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Dodging Responsibility

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During the first attack of the Covid-19 virus on India, when relatively little was known about the nature of the pandemic, the Modi Government ordered a strict nationwide lockdown. This resulted in considerably curbing its spread even as the economy took a severe hit. There was then a gradual opening up with the focus on bringing back livelihoods and reopening sectors that were worse affected such as the hotels, malls, cinema theatres and restaurants. Tourism was sought to be brought back on track. It worked to the point that people became complacent and dumped even the basic protocols considered a must for the recovery process. This opened the way for the return of the virus.

All this while, Prime Minister Modi was severely criticised for his ‘harsh and unplanned’ lockdown. It was argued that the approach was too ‘centralised’. All kinds of financial giveaways were demanded for the ‘recovery’ process. Fortunately, this route was not adopted except for where direct benefits are given and, instead, the economy was encouraged through various incentives and concessions to get back on track. A point was reached when the ever so alert opposition thought nothing of close quarter protest activity such as in Shaheen Bagh and the farmers’ blockade of the national capital. This was projected as a ‘compulsion’. Came election season and none of the ‘far-seeing’ politicians sought postponement or stricter enforcement of Covid norms. Huge rallies became par for the course.

Now that the second wave is here, having learned from the earlier experience, the Union Government adopted a more decentralised approach – basically providing guidelines and advisories for state governments to implement and improvise upon. This was exactly what the states had been demanding, particularly those run by opposition parties. Suddenly, this is now being projected as ‘abdication’ of responsibility by the PM and they are asking why he is ‘missing’. The present situation has brought out the difference between well run states and the laggards. So, now, Modi is being blamed to cover up these deficiencies.

It is the same with the approach to the vaccination drive. India met its international obligations by providing vaccines to developing countries, giving preference to its neighbours. This is being described as a criminal mistake. The fact is that this very generosity has encouraged the better off nations to provide assistance with interest in the present crisis. Manufacturing capacity is limited not just in India but globally. It is a struggle to get the vaccine to those most in need and most vulnerable. The states have been given the freedom to hike the drive by making their own procurements even as the Centre’s quota would continue. Faced with responsibility, they are again complaining. In time, all of this will become clear to the people – who was proactive and who just reacted!