Modi’s obduracy amid raging pandemic


The protesting farmers have announced to hold a countrywide protest to demand annulment of the newly enacted farm laws on May 26, 2021. Despite having seen the havoc of the Kumbh congregation, Modi government is stone-wall silent to the ultimatum.  Twelve opposition parties have pilloried Modi government for its obduracy.

India spent the sum of Rs. 41 lakh on the ceremony to induct the first batch of Rafale aircraft (Anbala airbase) under contract to purchase 36 aircraft costing Rs. 59000 crore. Apathetic to plight of the people, Indian army chief talked to US army chief to enhance cooperation under Basic Exchange and

Cooperation agreement to hit Pakistan’s land and surface targets in real time. There being no freebies, the BECA equipment will cost billions. 

About 4000 COVID patients are dying each day for want of beds or oxygen. Poor people dump dead bodies of their loves ones in Holy Ganges River as they can’t afford costly wood to cremate them. In just one day 150 dead bodies were recovered to save them from vultures and stray dogs. There is only one electric incinerator/cremator in India at Calcutta yet to be operated.

Shobhaa Dea asked  `What’ll it take for Modi to stop playing ostrich? (Deccan Chronicle May 15 2021). The national students’ union registered an FIR against “missing” home minister Amit Shah

It is time India diverted its resources to stop the third wave.

Because of insanitary conditions and infested oxygen, the scourges of white and black fungi have emerged adding to COVID fatalities. , White fungus is also known as candidiasis. The Black fungus is called the Mucormycosis. Steroid treatment can cause white fungal infection in Covid patients while unsterile use of oxygen cylinders can also be a reason. White Fungus infection is more dangerous than black fungus because it affects vital organs including the lungs, brain, kidney and private parts along with the mouth, stomach and skin. Symptoms of white fungus infection are similar to that of corona virus infection. Chest pain and low oxygen levels are seen in critical patients while white patches in the oral cavity, white discharge and skin lesions are also seen among patients.

Medicines like caspofungin or micafungin are used to treat critically ill patients. But besides vaccines there is shortage of almost everything, beds, oxygen, and even wood to cremate the dead bodies. Media reported 100 to 150 dead bodies floating in the River Ganges.

Criticism stifled under the National Security Act

Instead of facing the truth, The BJP states prosecute even social posts about COVID situation under India’s National Security Act.  For instance, journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem and activist Erendro Leichombam were booked under the NSA for Facebook posts that point out that cow dung or urine cannot cure COVID-19. Cow sheds are being used as COVID19 clinics. Oxygen and concentrators are being sold at exorbitant prices. Even en fire-extinguisher cylinders were sold as oxygen cylinders (Fire extinguishers painted and sold as oxygen cylinders, 3 arrested, India Today May 6, 2021).

Modi impervious to warnings

Engrossed in holding “mammoth” rallies during the state-assembly elections, the Narendra Modi government shrugged off warnings of imminent upsurge in COVID19 wave. For instance, on May 1, Reuters released a story headlined “Scientists say India government ignored warnings amid corona virus surge”. It claimed some scientists from the government-appointed consortium of national laboratories tasked with genome-sequencing, had “warned Indian officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the corona virus taking hold in the country”. But, the government was in no mood to impose social restrictions to prevent the contagion.  

The Modi-Amit Shah duo was shouting “oey Didi” “oey Didi” (contemptuously calling Bengal chief minister) when the pandemic had assumed alarming proportions.  On April 17, the cases started growing by over 260,000 a day. Yet, the BJP government did not truncate its elections rallies. Instead, he applauded the massive turnout of milling unmasked throngs at the Asansol rally.

The Rashtraya Swayamsevak Sangh supported the Modi government in election rallies. Yet, even it was compelled to admit neither the people nor the government cared a fig for social-distancing norms.

Why Modi was obdurate

Less than two months before Pulwama, a survey by the Association for Democratic Reforms, a New Delhi-based non-profit body, found, that most of the voters gave top priority to employment followed by primary health care and drinking water. Only 3.6 per cent of the 27, 3000, people surveyed gave importance to issues of terrorism.

The people were more concerned about the government’s lackluster performance in the realm of welfare.

But, the so-called surgical strikes altered people’s perceptions.  They began to image Modi as

“The strongman who avenged the Pulwama killings by bombing the terrorists inside Pakistan”.  The image change brought dividends in the 2019 lok sabha (house of the people.  Jingoism reigned supreme. In five pre-election speeches he made in Moradabad, Panaji, Bhagalpur, Buniadpur and Kendrapara, Modi used the word ‘chowkidar’ a whopping 106 times. The reference to development was a mere 31 times in comparison. Poverty was mentioned only thrice and unemployment did not find any mention at all.

Continued chest thumping and jingoism

Starting his campaign on March 28, 2019, from Meerut, he referred to the First War of Independence that began from Meerut in 1857. He drew a parallel between the soldiers killed during the Pulwama attack and martyrs of the War of Independence. He paid homage to Pulwama martyr Ajay Kumar in Meerut, and claimed: “Whether it is the land, the sky or the surgical strikes, your chowkidar has done it all.  The opposition had to retort “chowkidar chor hai” (the guard is himself a thief).

Ladakh flare-up

India and Chin has signed accords not to use firepower in case of any conflagration. Modi admitted at an all-party conference that China has not annexed an inch of India’s territory. Yet. The tiff between the Chinese and Indian troops was portrayed as a landmark achievement.

In view of the pandemic, India should have diverted its troops from borders to pandemic duty. But, no such initiative is visible. Even in May there was a faceoff between the Chinese and the Indian troops.

Patriotism appropriated

Through propaganda onslaught, Modi’s government has brought home the message that Congress is unpatriotic and bent upon disintegrating India (tukreh tukreh gang).

Referring to self-professed patriots, in 1774, Samuel Johnson had said that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. The irony in calling the Congress (or other BJP opponents) “anti-national” is that politicians of the Congress (and others too) had actually gone to jail fighting for India’s freedom from the British. Leaders of the BJP’s ideological predecessors did little during the freedom movement.

No clash during incident in no-patrolling zone in early May, say officials

There was a minor face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in the no-patrolling zone at Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh in the first week of May, a senior government official told The Hindu. However, no clash occurred and the two sides disengaged quickly.

There was some talk to pull back Indian troops to deploy them on COVID-19 duty. However that was later ruled out,” On April 2, the Ministry of Defence in a communication to Konchok Stanzin, councillor, Chushul said that “due to the present operational situation in Ladakh, grazers have been asked to restrict their cattle movements.”

Time for détente and divert military outlays to welfare

India should mend its fences not only with China but also with Pakistan. Many Pakistan rulers including Parvez Musharraf offered out-of box solutions to resolve the lingering Kashmir dispute. But, India shrugged off the offers with disdain. In his memoirs In the line of fire (pp.302-303), president Musharraf proposed a personal solution of the Kashmir issue.  This solution, in essence, envisions self-rule in demilitarised regions of Kashmir under a joint-management mechanism.   The solution pre-supposes reciprocal flexibility.

The out-of-box Musharraf’s Kashmir solution is in fact a regurgitation of former Indian foreign secretary Jagat S. Mehta’s proposals.  Mehta presented his ideas in his article, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s’.  Some points of Mehta’s quasi-solution are: (a) Conversion of the Loc into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…” (b) Immediate demilitarisation of the Loc to a depth of five to 10 miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance. (c) Pending final settlement, there must be no continuing insistence by Pakistan “on internationalisation, and for the implementation of a parallel or statewide plebiscite to be imposed under the peacekeeping auspices of the United Nations”. (d) Final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a ‘cold freeze’) for an agreed period. (e) Conducting parallel democratic elections in both Pakistani and Indian sectors of Kashmir. (f) Restoration of an autonomous Kashmiriyat. (g) Pacification of the valley until a political solution is reached. Voracious readers may refer for detail to Robert G. Wirsing’s book India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press).

Besides Kashmir, there are Sir Creek and Siachen Glacier issues. India’s former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, in his book How India Sees the World (pp. 88-93) makes startling revelations about how this issue eluded solution at last minute. Saran says India itself created the Siachen problem.  He reminisces, in the 1970s, US maps began to show 23000 kilometers of Siachen area under Pakistan’s control. Thereupon, `Indian forces were sent to occupy the glacier in a pre-emptive strike, named Operation Meghdoot. Pakistani attempts to dislodge them did not succeed. But they did manage to occupy and fortify the lower reaches’.

He recalls how Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek agreements could not fructify for lack of political will or foot dragging. He says ‘NN Vohra, who was the defence secretary at the time, confirmed in a newspaper interview that an agreement on Siachen had been reached. At the last moment, however, a political decision was taken by the Narasimha Rao government to defer its signing to the next round of talks scheduled for January the following year. But, this did not happen…My defence of the deal became a voice in the wilderness’.

Similarly, demarcation of Sir Creek maritime boundary was unnecessarily delayed. Saran says ` if we accepted the Pakistani alignment, with the east bank of the creek as the boundary, then Pakistan would get only 40 per cent of the triangle. If our alignment according to the Thalweg principle was accepted, Pakistan would get 60 per cent. There was a keen interest in Pakistan to follow this approach but we were unable to explore this further when the Siachen deal fell through. Pakistan was no longer interested in a stand-alone Sir Creek agreement’ (Thalweg principle places the dividing line mid-channel in the river).

Concluding remarks

The Modi government should turn a new leaf in India’s relations with its neighbours by shunning the strong-man image.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.


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