Unity of the unexpected kind is in the air. Karnataka’s Chief Minister Yediyurappa caught Covid and went into quarantine, complete with hospital shirt. Soon after the news was out, Opposition leader Siddaramaiah also caught COVID and went into hospital. Declaring solidarity with both of them, Amit Shah in Delhi got the virus and went into a private hospital. Thanks to COVID, India is uniting into one wholesome viral family.
This could well be the way forward for our country. As everyone knows, we have been having factional fights among our leaders over all kinds of reasons. Ideology was the reason when Leftists and Rightists fought. That was okay because Left-Right was seen in those days as a natural and not unhealthy way to divide a nation.
The situation became complicated when Hindutva entered the scene and became a major player. It divided even Hindus into Good Hindus and Bad Hindus, the definitions of Good and Bad depending on your angle of vision. Now it looks that the future can be better if we get divided into Covid Indians and non-COVID Indians.
But politicians interfere there also and make things more confused and complicated. Just when we thought we could divide ourselves into new modernistic groups, Covid Yediyurappa visited Covid Siddaramaiah in hospital. If they had left it at a formalistic photo-op level, things would have been all right. But they got into a friendly chat, became extraordinarily happy and started laughing their hearts out. They turned Covid into a uniting force. Where is Covidised politics taking our country?
We turn to Delhi where the wisest in the country are in positions of power. We would have expected a sagacious Home Minister to guide us along the right path in such a situation. But before Covid got him, he was busy telling the world how successful India was in handling the situation. He had his own way of measuring success. According to him India’s death rate from the virus was lower than that of other countries. "That shows we have fought this fight very well," he said.
In other words, Brazil’s inefficiency is the yardstick with which India’s efficiency should be measured. Actually, India has recorded the fastest growth of the epidemic and the third highest number of total cases. Now that Amit Shah himself has become one of those cases, hopefully India will become more pragmatic in handling the problem.
But one thing is already clear. This unexpected, unfamiliar and arrogant pandemic has been too much for our health infrastructure to handle. Close to 50,000 infections were said to be adding to the count every day. This may not include interior areas which lie beyond the regular beat of medical personnel. Let us not forget, also, that India’s testing rate is one of the lowest among the hard-hit countries. If we take such factors into account, the actual numbers could be frightening.
But nobody is going to be frightened now that Karnataka’s popular leaders seem to be enjoying their time in hospital. With the general public’s follow-the-leader mentality, chances are that Covid might become not just a fashion, but a mark of patriotism. Yediyurappa and Siddaramaih certainly gave the impression that Covid was an enjoyable experience. Who can blame the more ardent followers of these leaders if they try to get Covid as a mark of loyalty?
The grim side of the situation was brought to light by the deputy chief minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia. In a letter to the all-powerful Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, the not-powerful minister said that the closure of weekly markets had forced five lakh families to sit idle in their homes.
He urged the re-opening of hotels and markets since Covid had been brought under control. Not to do so would be "unfair to Delhi’s economic situation and hopes of lakhs of people". The Lt. Governor was not impressed.
He turned down the Cabinet’s proposal/request on the grounds that “the situation remains fragile.” The elected government had to bow to the appointed officer. That the consequences of Covid are being welcomed by many people is beyond doubt.
The lockdown it has brought about in many countries may have rendered millions jobless, but it has also made thousands happy — happy that they can sit at home and enjoy life. If you have the wherewithal that enables you to live without work, you are among the privileged who can ignore Covid. Moral of the story: The world is divided into those who Covid mocks at and those who mock at Covid.