Arundhati Roy Describes India’s Covid Catastrophe as ‘Crime Against Humanity’

Date:

Arundhati Roy. — File photo

‘The crisis-generating machine that we call our government is incapable of leading us out of this disaster,’ says celebrated author in an article in The Guardian

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI — Celebrated Indian author Arundhati Roy has made the harshest of comments on the failure of the Modi government to tackle the havoc that the second wave of Covid-19 is causing in India: She has described it as ‘Crime against Humanity’. “The system hasn’t collapsed. The government has failed. Perhaps ‘failed’ is an inaccurate word, because what we are witnessing is not criminal negligence, but an outright crime against humanity,” she wrote in The Guardian of London.

The article is a sort of a report card on the performance of the government viz a viz Covid crisis. She says it’s hard to convey the full depth and range of the trauma, the chaos and the indignity that people are being subjected to. And on top of it Modi and his allies are telling us not to complain, otherwise you will be dealt with harshly.

“People are dying in hospital corridors, on roads and in their homes. Crematoriums in Delhi have run out of firewood. The forest department has had to give special permission for the felling of city trees. Desperate people are using whatever kindling they can find. Parks and car parks are being turned into cremation grounds. It’s as if there’s an invisible UFO parked in our skies, sucking the air out of our lungs. An air raid of a kind we’ve never known,” she writes and quotes virologists’ prediction that the number of cases in India is likely to grow exponentially to more than 500,000 a day. It has already crossed 200,000. “They predict the death of many hundreds of thousands in the coming months, perhaps more. My friends and I have agreed to call each other every day just to mark ourselves present, like roll call in our school classrooms,” says the world renowned author and an ardent commentator on contemporary India.

She questions the lack of transparency of the PMCARES fund, set up by Modi himself last year at the start of the pandemic. “Try not to wonder why the PM Cares Fund – the opaque organisation that has recently replaced the more public Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, and which uses public money and government infrastructure but functions like a private trust with zero public accountability – has suddenly moved in to address the oxygen crisis. Will Modi own shares in our air-supply now?”

“The crisis-generating machine that we call our government is incapable of leading us out of this disaster. Not least because one man makes all the decisions in this government, and that man is dangerous – and not very bright.” Roy argues stressing on the importance of a collective decision-making process that needs to be put in place.

She says oxygen is the new currency on India’s morbid new stock exchange. Senior politicians, journalists, lawyers – India’s elite – are on Twitter pleading for hospital beds and oxygen cylinders. The hidden market for cylinders is booming. Oxygen saturation machines and drugs are hard to come by.

“There are markets for other things, too. At the bottom end of the free market, a bribe to sneak a last look at your loved one, bagged and stacked in a hospital mortuary. A surcharge for a priest who agrees to say the final prayers. Online medical consultancies in which desperate families are fleeced by ruthless doctors. At the top end, you might need to sell your land and home and use up every last rupee for treatment at a private hospital. Just the deposit alone, before they even agree to admit you, could set your family back a couple of generations,” Roy writes.

Hoping that things will settle down eventually, she says, “But we don’t know who among us will survive to see that day. The rich will breathe easier. The poor will not. For now, among the sick and dying, there is a vestige of democracy. The rich have been felled, too. Hospitals are begging for oxygen. Some have started bring-your-own-oxygen schemes. The oxygen crisis has led to intense, unseemly battles between states, with political parties trying to deflect blame from themselves.”

Roy refers to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s claim that there is no scarcity of oxygen in his state and anyone complaining about it will be arrested without bail under the National Security Act and have their property seized.

“Yogi Adityanath doesn’t play around. Siddique Kappan, a Muslim journalist from Kerala, jailed for months in Uttar Pradesh when he and two others travelled there to report on the gang-rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Hathras district, is critically ill and has tested positive for Covid. His wife, in a desperate petition to the chief justice of the supreme court of India, says her husband is lying chained “like an animal” to a hospital bed in the Medical College hospital in Mathura. (The Supreme Court has now ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to move him to a hospital in Delhi.) So, if you live in Uttar Pradesh, the message seems to be, please do yourself a favour and die without complaining,” she writes.

The threat to those who complain is not restricted to Uttar Pradesh, Roy says refers to the statement given by a spokesperson for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) wherein he has warned that “anti-India forces” would use the crisis to fuel “negativity” and “mistrust” and asked the media to help foster a “positive atmosphere”. Twitter has helped them out by deactivating accounts critical of the government, she says.

“If Delhi is breaking down, what should we imagine is happening in villages in Bihar, in Uttar Pradesh, in Madhya Pradesh? Where tens of millions of workers from the cities, carrying the virus with them, are fleeing home to their families, traumatised by their memory of Modi’s national lockdown in 2020. It was the strictest lockdown in the world, announced with only four hours’ notice. It left migrant workers stranded in cities with no work, no money to pay their rent, no food and no transport. Many had to walk hundreds of miles to their homes in far-flung villages. Hundreds died on the way,” she writes.

This time around, although there is no national lockdown, the workers have left while transport is still available, while trains and buses are still running. They’ve left because they know that even though they make up the engine of the economy in this huge country, when a crisis comes, in the eyes of this administration, they simply don’t exist. This year’s exodus has resulted in a different kind of chaos: there are no quarantine centres for them to stay in before they enter their village homes. There’s not even the meagre pretence of trying to protect the countryside from the city virus,” Roy adds.

theclarionindia
theclarionindiahttps://clarionindia.net
Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

Share post:

Popular

More like this
Related

PM Modi Won’t Debate With Me as He Can’t Answer Questions on Adani Links: Rahul Gandhi

PM Modi talks about the Congress getting tempo-loads of...

US Holds Direct Complicity in Gaza Famine, Former and Current US Officials Say

“I believe the U.S. to be complicit in creating...

SC to Examine Equal Inheritance Rights for Muslim Women

The case would determine the alignment of Muslim women's...