"Confronted with catastrophe, the state has melted away in India. The public, overwhelmed with anguish at death on so vast a scale, has been flabbergasted by repeated revelations of the Government's incompetence".
What devastating words. No one in India would have the courage to be so sharp and specific. The Economist was not only blunt; it published figures Indian authorities seem to hide. According to the Economist's global COVID tracker, India records 6,000 to 31,000 deaths a day (as against the official figure of 4,000).
The study suggests that one million people might have already died in India this year. A useful reference point here is the revered Narendra Modi’s statement on March 25, 2020: "Victory in the Mahabharata war came in 18 days. Against COVID, it will take 21 days."
Numerous 21-day spells have come and gone, yet the Modi brigade is unaware of the credibility gap it has created. What the Prime Minister says is seen by the people half as propaganda and half as self-praise. Self-absorbed as it is, the BJP passed a resolution in February 2021 which said: “The party unequivocally hails its leadership for introducing India to the world as a proud and victorious nation against Covid.”
World opinion be damned. Proud and victorious India has other ways to conquer maladies and threats. Arjun Meghwal (he is a Union minister if you didn’t know) put it patriotically when he said: “Eat Bhabhi ji Papad. It will help in the formation of antibodies that are required to fight Corona virus.”
The minister must be a shareholder in the papad company. Sheer ignorance can sit on our ministers like a crown. Remember Anurag Thakur declaring (March 17, 2020) that COVID would have no impact on India’s economy. By contrast, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat propounded a profound truth: That COVID virus, too, had a right to live. Indeed, Article 21 of the Constitution gives legal backing to the virus’s right to live.
Pious citizens have not only accepted the legal rights of the virus; they have also recognised its divine qualities. "Corona Devi" and "Corona Mata" temples have come up in Uttar Pradesh. (How did they know that Corona was female?) In UP, it's nothing new. But this time, similar temples have come up in Coimbatore and in Karnataka’s Madhuvanahalli village also. Is it devotion that is spreading, or fear of the virus? Or, is it merely imitation of the North?
There are wheels within wheels here and that could explain the newfound devotion of some people. A temple that came up in a Pratapgarh village in UP was demolished within days. Villagers said it was razed by the police. The police denied this. According to them, a man collected donations from local residents, appointed a priest and got the temple functioning. It turned out that the temple was built on disputed land and the entire episode was a plot by some to grab that piece of land. The episode fits into our national pattern of using gods for ungodly purposes.
Consider Ajay Mohan Bisht’s way of getting God on his side. He would have been, like his brother Mahendra Singh Bisht, in the Indian army, or become a college teacher like his other two brothers. But he ignored his BSc in mathematics, took to saffron clothes and turned himself into Yogi Adityanath. That made him bigger than all others in his family because, as Yogi, he was above everything.
He was above accountability for the destruction he brought to UP. Economically, UP is one of India’s most backward states. But that does not bother UP's leaders because politically they are in a dominant position. COVID has brought out the emptiness of UP's politicians. It is the worst affected state and TV screens were filled with pathetic scenes of patients wailing before hospital gates after being denied admission. "Scenes of suffering in India are hard to comprehend," said the prestigious medical journal Lancet. It expressed surprise at "the ineptness of the Modi Government".
The inefficiency of the government is open for the world to see. Cremation ghats in UP were unable to "accommodate" all dead bodies. Burning pyres were lit in open fields. Dead bodies floated down the Ganga. The great Yogi sat in the Chief Minister's august office and said, shamelessly, that the Government had managed to provide adequate medical facilities to citizens.
Why are false gods seated in India’s leadership chairs? Have the real gods abandoned our country as a hopeless case? When will they come to our rescue?