India's response to coronavirus is based on fear, not planning

There are indications/allegations that COVID-19 or coronavirus was accidentally released from a Wuhan lab

Anil K. Rajvanshi Apr 29, 2020

There are indications/allegations that COVID-19 or coronavirus was accidentally released from a Wuhan lab. Such deadly viruses have been researched in these labs for quite some time. The secretive and authoritarian Chinese regime did not alert the world about it, and delayed the response with deadly results for the world. Then they showed the world that with total lockdown (which only a dictatorial regime like the Chinese one can do) they were able to contain it - or at least that is how it appeared to the outside world.

Never in the history of mankind have such a lockdown across the globe been practised for any disease outbreak. However, the lockdown and other dictatorial responses to it have shown an underlying human nature which is based on fear and unsure of itself and, above all, wants to control and be in charge. In India the responses have mostly come out of the fear syndrome.

This fear then allows only one way to respond to such a situation and that is take the ultimate harsh step since nobody wants to own up the mistakes later on. A maxim of dictatorship is “when in doubt – clamp down”!
When we have fear as the driving force then the wisdom of taking a decision for the benefit of all vanishes and the only way we feel safe is to save our skin, which means take the harshest step and, that too collectively. In the case of India it has been done more or less unilaterally. 

Thus the lockdown comes as a very easy way out since it allows most of the things to be stopped. Then one does not have to utilize one’s judgment and brain and, if questioned, the general refrain is given that consequences will be observed and dealt with accordingly. 

And such steps also lead to confusion since things are not thought through. Thus one day one decision is announced and the next day it is replaced with a new one overturning the old one. This confusion also helps in creating uncertainty which is again exacerbated by harsher and sometimes ad hoc decisions.

This lockdown has created a catastrophic situation for the Indian economy and untold hardships to small farmers and daily wage workers. Both these segments have hardly any political voice, and yet are the most important components of India’s economy. They would have been protected and helped if the lockdown had been planned properly.

Anytime when a murmur of dissent against such harsh measures is voiced that person is immediately dubbed "anti-national". Also, a common refrain is that some of the best brains are advising the leadership. So what is being done is in the best interests of the country.    

However, when a system of totally controlling and a know-all leadership is created then it creates filters by which it hears only that advice it wants to hear.

We should have questioned where the idea of lockdown came from and whether it had really succeeded where it was practised. In the heat of the moment most of the times one forgets to question the basic fundamental premises. As the American saying goes “When you are up your ass with alligators in a pond, it is very difficult to think why you came in the pond in the first place”!

And, finally, the lockdown has created conditions and scenario where dictatorship can easily flourish. This could have very serious consequences for the future of democracy in India.

(The writer is Director, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute, Phaltan, Maharashtra. The views expressed are personal and not necessarily shared by the editors of South Asia Monitor)

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