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Panicked Response

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After the strict lockdowns of 2020, India was working to bring the economy back on the rails, when it was struck by the ‘second’ surge of Covid-19. It caught everybody by surprise. In the earlier surge, the battle against the pandemic was led by the Union Government. During this period, it was often alleged by the opposition that the response was too ‘centralised’ and granting more freedom to the states would be more effective. The likes of former Finance Minister P Chidambaram have even claimed that the earlier Covid-19 spread became better ‘by itself’, but the current recurrence is Prime Minister Modi’s fault. Whatever the narrative, it is a fact that the leaders – no matter of which party – should have learned from the earlier experience and can take more responsibility in handling the crisis.

However, from what has been seen thus far, the chief ministers are not exactly doing a great job. Instead of displaying the confidence that comes from a well-planned response, they are showing signs of panic – relying more on disclaiming personal responsibility and blaming the Centre for a range of discriminatory acts such as not providing sufficient vaccinations, medicines, oxygen, etc. Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray has been at it for some time, now, and Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal is the latest to basically throw up his hands while declaring a 6 day lockdown as a last resort. Such actions do not evoke confidence among the public and are bound to trigger actions like hoarding of medicines, illegal activities and a general rush on facilities.

Everybody agrees, however, that the lockdowns of the past year cannot be repeated and the challenge is to find ways of getting on with ‘normal’ life without contracting the infection. The good news is that a number of the developed countries are overcoming the crisis and will have developed expertise that will be useful for the developing countries. Precious resources such as raw material for vaccines, new vaccines, medicines and equipment will become available to the rest of the world, including India. Even as hotspots like Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, etc., go into ‘holding’ pattern, the emphasis should be on reducing the footprint of the virus on the less affected states. A state like Uttarakhand, which is on the cusp of losing control but has the wherewithal and human resources to pull back, should set an example in this regard. Otherwise, the impact on the economy will prove devastating and a vicious cycle will set in.