It’s arguably the country’s worst public healthcare crisis in living memory. India is on the edge, its citizens literally holding their breath, hoping against hoping that they somehow scrape through and escape the horrors being faced by so many. The failures, the inadequacies, the muted response of the state machinery are all important questions the answers to which must be sought, and those responsible taken to task. For now, though, the foremost priority has to be of pooling in resources and getting help from wherever possible to stem the Covid-19 surge. The heart-warming resolve shown by individuals — unknown, restless, angry — to reach out to those in need over the past few days holds a mirror to the leadership. While India is making an effort to come together to help out Indians, the leaders are busy squabbling over the electoral arithmetic of the pandemic numbers.
A united, bipartisan approach to tide over the crisis seems like an alien concept, be it the Centre or the states; coronavirus will only be fought on party symbols. In Punjab, with elections less than a year away, forget the possibility of the Opposition joining hands with the ruling party to forge efforts to secure lives, the Congress’ top leaders could not resist the opportunity to bring each other down. The 2015 sacrilege case undoubtedly scores high on the state’s political agenda, but the ugly to-and-fro between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Capt Amarinder Singh is both bad timing and misplaced priorities.
The unprecedented healthcare emergency demands a combined war-like effort; much of the energy and thought, however, is being spent on politicking. Missing is the voice of reassurance — acknowledging and indicating a sense of urgency, and also calming nerves, ramping up institutional facilities, filling glaring gaps in the delivery in real time. Talking less and doing more. Something the Haryana Chief Minister too could take note of. ‘The dead won’t come back, no point debating death data’ is a remark that smacks of insensitivity. Now is the time for leadership, not brinkmanship.