Politicising the pandemic, blaming opposition ruled states and treating the pandemic as a law and order or policing issue have proven to be disastrous
Not being transparent with data, trying to centralise too many things and not consulting scientists and experts ‘enough’ are some of the obvious slip ups by the Government in its fight against the pandemic. Politicising the pandemic, blaming opposition ruled states, sending central teams there and now to blame the states would also count as mistakes. And, finally, treating the pandemic as a law and order or policing issue has been a disaster. The list of lapses is quite long but may serve as a reminder to the government in denial.
1. Seriously underestimating the pandemic: Starting from the ‘Namaste Trump’ event and its failure to screen international passengers, the government underestimated the threat. As late as on March 18, minister of state for finance Anurag Singh Thakur told Parliament that the pandemic would have no adverse impact on the economy. This was a day before the PM called for a day long Janata Curfew and barely a week before the country-wide lockdown was declared.
2. Promoting unscientific cures: While it can be argued that the PM called upon the people to hit pots and pans at a specific hour or to light lamps to drive the virus away as part of boosting their morale, the Government pushing for immunity boosters, Ayurvedic drugs and Yoga to battle the virus did not inspire confidence. Nor did the presence of the Health Minister at the launch of Baba Ramdev’s purported cure, a tablet called ‘Coronil’.
3. Lockdown without notice: Not only did it hit the economy but also helped spread infection across the country by driving people out and forcing them to cover long distances in crowded trucks, autos and buses.
4. Arogya Setu as panacea: Presenting and promoting the contact tracing app as the panacea was yet another faux pas; because while the app could be effective in small areas, it did not make travel safer. Nor did the Govt have the infrastructure needed to enforce containment zones effectively. Some people made money but the virus went laughing around.
5. Night Curfew, Weekend lockdowns: They at best served as a rap on the knuckle and as reminder to people that not all is well. But they did little to prevent the spread of the virus. But the government pretended it did.
6. Mixed messages and double standards: While the Prime Minister and the Health Minister continue to warn people to follow ‘Covid Appropriate’ behaviour, by addressing large rallies and allowing religious gatherings including the Kumbh at Haridwar, the PM and other Union Ministers did not quite set an example. It also encouraged people to flout rules and defy restrictions.
7. Proper utilisation of PM CARES Fund: The Fund, promoted and protected as a private fund, managed to raise over Rs 10,000 Crore in about two months. But by all accounts, the money was not used to boost capacity to produce vaccines or to buy vaccines from outside; nor was the money paid for R & D either.
8. Passing the buck: After having cornered all the credit for successfully coping with the pandemic in the past one year, the central government is now blaming the states and the people for messing up the vaccine rollout and for not following protocols. After a year, it is now the states’ responsibility though the Centre controls the vaccine supply and distribution besides the purse strings. Shalini Sahay