By Tathagata Satpathy, Ex-MP
MEDIA REPORTS indicate certain troubling factors emerging out of the video conference held Monday the 27 April wherein Prime Minister Narendra Modi consulted only nine chief ministers. It seems these politicians were unanimous in their opinion on extending the Covid-19 related national lockdown for a further period of 30 days commencing May 3.
However innocuous and well-meaning this extension proposal may seem, the real questions behind this so-called concern for the public’s health may now seem to overpower and overtake the pandemic as a stand-alone cause. It is said, once a tiger tastes human flesh, it loses interest to outwit with stealth, chase and kill swifter prey. Humans are so much slower and can put up very little resistance. A similar situation seems to have emerged in India’s political scene under the guise of fighting the corona virus pandemic. Citizens are willingly holed up in their homes and are not hesitant in expressing their utter fright of an infection, which has yet to prove its killing power in India, unlike in certain western nations for reasons unknown. The people in power seem enamored of the new scenario.
And, why not? With people off the streets, common Indians have virtually facilitated the creation of a police state. No longer are questions being asked about government making absurd expenditures under the excuse of building up healthcare facilities. In most states, bulk of the tax payers’ money is being invested (siphoned off) in private hospitals while government hospitals are languishing as in the past. The focus on the pandemic has become so extremely bizarre that normal medical attention required for pregnant women, heart patients, people requiring dialysis and other minor/major ailments are being completely neglected.
It has become impossible to get normal and regular pathological tests in most urban centers. While heads of state governments are increasingly enjoying their unfettered powers, the Union Government too is happy going about announcing allocation of funds for revival of the economy without bothering to inform the people about its bigger plans on the larger picture. This is possible because the ordinary citizen is unwilling to ask questions by herself or is intolerant if someone else does it. So much so, PM Modi, in his address to the nation for extending the lockdown for the second time, asked citizens to not only stay at home themselves but also keep an eye on their neighbours and snitch to authorities if they suspect disobedience of the lockdown rules by others. The message was clear that everyone should be watching everyone else with distrust and misgivings, thereby creating a compliant society. Indeed!
Interestingly, all this noise was being created when the total number of Covid-affected people across India stood at 28,380 and death toll at 886 while the total recovered cases were at 6,362. This was the Monday 27 April evening figures. These figures are marginally rising in the following days. Should this make us believe that in a nation of 1.5 billion population, there are only these few thousand people who could be marked since they are suffering from fever, cough or breathing difficulties?
Shift scene to a recent proposal by a team of BJP MPs who met under the chairmanship of a senior party functionary. This team, media informs us, suggested that the Indian Railways must not start operations any time in the near future. If that happens, the report argued, the migrant labour force stuck at very many entry points to their respective home states will reach their villages. This would result in the workforce not returning to the industries and other activities where they were employed prior to the Lockdown. In other words, ignore the emotional desperation of this bulk of poor Indians and force them to return to work. The excuse is that unless the factories restart, the economy cannot revive.
The industrial lobby, the labour contractors’ mafia and many other vested interests working for the ‘nation’s wealth creators’ have gone on an overdrive to ensure that this migrant labour force does not reach home. It is believable that this mass of migrant laborers, after undergoing the extreme humiliation meted out to them en route to their home state borders and the torture and pain their employers showered on them might, actually, not go back to work out of home as earlier and risk the sad situations befalling once again.
It is time for this society to sit back and take stock. In our scare of the virus coming closer to us through, purportedly, these migrant laborers, are we not being unjust to them? Are the governments, both at the Centre and at the states, unable to test these migrants individually at the entry points to their home states? Why are we all, by being silent, becoming party to some gross injustice being done to our own people? When these times become history and posterity judges our behavior, may be the image of those who are leading now would not seem so attractive. 
INDIA HERE AND NOW http://www.indiahereandnow.com email:indianow999@gmail.com

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