THE PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi’s first address to the nation during the second and disastrous second wave came too late and meant too little. Evidently he had been too busy with the election campaigns particularly in West Bengal.
With the welcome decision of his party to follow the announcements by Trinamool Congress and the Congress to curtail electioneering for the remaining phases of elections, it would be prudent for Modi to focus on one of the biggest disasters the country is currently facing.
PM Modi has done well to oppose complete lockdown in the country and has instead asked the states to go in for micro-containment zones while tackling the second wave of Covid pandemic. Thus he has now shifted the onus on the states.
Evidently Modi was aware of the disastrous consequences of the nation wide lockdown announced last year at a short notice of four hours, which not only devastated the economy but also caused untold agony to millions of migrant labourers who decided to go home, many trudging hundreds of miles by foot.
In his address to the nation, Modi also reached out to the migrant workers and urged that the state administration to boost the confidence of workers and convince them to stay wherever they are.
“This confidence from the states will greatly help in convincing the workers and labourers that they will get the vaccine wherever they are in the next few days and their work will also not suffer.”
Modi’s appeal comes amid a fresh exodus of migrants after Delhi imposed a weeklong lockdown and Maharashtra enforced curfew-like conditions across the state.
The only saving grace this time is that those wishing to go home have the option of traveling by trains or other modes of public transport unlike last time when they were left with no option.
Yet a simple appeal to them as well as to the state governments is not enough.
Most of those wanting to return home appear to have a trust deficit and don’t seem to believe the leaders when they say that the situation would improve soon.
The migrants know very well that there are no jobs waiting for them when they return to their villages and towns. Yet they don’t want to take any chances.
It is important for the central and the state governments to ensure that they get food and some minimum wages to tide over this period.
Others steps like permission to draw rations from anywhere in the country, access to medical facilities and shelters must also be provided to ensure prevention of the situation that had developed last year.
The governments must also ensure that the employers of these migrants don’t leave them in a lurch. Social organisations, which came in a big way to extend help to the migrants last year, must get activated again.
These could also be used to pressurise employers to provide basic amenities to their workers as also to convince migrants to stay back. The prime minister Modi should have also made an appeal to them to stay back while addressing the nation.
On the part of the central government, while it had taken all the decisions and imposed these on the states, it is now shifting all responsibilities to the states.
It includes declaration of containment zones and passing on the onus on the states to procure vaccine from private sources and take the responsibility of fixing price for the vaccine.
India’s total tally of COVID-19 positive cases has climbed to over 1.54 crore with over 3 lakh new coronavirus infections being reported every 24 hours, while active cases have surpassed the 20-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data.
The death toll also shot up to over 1.80 lakh as per official figures although the unofficial figures put the toll much higher.
It is high time to focus all energies into tackling the menace. Elections come and go but such a phase in country’s history is rare and certainly the worst in a century.
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