Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India
YOSHIHIRO FRANCIS FUKUYAMA is an American political scientist, political economist and a demigod for the students of international relations world over. In his recent essay ‘The Pandemic and Political Order – It Takes a State’ in the July/August 2020 Volume of Foreign Affairs, the celebrated writer has come up with some poignant analysis of the responses of different countries to the global pandemics COVID-19.
The author of the book ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ (1992), Francis Fukuyama in the current essay says many things about how different states are dealing with the novel virus. However, the nugget of his wisdom is his comment that the knowledge base of the governments is directly proportional to their response to deal with the novel virus.
What the well-respected author is trying to say is that the global pandemic has unmasked the governing capacity of those currently in power and as the virus has put a test to their knowledge base. As such the responses to the Covid-19 are as per the limitation of their knowledge base.
Now, if we apply this hypothesis of Fukuyama to Indian ruling elite and try to probe a little their knowledge base, we can get the answer to the question why their response to such a catastrophe has so far been so squinted.
We all know the knowledge base of our politicians. The educational qualifications of some of them are a national shame. Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is a BA in political science from the School of Open Learning, University of Delhi. He graduated with a third class in 1978.
The educational qualification of a Union minister, Smriti Irani, is only 10 + 2. An Urdu couplet best describes the situation we are in. It is: “Bas ek hi ullu kaafi hai barbaad gulistan karne ko, yahan har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai anjaame gulistan kya hoga… (While only one owl is supposed to be enough to ruin an entire garden; what would be the fate of the garden where an owl can be found on every branch!)
To cover the deficiencies of the political figures, a counter argument is being floated that they are advised by our bureaucrats whose knowledge base is supra high.
Now, if we look into the knowledge base of the Indian bureaucracy supposedly the backbone of the knowledge base of the country, many might concur that these babus’ knowledge base stops growing once they pass the civil service exams. Thereafter, their effort is engaged in playing the ‘2+2= 5 number game’. This means their priority is promotion and pay scale and not to enhance their knowledge base.
Further, these bureaucrats are posted in different capacities with different jobs and by the time they gain some knowledge of a given area they are transferred. This makes them jack of all trade, but master of none. The knowledge base of the steel frame of India is quite shallow. Their advice to the political leadership corresponds to their own knowledge base.
If such is the character and composition of the knowledge base of the ruling elite of the country, their response to deal with the Covid-19 could be equated with that of five blind men, in a parable, who went to explore an elephant.
So, this is the dilemma of Indian ruling elite in dealing with the novel virus. Industrialist Rajiv Bajaj has succinctly summed up this when he said that the government has flattened the wrong curve!
This is exactly what Francis Fukuyama was talking about when he makes the point that poor knowledge base of the ruling elite is directly responsible for the mismanagement of the global pandemics problem.
Fukuyama goes on to make a statement about China where he says that even as the Chinese ruling elite were the first to face the heat of the pandemics, they showed extra ordinary reflexes to dealing with the problem. This reflects on the knowledge base of their ruling elite. However, other governments were sitting with the problem till it started knocking their doors. Their decisions to deal with the problem exposed their knowledge base.
As far as India is concerned, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been issuing warnings about coronavirus outbreak since November 2019. No one from the ruling elite of India took it seriously and thought of doing anything about dealing with the virus.
Even after three months that’s in January 30, 2020 when WHO issued the sixth warming and the first case confirmed case was reported in Thrissur district of Kerala, they did not wake up to the simmering reality.
The month of February was lost in the preparation of ‘Namaste Trump’ event in Gujarat. Then, in March, the government was busy till 21st when it was engaged in toppling the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh.
It is only from March 25, 2020, that the government got serious about dealing with the pandemic. What best the government thought in the best of the wisdom is to totally lockdown the country for the next 54 days. As the virus spurred in this period it showed its utter failure in dealing with the virus.
While this ill-conceived response failed to even slow down the attack by the pandemic, what the administration did was to simply take the country’s GDP in their hands and throw it down the cliff. This is the rarest human rascality in the contemporary history of the world. Poor knowledge of the ruling class is to blame for this fiasco.
The pandemic has no doubt exposed the knowledge base of Indian government.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. The views expressed here are author’s personal. He can be contacted at [email protected]