Polls and Pandemic

India's counts of new Covid-19 cases rose by over 200,000 as on April15, 2021, reflecting what one may call 'brutal second wave'. The Centre is trying to evade responsibility by blaming it on people and states for the current spread. While India's vaccination programme is too inadequate to address the gravity of the problem prime minister and his health brigade look reluctant, albeit the pandemic situation is going from bad to worse with every passing day. The Covid-19 patients are reportedly dying unattended, or due to lack of hospital beds, of medicines and vaccines and the worse of burial grounds running out of space, long lines at crematoriums. Despite the recent surge mega political rallies, obnoxious road-shows by film-world ‘celebrities’ and mass religious congregations continue. Then superstition is so deep-rooted in society that there is no possibility of easing the corona crisis anytime soon. Strangely, Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat said the other day that the Kumbha pilgrim's faith will protect them from Covid-19 infection though the virus was detected in over 1000 people in just 48 hours in Haridwar where the Kumbha Mela was underway at the time of writing.

To say that India is now overwhelmed may not be an understatement anymore. People in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, look helpless before crematoria. But Prime Minister and his Home Minister are busy in electioneering in Bengal.

Visuals from across the four states and one union territory that are gripped by poll fever show an open disregard towards Covid-19 appropriate behaviour by political leaders and crowds alike. Election meetings held by political parties across the five states, drawing crowds of thousands, along with functioning of election-related bureaucratic activities have led to a steep rise in cases in these states. Ten states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Karnataka and Kerala, have recorded a sharp rise in daily new Covid-19 cases accounting for 82.04 percent of the fresh infections.

Elections matter, rather how to loot the exchequer matters, not corona. While elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Poducherry have concluded, three out of the eight phases of the elections in West Bengal were still pending. On March 1, West Bengal recorded just 198 , a figure which rose to more than 1600 in a span of a month--a 22times rise which is a record in itself. Kolkata is the worst affected district with 7,150 active cases. North 24- Parganas is the second most affected, followed by South 24-Parganas, Howrah and Birbhum. The situation in Kerala is equally bad. This tiny state recorded 1938 new cases on March 1, but on April 11 there were 6,986 active cases—the rise is in leaps and bounds.

For one thing states are witnessing severe shortage of vaccines at various medical establishments. Hospitals and health centres have stopped the Covid-19 drive or doing minimal does with limited stock at hand. Those who have taken the first dose are eagerly waiting for the second dose without knowing when they will get it. Then ministers, including prime minister have no time to look into the plight of people who are running from pillar to post to get vaccinated. A long queue of ambulances carrying Covud-19 patients outside a civil hospital in Ahmedabad painted a grim picture in Gujarat—prime  minister  Modi's home state. They have no satisfactory answer to the ever growing fatality rate of Corona when most countries in the West, China and America have successfully overcome the crisis.

Amidst the corona virus nightmare, the central forces fired on unarmed voters in Sitalkuchi in North Bengal, killing four young persons on the spot and injuring several others. The central forces allegedly did it at the tacit approval of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—Modi's party—to scare minority community voters who are deadly against BJP. This adult franchise in the biggest show-case of democracy mocks at itself all the time. India's daily new cases will continue to rise forcing more and more people to live in anxiety and agony. In the backdrop of an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases, the Central government cancelled CBSE board final examinations affecting over 21 lakh students across the country. While dead bodies are piling up at crematoriums and burial grounds, the authorities are busy to downplay the coming human catastrophe.


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Vol. 53, No. 44, May 2 - 8, 2021