There is hardly any mechanism of self-correction or mid-course correction since the people who can give alternative advice have been filtered out from the decision-making process
The pandemic raging in India has breached all records in terms of deaths, collapse of the medical infrastructure and general helplessness of the average citizens. Rarely have the Indian cities seen such a chaos where people are dying and there is not even enough places to burn their bodies! It is clearly an outcome of lack of leadership, apathy and callousness on the part of the present dispensation.
How have we come to such a sorry situation? The reasons I feel are centralisation of power leading to an almost dictatorship scenario.
There is an American saying that when you are waist-deep in a pond or lake full of alligators it is exceedingly difficult to think why you came there in the first place. Similarly, the present pandemic raging all around us does not allow us to reflect on why we have come to this sorry state.
Abdication of leadership
Dictators are very insecure and become one since they are control freaks. Because of their insecurities, they are also cowards and bullies. And at the first sign of catastrophe, where they cannot control the events, they abdicate or run away from decision making.
This is what we see presently when the moment crisis and disaster have happened, the central leaders abdicated their leadership role and started blaming others for the problems.
Dictators with their insecurity create a filter around them so that they only get the news that they want to hear. This results in a totally distorted understanding of the situation and leads to wrong conclusions and decisions.
Ignoring expert views
Thus, holding elections during a pandemic, organising huge election rallies and religious functions like Kumbh Mela (festival) without any safeguards were all done against the sane advice of the medical fraternity. Besides, the experts and knowledgeable people were afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. These public events naturally accelerated the spread of the virus.
Dictators start believing in their lies and get this arrogant notion of being know-alls and depository of all the wisdom of the world. They never listen to scientists and knowledgeable people since it fuels their insecurities further. They also never admit mistakes and after making a gross mistake or decision, stick to it stubbornly thereby creating a spiraling situation which leads to disaster. Note demonetisation without notice and severe lockdown of the country at three hours’ notice are prime examples of this behavior.
There is hardly any mechanism of self-correction or mid-course correction since the people who can give alternative advice have been filtered out from the decision-making process.
All throughout the history of dictatorship these facts have been borne again and again by various examples. Thus Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, etc. were prime examples of this behaviour. Ultimately all dictatorships collapse but, in the process, they exact a huge price in terms of misery and hardship from its citizens.
Statutory institutions destroyed
In case of India, we had a democracy which has now been reduced to near dictatorship with all the statutory institutions almost destroyed and anybody who has the courage to speak out against the leadership is hounded by agencies like IT, ED, and CBI.
We have a situation resembling the Emergency with more and more powers being accumulated by the central leadership.
It will take many years – may be a generation - to bring back the sanctity of these institutions, because their destruction allows only the self-serving and bootlickers to rise to the top and they in turn will bring more of their kind into the fold.
Then prime minister Indira Gandhi had declared a state of Emergency in 1975, but it was lifted in 1977 and people knew that it was a terrible thing, but a transitory phase. In the present case the emergency created in the country is so subtle that people do not think it is anything like that but simply a great decisive leader trying to do his job in a democratic manner!
This is far more dangerous since we do not know the hidden dangers. In the case of the Emergency, it was open, and everybody knew that it was wrong. But here loyalists of Prime Minister Narendra Modi openly praise and worship blindly whatever the leadership does. Besides, the fear of the pandemic has also been used to the hilt by the leaders to make decision making even more centralised and dictatorial.
So, the only thing we are left to do is to pray and hope that those higher forces which have now and then helped guide the destiny of this country and brought us periodically out of darkness will do it again, so that we all can work towards making India a holistic and emotionally satisfying place to live.
(The writer is Director and Hon. Secretary, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute, Phaltan, Maharashtra. Views are personal)