Too much democracy and identity politics are ruining India’s fight against COVID-19

Abhijit Majumder
·3 min read

Social media has brought the world so close to our nose that we often fail to see it properly. The shadow of COVID-19's larger and arguably more travel-savvy avatar was looming over India for a while, but we failed to see the larger picture.

And now as the virus storm rages with greater vigour each day, we are still stuck in identity politics and a bitter struggle for electoral power. We believe in reasons which may have led to this only if they suit our agenda, and junk totally valid grounds of the pandemic's return if those reasons do not fit into our political and religious biases.

While one set looks away from endemic corruption and incompetence of the Maharashtra or Delhi government, another won't talk about the irresponsible mass-electioneering by the central stalwarts who could have set a good precedent.

If some of us refuse to see the naked, unmasked pandering of minorities by the Mamata Banerjee administration, others won't ask the Yogi Adityanath government why not enough tests are being done. If a section of Muslims and so-called seculars are busy circulating memes of sadhus recklessly taking a dip at the Kumbh, many staunch Hindus are trending #BanRamzanGatherings with photos of a sea of skullcap-wearing faithfuls.

Through this yawning crack of bias falls India's war against the novel coronavirus.

The country reported 2,34,692 Covid-19 cases on Saturday, the highest single-day spike so far, according to the ministry of health and family welfare. It also reported the highest single-day Covid-related deaths: 1,341.

India's Covid tally has crossed 1.45 crore cases. The death toll from the deadly infection stands at 1,73,152.

Delhi and Maharashtra recorded their biggest single-day rise in coronavirus cases since January 2020. The Capital registered 19,486 cases, and Maharashtra saw 63,729 new infections.

It is now evident that while the new wave is worryingly more contagious, it is less lethal. The death rate stands at 0.5-0.6, or about one person dying among 200 infected. An overwhelming number of those succumbing have serious comorbidities.

But that is of little consolation, given the rapidity of the spread. The only thing that can save India is common sense, not much of which is on display.

With all these figures stacked up on one side, for instance, how many people or leaders have been fined, shamed or jailed for flagrantly violating pandemic norms? Which states have initiated action against the guilty?

Politicians cannot keep their mouth shut. Mamata Banerjee is blaming 'outsiders' for COVID-19 while holding one mega rally after another. Rahul Gandhi sounds all knowledgeable and clairvoyant about the pandemic while holding populous campaigns. Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat has said the Kumbh devotees' faith will overcome the fear of the coronavirus. He has imposed a curfew across Uttarakhand but exempted the Kumbh, where more than nearly 2,000 people have tested positive so far.

It is a festival of senseless remarks and actions out there. Elections and the politics of identity €" hallmarks of democracy €" are now undermining the health of the democracy itself.

It is time to tread lightly on that pedal. A little 'authoritarian' action on anybody flouting basic public hygiene norms, irrespective of his or her religion or political party of choice, will put our democracy back on a healthy path.

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