The invisibly small coronavirus — physically too weak to even withstand bubbles from a soap — has virtually brought the world to its knees. From neighbouring China to the United States of America, almost every superpower seems to be failing to effectively tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
But as the world’s other big powers grope for ways and means to fight the microscopic beast, India’s approach towards the crisis looks exemplary. And, it is thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is leading from the front.
For me, acknowledging Modi as an iconic general in this war against the invisible enemy is not an individual viewpoint out of some figment of imagination. World bodies have endorsed it after studying global statistics of facts and figures.
The PM has been manoeuvring the show quite skilfully. (Twitter/ @narendramodi)
As per the recently published report of the Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT), India fares better as compared to other countries such as the United States, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea and Britain. OxCGRT provides a systematic cross-national, cross-temporal measure to understand how government responses have evolved over the full period of the disease’s spread. The project tracks governments’ policies and interventions across a standardised series of indicators and creates a composite index to measure the stringency of these responses. Data is collected and updated in real-time at Oxford University.
"The Modi government moved swiftly since the virus arrived in the country and unveiled a series of measures to contain the outbreak. It announced a 21-day lockdown, ramped up testing, closed public transport and international travel as well banned flights from overseas. It has announced measures to support the poor and the Reserve Bank of India has unleashed interest rate cuts and liquidity-enhancing steps," the report said.
From using his meitei lengyan, the traditional Manipuri scarf, as a homemade-mask during official events to taking note of advice from experts, the PM has been manoeuvring the show quite skilfully.
And, for that matter, by having reportedly phoned even his predecessor Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Modi seems to be taking everyone onboard in decision-making at this crucial juncture.
The Modi’s mantra to tackle the pandemic seems to be a three-fold strategy, purely Indian.
India is the leading manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine that is being sought after by developed countries including the US, as the best bet in the fight against Covid-19. (Photo: AP)
One, the application of knowledge or gyaan, derived from the experts. Two, the absolute focus or dhyaan. And, three, patience or dhairya. The application of this desi combination of gyaan, dhyaan and dhairya is making India stand distinct.
On March 21, when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was still against a lockdown in England, and he and US President Donald Trump were sending various mixed messages about handshakes and much more — two days prior to that, Modi was ready with his strategy.
On March 19, in his maiden address to the nation on the pandemic, Modi called for a day-long, self-imposed curfew on March 22. For a country with 1.3 billion population, could there have been a better option than to acclimatise the people through daylong practice for the long-drawn war ahead? Two days later, in another address to the nation, Modi explained the need for a lockdown. His meticulous choice of words and phrases sounded unmistakably understandable, impactful for every sane soul.
Unlike China, which miserably failed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, letting it turn a pandemic, India is taking no chances to prevent its spread even within the country.
Unlike Boris Johnson, Modi didn’t show any mood-swings on lockdown.
And, unlike the big superpowers, known for selling most sophisticated and costliest of the weapons known in the world, India continues to be the leading manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine, a low-cost drug being explored as the best bet in clinical trials in the war against the coronavirus. The beneficiaries of this Indian product include the US, which is desperately in need of the medicine.
In a world where perfection is an endless pursuit, for a country as big and diverse as India, tackling such big crises will obviously have some shortfalls.
Given the lockdown, the government will have to dedicate more financial packages for the poor as their survival mostly depends on daily earnings. The recently announced hike of wages in schemes like MNREGA won't help the rural population much unless wages are released without work, because lockdown essentially means no work. While a lot more needs to be done on the economic front, by announcing various financial packages, Modi is already on the job.
If Modi had given an ultimatum before the lockdown, the rush of migrants could have been trampled in the stampede and the virus could have spread more rapidly. (Photo: Reuters)
But then, for those who criticise Modi for the sudden lockdown, I ask — what could have been the better option? To have given a two-day ultimatum instead and let the rush of millions of migrants get trampled in the stampede, marketplaces witness loots and let the virus spread more rapidly?
Through an effective lockdown, Modi has taken the first big leap towards the survival of the nation. He deserves time for the next moves on the economic stability of all.
And then, there are many things which Modi manages behind the screens.
While a section of media fuelled controversy over the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz in New Delhi, targeting a particular community for the spread of Covid-19, it was Modi who actually sorted out the issue quite silently.
After all, PM’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval called on Maulana Saad at the Nizamuddin Markaz at midnight. And mind it, Maulana Saad was never arrested on the whims and fancies of media reports, but was seemingly given a safe passage into quarantine to let the communal controversy end.
Criticise him or appreciate him, but it is the undiluted impact of Modi on the minds of people that can help India sail through the Covid-19 turbulence confidently.
And by the way, who else could have so effectively convinced the nation to stay home, stay safe?