Groping in the dark, government has been blundering its way through the pandemic

Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

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It’s time for the government to gear up and take pro-active steps to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic

MODI government appears to be groping in the dark about its vaccination policy. The way the prime minister recently took a u-turn – and virtually shifted the blame on state governments – exposed the half baked policies being pursued by the government.

From boasting about “conquering” the first wave of Covid pandemic, despite the biggest migration of labourers who trudged hundreds of miles after they suddenly lost their livelihood, to ending up begging for vaccinations inspite of being the pharmacy of the world, the government has been blundering its way through the pandemic.

What can be more shocking than the fact that while several countries like the US and the UK had given pre-orders for vaccines even while these were being developed in May last year, our government placed the first order only in February this year. Even then a comparatively small quantity was ordered. And then, ironically enough, 6.63 crore vaccines were exported to 93 countries as a goodwill gesture even as our own citizens were deprived of the vaccine. Government should have known that charity begins at home.

Now, after two months of nightmare, the second wave of Covid pandemic in the country appears to be ebbing. The daily number of positive cases which had climbed up to over 4 lakh per day are now less than a lakh. Similarly the number of deaths which had reached a peak of over 4,000 per day are now about 2000 per day.

Although these are just official figures and few believe in the correctness of the government figures keeping in view the havoc played out in the public view with non availability of hospital beds, shortage of medicines and oxygen and the burning pyres at crematoriums besides the bodies floating in the holy Ganga. But the fact is that one hears less of the shortages and fewer bodies for cremation and burial.

That’s certainly a great relief and if the trend continues we may have the worst behind us and can look forward to the life limping back to normalcy.

The pandemic has hit our country badly and perhaps in the worst form in the world. It has pushed back millions of countrymen into poverty, over 23 crore have lost their jobs, the GDP growth officially stands at minus 7.3 and lakhs of small and medium enterprises remain locked.

The huge rise in the cost of industrial inputs, including iron whose rates have almost doubled in the last six months, would make it even more difficult for these enterprises to make a come back. The plight of small traders and shopkeepers is equally worse. The advent of online purchases, partly forced and encouraged by the pandemic, has made their businesses unviable. The government will have to think out of box to get the economy back on the rails.

governmentThe huge unemployment and increasing poverty also leads to serious law and order situations. We are already witnessing a huge jump in the instances of snatching, mugging, robbery and other crimes.

Education is another field where we have been pushed back by the pandemic. Students haven’t been able to go to schools, colleges, universities and other institutions for over a year. Many of them would be completing professional courses like the MBA online without ever physically meeting their classmates. It is well known that a significant part of education is to learn from one’s friends and classmates.

Similar is the plight of students who passed out of school last year or are doing it this year. Their flight into the real world has been severely affected by the pandemic. It won’t be a surprise if many of them would need psychiatric help and counselling. The worst hit among the students were those who do not have access to the internet. The digital divide has further widened the gap between the haves and the have nots.

online learningContrary to what some may think, even the teachers taking up online classes have had a tough time coping up with the new circumstances. They had to learn new ways to keep the students engaged and learn new (and tough) technologies to deliver.

Their work extended to much beyond the normal even as they had to take care of their own children and families. In fact the work load of particularly the female teachers increased many folds with pressure of looking after the household and the classes at the same time.

Indeed there is no area or profession that has remained unaffected by the pandemic. The long hours put in by doctors and other para medical staff, the security personnel, media, frontline workers and social workers has also left them exhausted.

governThere are several spheres of life in which we would feel the real impact of the pandemic much later. Take for instance the judiciary. Even as the courts remained closed for over a year and only a few urgent cases we taken up, the total number of cases pending in various courts has mounted from 3.5 crore to 4.2 crore now. Obviously it would further delay dispensation of justice and cases may taken many more years to get resolved.

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It would be difficult to list all the losses and setbacks caused by the pandemic but what must truly be the biggest and most tragic loss is that of losing the loved ones. While the official death tally is 3.5 lakh, we all know it is much much more than that. That is besides the sharp increase in the number of deaths due to other ailments who could not be treated because of the pressure or the pandemic.

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Thousands of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and other close relatives and friends left behind their loved ones.

The worst is the plight of small children who lost their parents. As per a preliminary official estimate 3,621 children have lost both their parents and 30,071 lost at least one of the parents. Such a tragic loss must be much higher taking into account the unofficial figures. It is not possible to compensate their loss but as fellow citizens and human beings we must pool in all our resources to see how we can help them go on with their lives.

It’s time for the government to gear up and take pro-active steps to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic while maintaining vigil for any signs of third wave.

Also Read: Punjab stares at a dark future; Can farm unions, NRPs help save it?

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Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.

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