By Basil Fernando –
India is facing a massive threat to the lives of its people as evidenced from the ever growing number of corpses that are being scattered everywhere in the country. The crematoriums cannot keep up with the huge number of these corpses and everyone is talking about someone or the other that was known to them having succumbed to the deadly Virus.
However, India, one of the most powerful countries in the world does have all the resources that it requires to deal with this situation and to bring the pandemic under control. Only one thing is missing. That is leadership that cares for the people. And that is quite sufficient to cause the greatest possible damage to a nation as history has shown over and over again.
The shortage of hospital beds, oxygen, testing facilities and so many things that people all over the world are trying to fight this Virus with could easily be available in India if there was a leadership in place that really wanted to provide facilities to its people.
Arundhati Roy, a leading Indian voice, has rightly said that what we are witnessing in India is a crime against humanity. However, the Indian leadership is not crime conscious. In recent years, the Indian political system has moved away from its Constitutional foundations towards an ever increasing authoritarian direction. A marked feature of South Asian authoritarianism in particular is the gross disregard to the law and regarding crimes. For this purpose, all the matters of accountability and transparency are crushed. Critics are punished. The laws are ever more sharpened in order to keep as many kinds of critics as possible inside jails. The creation of a fear syndrome in order to control the people receives the top priority of the authorities.
Believing that no amount of neglect of the functions of the State would lead to a threat to their existence, the authorities have become quite indifferent to whatever that has been happening to their people. There is no urgency being shown towards addressing the issue. Nor are the people who could deal with the issue like people in the medical profession and civil services are being given the freedom and the resources needed to take the initiatives that are necessary in order to cope up with the problem. Elsewhere, even much smaller nations have done everything in their power in order to control the effects of this deadly Virus and could take pride in their relative achievements.
The crippling of public opinion and the right to protest is the source of the all pervading neglect and indifference that is prevailing in India as well as in other South Asian countries regarding this problem.
The absence of a culture of resistance contributes to perpetuating this tremendous neglect on the part of those who are in power and those who control the resources. Resistance is a creative power that could galvanize the people, particularly in times of danger. History gives many examples of nations which became the nations that they are today only because of their capacity to develop resistance at the time of danger.
It is resistance that creates cooperation. In order to deal with the tremendous threat that the people are faced with now in the face of Covid-19, particularly in South Asia, what is needed is the expression of cooperation by way of resistance to the neglect on the part of those who hold authority to do their utmost in every possible way by way of the allocation of every possible resource to save human lives.
This is a challenge that is posed not only to South Asia but also to the whole world. Today, the world is one and when the lives of the people are threatened in one place, its influence spreads and influences others. Carelessness towards life and the failure to protect lives will diminish the very human spirit which carries the light that is needed at all times but particularly in the times of crises.