India is in good company – a superpower the US, to wit. And lo and behold the US discovered that it may after all be, strong enough to ward off the challenge thrown to its might by a little-known virus. Can you imagine the superpower discovering that it may after all not be strong enough to act unilaterally? Its 2 trillion dollar bail out to the nation’s economy does indeed look like a boast when seen against the backdrop of not having enough ventilators or personal protective gear for the doctors to fight against the monstrous virus. The utmost disdain with which the US president Donald Trump initially sought to underplay “That Chinese Virus” looks ridiculous in hindsight. New York, the joy and pride of the American people, looks a tad and more hapless than say New Delhi, when you consider that the “Big Apple” has become the capital of the Coid-19 stung USA. On Thursday when I casually turned to CNN, the US broadcasters said that New York had become the epicenter of the pandemic in the USA. At that point the US had 82,000 known live cases and 1295 had succumbed. Today the US case count has crossed 100,000. Bill Gates, the billionaire, stated that the US is just learning to cope with the pandemic and that is frightening. At one point it looked like that President Trump who had ridiculed the Iranians by suggesting “Amends to be made by Tehran” to enable him to relax some of the economic sanctions might live to see that Ayatollah Khomeini may have the last laugh even as his country was grappling with the pandemic. India could perhaps draw some comfort from the news that it has the US for company in it discover that it has very few ventilators and doctors’ kits in the fight against the epidemic. China, where it all has started, are by now comfortable and have the virus in a certain amount of control.
The Indian government on its part has tightened the screws in the fight against coronavirus through the predictable hiccups. For one thing, the three-week nationwide lock-down ordered by the government did create the necessary awareness about the serious threat posed by the pandemic accomplished of course by the numerous attendant negatives. For instance, no thought was given for the wellbeing of several million daily wagers et all who have been immediately thrown out of whatever comfort they normally lived in. The result is the heart-breaking scenes of thousands literally thrown on the streets with no where to go. No thought has apparently been spared for their wellbeing. So, one could see scenes on the TV of thousands of them from walking down from Ghaziabad, in search of any transportation which they could find. Many of these are now walking down of days, many as much as 5 days, as they search for a way to get to their homes, if not by bus, then by foot. Even at their homes, with little work and services, they may arrive to see their future as bleak as ever. And the pit is that the police would not cease harassing these unlucky mostly young Indians whose dreams have suddenly turned sour. Dealing with pandemics does not only consist of isolating and treating the sick. That is the job of the specialists, the cost of social disruption often surpasses the effect of the disease itself, as families lose loves one’s breadwinners lose livelihoods, structured relationships collapse, and general insecurity sets in. Unfortunately, society itself seems to be cleaved across religions, creeds, states and other man-made divisions. The upper and upper middle classes, with certain notable exceptions, can been seen flouting rules, lamenting the lack of availability of their favorite fast foods and a certain drop in internet speeds. Sitting in our homes, seems to be creating further disconnects as we look at the world via our TV screens and windows. Hence, while thousands suffer the heat, dust and police lathis, in their efforts to get to their villages and towns in UP and Bihar, those with the influence seem to be most concerned with ensuring that their deliveries from Amazon and Flipkart continue unabated. We seem to be living in a world and a society where the greater good seems relegated to the background and personal wants take center stage. Some good may yet come out of it, just as the positive impact on pollution, focus on the health workers, need for public hygiene and the humble, overlooked street cleaners has shown. Right now, as many of us privileged lot wait out this terrible storm on the comforts of our homes and in the midst of our friends & family – we must quickly focus our efforts on those who are not so privileged. This period will be remembered by many and will get etched as scars in our collective psyche. These scars can only be healed by society that holds together instead of seeking scapegoats to vent its anxiety on.