Politics of Corona Lockdown India
By Rohit Aarrya on 12th April 2020
Hon. PM made an appeal for people to stay indoors on 22nd March. Many vigilant Indians already practicing social distancing hailed the decision. The idea of social distancing genuinely appealed to many; and many respected the appeal. Hon. PM Modiji will never loose an opportunity to nudge the emotional chord of Indians. So he also appealed people to clap and cheer for health workers at 5 pm on the same day. Being projected as for ‘victory’ over Corona virus, over enthusiastic supporters came out in hoards. The exercise of social distancing lost most of what was intended to be achieved in a matter of couple of hours. However, that might have not mattered as the real purpose of that day could have been that Hon. PM wanted to be sure about public sentiment and power of his appeal.
In a bid to garner more audience by sensationalizing the issue, Indian media had overdone fear mongering through various “experts”. I say overdone fear mongering because India had (and still has) very low numbers of infected people. So media or most experts could no longer highlight the fact that immunity in Indians being better, caution with social distancing would have sufficed. Real experts expressing honest view of letting things happen at 50% workforce and lockdown in badly affected areas would get trolled. With opposition having had already bit the bait by blaming Government of not doing enough; it was evidently comfortable to garner political brownie points for the Government with a bold total lockdown decision.
Though the practical mind of Modiji would not have been convinced about a total lockdown, political benefits were huge with media as well as opposition having hit self goals. Modiji’s personal weaknesses added to the above might have tipped his mind to favor the draconian decision of 21 days lockdown. As Modiji might have expected, cornered opposition and their loyal media could not attack the decision. With his clout amongst his loyal media and supporters; it was a cakewalk to convince many people for this decision. Most of the world had already succumbed to spread of fear. Indians accepted and hailed the decision. People refused to understand the costs and magnitude of repercussions for the common people who survive on daily earnings with the sentimental “Jaan Hai Toh Jahaan Hai” argument. When lockdown was imposed the infection was spread amongst “a massive” number of 0.0003% of Indian population; however predictions based on assumptions varied from infection spreading from 20 lac up to 120 Cr infections.
Barring a few that included Rahul Gandhi, nobody even questioned whether it was wise to have a total lockdown at this early stage. Nobody questioned the logic behind the numbers being predicted. The media was cornered (or managed) to such an extent that they broadcast only favorable to total lockdown opinions of experts from all over the world hailing the lockdown imposed in India. None seemed to have asked these experts if they condemn their respective Governments for not imposing total lockdown like India. While all other countries have followed voluntary or partial lockdown; or lockdown of only badly infected areas; Indians known to have higher immunity than others and one of the least affected countries, are under total lockdown and will continue to be under lockdown … because of a virus called POLITICS.
It might have been Modiji’s political motive and personal weakness that had tilted him toward total lockdown. His natural desire for betterment of Indians and his genuine patriotism must have nudged him back to do what he should have done in the first place. He probably had accepted certain cost for it, which might be exhausting considering a phased exit plan. So during the CM video conference he citied plight of people dependent on daily earnings, challenges to economy, survival of industries etc. He spoke about exiting in phased manner and twisted his earlier call to “Jaan Bhi Jahaan Bhi”.
However, now the opposition wants its share of advantage from Corona scare. So most non BJP ruled states suggested extending lockdown period. Nothing much has changed, in the lockdown period number of infections has grown to 0.0007% of population. There is still no established cure or vaccine. Corona can still spread in the same way as was projected before. So now Modiji could not neglect need to extend lockdown and suggest otherwise directly. He let the decision to be taken by State Governments. Most non NDA ruled states will extend the lockdown thinking they will get public appreciation.
The practical side of Modiji surely knew increase in infections was never going to happen as projected by “experts” even without lockdown. However political compulsions will never allow him to agree to this. The fact that numbers did not increase significantly despite plenty of violations and disadvantages taken of exemptions vindicates this. Now any increase will be attributed to increase in number of people being tested. Measures of quarantining the infected will continue. Modiji has already started “Jaan Bhi Jahaan Bhi” to maneuver sentiments of people toward phasing out the lockdown. Though the situation in respect of Corona has not changed even a bit; speaking about families dependent on daily earnings and their ‘self respect’ BJP ruled state governments may decide to shift to partial lockdown soon. ‘Please the PM’ “experts” and his loyal media have already got the cue. They will start speaking about 21 days lockdown having ensured “victory” over Corona. They will claim to most Indians being sensitized to follow social distancing and they will start mentioning more number of patients getting cured. (this has always been three times of the unfortunate that turned fatal). Data will be manipulated as always. Managed media will start discussing reduced need of total lockdown with “experts”. Leaders and experts across the world will congratulate Modiji and appreciate the timing of imposing and curtailing lockdown in India; but nobody will question why their respective countries did not impose total lockdown. Modiji and BJP ruled states that shift to partial lockdown will triumph over Corona virus. “Jaan Bhi Jahaan Bhi” will be achieved. Opposition ruled states will be looked down upon again, this time for extending lockdown unnecessarily or because of not implementing it properly during 21 days period. Most people too are victims such shrewd politics that Modiji does. Probably Modiji requires to do such politics to stay in absolute power. Ultimately we, people of India are the losers as there is no credible opposition to draconian decisions or bad implementation and execution of good initiatives.
Even when most of his decisions and initiatives have been executed terribly, opposition keeps barking up wrong trees every time. They simply do not seem to understand how Modiji’s practical and logical mind works. Modiji will continue to have a political midas touch till opposition starts thinking practically and logically to counter him.
I would like to clarify that I am an admirer of Modiji. However that does not mean that I agree to every step he takes. Further, I am convinced that those executing decisions taken by Modiji have time and again proven to have miserably failed. I am not into politics; do not need to be politically right; so do not refrain from expressing my honest view.
In my next blog – The decreasing quality of journalism and reporting.
About writer - Rohit Aarrya is an ex Banker now involved in various projects. The 2013 Project Let’s Change report and proposal given to Gujarat Govt in December 2013 may have inspired the attention toward public support for a serious cleanliness drive. This was followed up by Hon. PM himself since February 2014 which brought one of the highest regards for him before 2014 general elections. Coincidentally in January 2019,just before general elections Hon. PM proposed reservations for EWS; a suggestion that was being propagated in Rohit Aarrya’s project “Swabhimaan” since August 2018.