together, the damage is irreparable. 

I wonder how long it would take our countrymen to heal. The fault lies not just with those in power, but the people who surround these politicians. It is the bureaucrats who are supposed to have their ears to the ground and keep the politicians abreast of reality. They keep their eyes closed, their ears shut and their mouths sealed in the hope that they will retire from their service with some coveted post. They only speak once they retire especially if they did not get what they hoped to. 

But of course our politicians are also averse to negative reviews.

Does it mean that our country was a ‘ramrajya’ before the present dispensation. Sadly not, the politicians from all parties have just one aim, to be in power. Citizens are mere votes and they the vultures. They target the most vulnerable sections. Why do you think we still have a large population that is poor and illiterate. Why is it over the last 75 years our child mortality rates have continued to be high? Well this is an ideal situation for the politicians. 

This is the section of the society they mislead sometimes by doling out goodies just before election, or rousing their religious sentiments. It is not a question of Hindu-Muslim hatred. A poor person does not have time to think about all this, earning their livelihood is the focus. These anti social hoodlums who are on the pay rolls of various parties are there to create the divide. The present dispensation does it shamelessly but the other parties cannot absolve themselves of this crime against the nation. There were riots and killing long before the BJP came to the scene. Of course today the likes of some CMs do it as though they have been authorised by our Constitution.

So dear Indians, most of us want to see change but let us hope those who come to power will stop treating us as votes. I hope they will no longer think that they are the rulers and we the ruled. Let us educate every Indian that we are not in an age of monarchies. The political leaders are there because of us and not the other way round. It is our constitutional duty to demand the best out of them. The money that they talk of doling out, is not theirs but the tax payers hard earned money. It is time we educate the people that the elected are answerable to the electorate even if they have a majority. They exist because we allow them to exist.

Dear Indians, stand up and let the politicians from every party know that each Indian matters, their voice matters, do not dare to stifle it, their dreams matter, do not dare to trample over them .

–Bindu Sikand 

I disagree with Shekhar Gupta. Indian media is not doing a stellar job. 

In his essay, the former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, “Why is the Indian media so negative?”, the iconic scientist argues that the Indian media is full of negativity. It does not celebrate our successes but highlights all the gory details and negativity.

I agree there is not much to celebrate on these gloomy days. Moreover, news in itself isn’t positive or negative. Thus, reporting should be as objective as possible and should give us a picture of reality. However, is the Indian media showing us the complete reality?

Take any major publication and all that we see is pictures of burning pyres. While I agree that it is a grim reality and every death is unfortunate and in this case, certainly avoidable. However, what about the people who are recovering? Where are the stories of people who have fought their way out?

Now, people may be tempted to call be a ‘Bhakt’ or a ‘Sanghi’ etc. who is attempting to salvage his supreme leader of any accountability. However, my argument is not for the government, but the patients.

Ask any doctor and they will tell you that half the battle is fought by the patient. And this is a mental battle.  Every day, I read stories of people who fought their way out of this horrific disease. Personally, a cousin of mine who was infected a few weeks ago testified that mental fortitude is the key to fighting this infection. Back in 2012, my mother was infected with a severe bout of Pneumonia. In the OPD, the physician who was treating her said, ‘I agree that the condition is serious. However, try to motivate her. I have seen people bouncing back out of near-impossible cases, by their sheer will power. ‘

If the media keeps flashing pictures of crematoria, imagine the state of mind of the infected and about to be hospitalized. What would their relatives go through? How can the doctors motivate patients? Humans are visual animals. If all that the patients see is death, it will break their will to fight.

Having said that, I am not saying that the establishment shouldn’t be held accountable. In the next elections, shove these pictures of burning pyres in their face. Hold them accountable, be it the Prime Minister or anybody. But this is not the time for scavenging.

Lastly, look at the practical repercussions. This fear mongering is leading to the hoarding of essentials like medicines and Oxygen. Black marketing is on a rampage, leading India into a vicious circle.

P.K. (Prasad Kulkarni)

Also read: This is what Modi needs to do make his govt accountable in the Covid crisis

The dire Covid situation we are in now is mostly due to the people losing guard and that’s because India’s leaders lost the guard. This is something that happens when one does the work for all the people in his team. When Modi campaigns so hard right up from a ward election to a MLA election to a MP election and he is the single star campaigner who takes head on fight with a local councillor to a MLA to a MP all by himself, India is losing so much time in not having the Prime Minister focus on things that are of national Importance. 

Recent example is of Bengal – It once seemed as if Modi will become CM if BJP wins Bengal. This in my opinion should change and can only happen when people don’t lose sight of local leadership and start giving Importance to the right leadership at all the levels. 

–Sharath Sunkesulu 

Many changes and developments bring around a dramatic shift in our lives, for better or worse. The imagery of pandemic misery and death have had an overbearing impact on our minds as a country, unlike anything that a large (young) part of our population has seen in their lifetimes. 

Most of our social conversations these days are around how badly has the system and administration failed and leaving each one of us to fend for self; leading to a larger assessments of how livable our country remains and does the story of modern India in-the-making fade away everyday as we see serpentine queues of patients gasping for oxygen on footpaths outside hospitals and the dead outside crematoriums. But I reckon the option of having a future outside of India is a privilege few can consider. So what is the other chunk of our population thinking? 

Anyone who follows Indian politics understand well that sentiments get you votes over good governance or economics. Masses in our country have voted on the lines of cast, religion, linguistic & social identity, nationalism, border issues or anything that remotely stimulates emotions and sentiments. The pattern is so well established that the ticket distribution to psephologists’ analysis all revolves around this. 

Thus far, this was happening in an environment which was generally considered stable with sporadic highs and lows in employment opportunities, economic environment, law and order and delivery of welfare schemes. Such governance and policy issues affected different sections of the population differently and on a pro-rata basis and hence never lead to a pressure cooker situation.

However, the current health crisis in the country has potentially touched each household in this country in one form or the other. Far too many people and all at once have been hit by the scare of the disease and lack of infrastructure to help the diseased cope up with it. The second wave has equally touched the young & old, elite, middle-income or poor, rural & urban on an equal scale. The sheer unpreparedness for the scale of the spread second time around and perhaps the assistance the administration gave to the virus in running wild by allowing mass gatherings, systemic fatigue and an ineffective vaccine policy has caught the irk of the masses who are now directly reeling by its effects. 

In our system of electoral democratic, especially in the Hindi heartland the elected representatives are given the status of a family figurehead, so much so that family disputes over relationships, land and money are referred to them for arbitration and settlement. Likewise, the local elected representative is often consulted to for jobs, access to social schemes, government documents and so on and they kindly oblige by making a phone call to the local administration to help. 

This informal system which operates in individual compartments establishes a deep connect between the elected and the electorate; and often helps bypass the broad assessment of the elected representatives overall contribution in the constituency or other issues of administrations in the area. In pandemic times, the informal system of referral has completely crashed, when public and voters are calling up their elected representatives in hope of oxygen, beds, remdesivir injections or even ambulances, there is not much they are receiving back for obvious reasons. What is making things worse is the most elected representatives are distancing themselves from the situation and are nowhere to be seen on ground, primarily because they have no solutions to give and also because they don’t want to expose themselves the virus. Those sitting in government are praising their governments’ intangible efforts in managing the crisis on social medial, whereas the ones in opposition are clinging on to their local area development funds and criticizing the governments’ crisis management. 

In all of this, it is very evident that the voters are losing their faith in the entire class and generation of which they have been keeping in high personal regard despite of the many systemic failures that they have been dealing with for decades. There is no doubt that those sitting in the government are set to face a greater erosion of political capital, but the traditional families and ones in opposition are equally going to face the fury of the voters in the next elections. 

The absence of the elected representatives’ healing touch during these times of death and misery is going to break all ranks as established and enjoyed earlier by our traditional political class. This is going to be a turning point where the Indian electorate is going to look at representatives of a new generation and type, who demonstrate qualities of understanding local governance and development over just sentiment and cast.

–Vishwajeet Singh Champawat

The headlines in the recent run of Assembly election were mostly hogged by the so called Star Campaigners of political parties across the spectrum. From the PM to key CMs and Cabinet ministers all seem to be carrying out rallies as star campaigners for their parties. I want to debate and share my opinion on why this seems to be a broken way of campaigning and canvassing. 

To begin with let’s start with what is the definition of a star campaigner. As per the EC, a star campaigner is a celebrity vote seeker for the party. EC limits the number of star campaigners for recognized parties to 40 for a given election phase. There is absolutely no bar on who can be a star campaigner. The big advantage which having a star campaigner gives to a candidate is that the money spent by political parties on their star campaigners campaign is not deducted from the poll expenditure kitty which a candidate can spend as per EC norms. However, this marketing blitz by the star campaigners undermines the overall process. Let’s look at some ways how. 

  1. Takes away the attention from local issues – Prime Time news media and even Independent Media houses have a dis-propotionate screen time for star campaigners. While these star campaigners do localise their content it more often than not starts becoming a grand promise at 50,000 feet level than actual discussions and promises for ground-level changes. While the latter do happen when candidates do door to door canvassing or localised rallies it goes without saying that the lofty and often impractical promises or non-local promises do have an impact on the way a voter votes for his/her own constituency 
  2. Take the mind-share of the Star Campaigner of their actual roles – A significant number of star campaigners from these political parties in India are holding public offices. Star Campaigners usually include prominent members of the party who also hold a public office which has nothing to do directly with the legislation in which the election is happening. PM and the Home Minister were alone slated to address 70+ rallies in the recent West Bengal 2021 election. Every day spent in electionnering is a day spent less on the affairs of the public office. Even though politicians are great at multitasking there is a definite loss of mind-share which has to happen with the quantum of rallies which happen. The situation is even more absurd when campaigners hold a non-related public offices like a CM of another state or significant public office bearers end up campaigning of elections to Municipal Corporations and other local bodies just to expand their parties political capital 
  3. Provides a loophole for political parties to spend over the allocated budget – Lastly, this is a way out for the political parties to spend much more on marketing and voter wooing than what EC allows in order to create a fairground for all contestants to contest and have a chance to win. Does this work in favor of the rich and the mighty is a question to ask and ponder about. 

Amey Sahasrabuddhe

Also read: India can get out of this Covid ‘mess’ but it will mean setting aside differences first

Anurag Kotikalpudi

I grew up in Jamshedpur in the 90s, in what was then Bihar under Lalu Prasad Yadav’s chief ministership. From poverty and lawlessness to an appalling lack of infrastructure, Bihar in those days was the definition of chaos. Growing up, I got to witness from close quarters state apathy towards the well-being of citizens. Of course, I did not have a benchmark for comparison and was initially quite content with the world around me. 

However, as I grew older and got to know more about the wider world, it is no surprise that I developed a contempt for our political class and their ways. I always believed that India is a truly great country with genuine and talented individuals, the world certainly looked at us as such. But somehow, we lacked political leadership that would look beyond narrow sectarian divisions, one with a long-term vision and the will to implement it. Our report card was perennially like that of a child who always scores poor, but the good teacher untiringly writes in her remarks, ‘has the potential to do better’. 

It’s not like we did not have achievements along the way, but it was in 2014 that the optimist in me thought finally we were at the cusp of a decisive change. Here was a politician who came with a formidable administrative experience of running the state of Gujarat for over a decade. More importantly, Mr. Modi seemed a man with a vision. In my view, his speech at SRCC in 2013 was as significant a speech as any in Indian political history. I remember getting goosebumps when he spoke of the need for skill, speed and scale. It did not seem like hollow rhetoric to me, he had a track record of delivery to back it up. The speech came like a breath of fresh air in a country where political class mostly sought votes in the name of everything but delivery. As a chief minister, Mr. Modi had a track record of delivery and a legacy of seeking votes on his work, for most part at least. 

Which is why I am so disappointed at Mr. Modi’s spectacular failure in handling of the current crisis. I do not put the full blame for lack of adequate health infrastructure in so many parts of the country on the Prime Minister. Yes, he has inherited problems that one could not solve overnight. And yes, it’s not just him; few chief ministers have covered themselves in glory in their handling of the crisis.

But what cannot be overlooked is that in this moment of crisis, he has not shown himself a visionary nor a statesman who can lead the country out of this crisis. One would have hoped that he would rise above narrow political differences to deal with a bigger problem, the biggest the country has faced in decades. The fight with the Delhi government for delivery of oxygen was an ugly one, in which the courts had to intervene multiple times to upbraid the central government. The shrill language in West Bengal campaign was avoidable while the country was in the midst of such a deep crisis. The slow pace of vaccinations continues to be problem, in most states we are having to play fastest finger first to get an appointment.  

Most of all, he has looked out of depth all through, a far cry from the aura he presented in the SRCC speech. The last time a Prime Minister looked so clueless was when Dr. Manmohan Singh was faced with the anti-corruption agitation. At least at that time, we could make jokes on the silent Prime Minister and have a laugh at the situation, even if at our own expense. The current state of play does not offer that solace, there is no redemption when so many of fellow countrymen are suffering and dying with no end in sight. His carefully cultivated image of strong man is turning against him, as it does not even permit him to acknowledge a problem or seek help.  

Which brings me back to where I began. I find myself returning to the pessimism of the 90s. Once again, the political class has let the country down even as common people help one another to fight this crisis. The government seems to have outsourced its job to the citizens, who are tirelessly making calls and posting on social media for remdesivir, plasma and oxygen. Once more, I feel the need for a political class with a vision and an ability to lead us out of this crisis. Anyone up for it?

–Anurag Kotikalpudi

The vaccination drive in India is limping. However it’s not too late yet. Here is the present situation and some suggestions. 

The main problem we are facing today is the supply of vaccine. Out of a population of 138 crores, we are left with about 75 crores if we exclude children and adults under 18 years. We need 150 crore doses of vaccine as each adult needs two doses. There are only two manufacturers in India viz Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech (BB). Presently SII makes about 7-8 crores and BB makes about 1 crore vaccines every month. At this rate of production, it will take us about 18 months to bring in vaccine for everyone which is not acceptable. In the best of the circumstances SII can ramp up vaccine production to 10 crores and BB to 5 crores a month. Russia can supply Sputnik V vaccine at the rate of about 5 crores per month. 

This will take us to the tally of about 20 crores per month. However it will take about four months to ramp up these numbers. With this number and assuming we can efficiently vaccinate everyone, it will take about a year from now for every eligible adult to get vaccinated. This is not acceptable either. The following should be done on an emergency basis.

       SSI and BB should ramp up production as fast as possible and the government should help them in every way to do so. 

       Dissolve patents of SII and BB temporarily and let other competent companies in India produce vaccines  till the crunch is under control 

       Procure vaccines from other sources like Russian Sputnik V. Three other vaccine candidates look promising. The DNA vaccine (for spike protein) by Zydus Cadila, the recombinant spike protein (Biological E), and self-amplifying messenger RNA (Sa-mRNA for spike protein) by Gennova can reach field application in four months. All the three may need emergency approval from the DCGI. 

       Centralisation of vaccine procurement and supply. The central government with representative from each state should sit and negotiate the price with the vaccine manufacturers. Even if the currently accepted price of Rs. 150 goes up to Rs. 200, India can vaccinate everyone within the stipulated budget of Rs. 35000 crores. 

Vaccinating everyone before the year end should be a reasonable goal and is achievable.

–Dr Ajit Bhagwat 

These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.






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