Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India
EVERY Indian had a few questions on his/her mind while tuning in to their TV sets at 8 pm on May 12 to listen to Prime Minister Narandra Modi. But unfortunately, in his 34-minute address to the nation, he failed to address key queries haunting an average Indian.
The questions were: Will the lockdown be extended further? What the government has achieved in the three phases of lockdown in containing the Covid-19 and what are its future plans? What steps the government is taking to revive the economy? What efforts are being made to mitigate the plight of the migrant workers? What instructions he will give to de-communalise the society? What is his advice to the Islamophobic media?
His silence on the issues confronting the nation spoke thousand words about his intent while his indifferent to the problems made him a pygmy in the eyes of the countrymen.
The Prime Minister told the nation that the lockdown 4.0 will come into effect from May 18, but this will be different from the previous ones. Going by his broad hints, the new set of rules and regulations to be made public before May 18 will be more relaxed than those application to earlier lockdowns.
The Prime Minister gave no details about his achievements in the 49 days of lockdown except that 2 lakh PPE kits and 2 lakh N95 masks are being manufactured in India daily. The Prime Minister did not reflect upon the medical preparedness achieved during the days of the lockdown nor about the ways and means to cope with the growing Covid-19 cases.
He did not even speak about the number of thermal testing kits made available to the public nor did he give any detail about its imports from China. He was silent on whether they will be manufactured under his flagship scheme ‘Made in India’, and if so, when?
The most important thing our Prime Minister said was: “we have to save ourselves from the novel coronavirus and also move ahead at the same time”. This was all about his future plan to deal with Covid-19.
The Prime Minister, on the 49th day of the lockdown, was telling the nation to live with the enemy and yet move on with their lives. The same way as some people would suggest when rape becomes inevitable, enjoy it!
As regards the revival of the economy, he announced a financial package of Rs 20 lakh crore which he said was 10% of India’s GDP. Even though he elaborated that this financial package is meant to focus on farmers, laborers and middle class’s development, eyebrows are raised on the actual figures that will be delivered to the people.
Some analysts have deconstructed the announcement of Rs 20 lakh crore packages. They are of the view that only 4.4 lakh crore will actually be made available to the public.
Breaking down Rs 20 lakh crore, the analyst say that the government has already announced 1 lakh and 67 crore package first and then 8.4 lakh crore shortly after the lockdown. This together makes about 10 lakh crore.
Now, with the remain 10 lakh crore, some 6 lakh crore has already been committed earlier but has never been disbursed. So, in such a case, what is left in the end is about 4.4 lakh crore.
Now, with this amount the PM gives the mantra of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ or the movement for making India self-reliant. He boasted that India’s self-reliance goals will be based on five pillars; ‘economy, infrastructure, technology driven system, vibrant demography and demand’.
Such claims have become a laughingstock in the private circle. One high spirited guy made an apt comment, “It’s all gas, and no fog.’
India is struggling to achieve self-reliance goals for more than 70 years. In 1990, when the country’s economy was in deep trouble, the policy of liberalisation was introduced to pull the country out of the woods. Now, is this ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ of PM Modi an attempt to take the country back to pre-1990 era? This is the question in many minds.
As in the previous addresses, in the fifth address to the nation, the Prime Minster said nothing about dealing with the Covid-19. Now, he is not talking about war and victory, but he wants the countrymen to live with the enemy and protect themself. This is a change of strategy from the one he had announced the first lockdown on March 24. At that time, he declared a war on Covid-19 and centralised the power in his hands.
Invoking Disaster Management Act he reduced the state governments to non-entity and undermined the federal structure of India. On a high of power, the PM, on March 24, 2020, while announcing the lockdown from midnight, had said Mahabharata war was won in 18 days, he would defeat the coronavirus in 21 days. A few days ago, he asked the countrymen to do the clapping and beating the tin to defeat the virus.
When nothing happened after the 21 days of lockdown, he no longer talks about winning the war. He extended the lockdown to another 19 days saying ‘Jaan Hai To Jahaan Hai’ literally means life is first priority, if life is saved, everything else (read economy) will fall in line.
As he announced the second lockdown, the PM was full of confidence of leading the nation to victory against the unknown enemy. That’s when he asked the people to light candles switching off electric bulbs to experience a transition from darkness to light.
There was a change of strategy in dealing with the Covid-19, when the 40-days period came to an end, and the country was subjected to the third lockdown. Now, for the first time, the state governments were consulted to deal with the containment of the coronavirus.
Our PM completely forgot about winning a war against the virus and delegated all the responsibility to the states to deal with the pandemics. He now talks about having ‘Jaan aur jahaan’ both, hinting at the importance to life and revival of the economy at the same time.
However, still being the C-in-C of the nation, he did the third gimmick when he asked the Air Force to shower petals from the helicopters at hospitals to cheer up the front-line warriors of Covid-19. This was being done at a time when famished migrant workers hit the road on their way to their homes, many traveling long distances on foot.
As the Air Force choppers flew past them, these battered and bruised mortals cursed the rulers who have no empathy for them even at a time when it’s a matter of life and death for them.
It was the time when liquor shops were opened to fill the coffers of the cash-starved states. With this, thirsty crows made bee lines at the gates of the wine shops with utter disregard to the pandemic safeguards.
To this, a holy spirit reacted saying, ‘When you elect a joker, circus is a logical consequence. And that’s literally what happened during the lockdown 3.0 when all the norms of isolation and social distancing were thrown to the wind.
Now, while announcing the fourth lockdown, our PM seems to have realised that the coronavirus cannot be simply wished away. And apart from saving themselves, the people have to move ahead with their lives. Hence, he seems to have opted to relinquish his role as a savior of the country that he tried to don while announcing the first lockdown.
In the war against coronavirus, our C-n-C has jumped from the mudguard to the rear guard, securing a position for himself that ensures that he would be the last to die.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. Views expressed here are his personal and Clarion India does not necessarily subscribe to them.