The war on the coronavirus, which prime minister Narendra Modi promised to win for us in 21 days, gets more hopeless by the day with the daily increase in caseload crossing 90,000, a figure higher than all other nations. India added the last million new cases in 13 days, a record of sorts in pandemic history. With 41 lakh infections, India has now become the nation with the second largest number of Covid-19 patients, overtaking Brazil.
The nature of the pandemic has been shifting. Those states which fared better in the early stages are now becoming increasingly vulnerable. The southern states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka see no let-up in new cases; even Kerala has started reporting cases upwards of 2,500 every day. Delhi is reported to be witnessing a relapse with the numbers increasing. Kerala's finance minister is the latest high profile person to contract the virus.
The saving grace till now has been the case fatality rate which has been quite low but experts fear that the situation could change as the pandemic moves towards the villages from cities and towns where the health infrastructure is in better shape. It is in this context that the criticism of Congress leader and former finance minister P. Chidambaram must be looked at. He has pointed out that India is the only country that has not benefited from the lockdown. When the lockdown was declared, India had less than 500 cases but the number rose to 5.6 lakh when it ended on June 30.
The economic cost the nation is being made to pay is humongous. The nation’s GDP experienced a historic contraction by 23.9 per cent in the first quarter. It will be cold comfort to think that the period was spent mostly in lockdown. This quarter, which started with half-a-million infections, will see the number multiplied several times when it ends.
It is time the government explained to the people what its game plan was when it declared the lockdown and set a deadline to win the war, and how it all went awry. The lockdown had not only shut down the economy completely, it also put people to untold miseries. Millions of guest workers were made to trek their way back home in villages from the towns and cities and several of them fell and died by the wayside. There was little help coming from the government; even the courts refused to see the unfolding human catastrophe in the earlier days.
It will be suicidal for the nation to return to lockdown; instead, it must launch a massive awareness campaign on the pandemic and educate the people on the need of social distancing. It must also ramp up the healthcare infrastructure in the interiors. Instead of advising the resource-starved states to borrow, the government must loose its purse strings instead. The time for hollow slogans and meaningless gestures has passed long ago....