India is once again in a war-like situation against an unpredictable enemy. It reminds me of the most important lesson of military training – “never declare a victory unless the re-organisation is complete and defences coordinated”.
After fighting the first wave, we thought that the battle was over and we let our guard down. This is when the second wave counter-attacked us — more aggressively with covid-19 cases rising to almost 3.5 lac every day. The first wave took us by surprise and we were unprepared. We knew for sure that the second wave would strike us but again, were caught off-guard.
During the first wave of the pandemic, our health system did not hold up to the challenge of the virus. We went through lockdowns, migration of poor labourers, and changing the social behaviour of the people. We came through it faring better than what others predicted.
As the situation improved after the first wave, we lifted the lockdowns, but did not enforce wearing of mask, social distancing and vaccinations at a faster speed. We could see the results of the second wave in the US, Britain and other European countries but kept our guard low thinking that our strong immunity would play the trick again. We should have remained focused on vaccinating the population at a faster rate to meet the challenges of the second wave. If we wanted to vaccinate 70% of our population, then we should have ramped up our production capacity way back in Jan 2021 and provided financial assistance to the vaccine makers (SII and Bharat Biotech) at that time instead of doing it now. We could have learnt from Israel, the UK or the USA, where vaccinating the population was the top priority and they planned for it. If we wanted to earn the goodwill of our neighbours and friends, we should have also increased our capacity to produce the vaccines simultaneously.
We did not prepare ourselves adequately to deal with the second wave and were once again caught with our pants down. The leaders were busy in election campaigns. Couldn’t we have postponed the elections?
In the run-up to the elections, the leaders were themselves violating the covid-19 protocols while addressing the political rallies. They were encouraging people to gather without masks or social distancing, risking their lives to the deadly virus. For them, the votes mattered not the lives of the people. Do such leaders have the right to lecture us on covid-19 appropriate behaviour when they are violating them? There is no room for complacency when it comes to the survival of the population. A wrong decision can result in catastrophic failure. This is what has happened to us. The leadership at all levels failed us.
The shortage of hospitals, beds, ventilators, oxygen, medical facilities could have been avoided, had we prepared ourselves better for dealing with the second wave. It is sad to see the scenes of wailing mothers, wives, children and fathers who have lost their near and dear ones to this pandemic. Our health system completely collapsed due to a far greater number of patients it can handle. Our leaders today are busy in crisis management — increasing the oxygen supply, increasing the testing capacity and vaccinations, increasing the bed capacity, improving the logistics chain etc. Why didn’t we prepare for this in advance? Did we have any contingency plans to deal with the second wave? Why did we fail to anticipate what was coming? Why did we let the crisis to develop first of all? Why did we not learn our lessons from other countries like the US, UK, Israel and other European countries? Why our leadership could not match up with the leadership skills of Jacinda (New Zealand), Angela Merkel (Germany), and the likes?
In our country, no leader is ready to accept the responsibility for the failure to anticipate and deal with the second wave. Each one is shifting the blame on the other. We see deepening distrust between the centre and the states. If we have to win the battle against the pandemic, we need to rebuild the trust between the two. At least in such time of crises, all the political parties should forget their differences and unite to fight this national pandemic, which is much bigger enemy than ideology, religion or political affinity.
After the pandemic is under control we should not hesitate to fix the accountability. It is not what you preach; it is what you tolerate. If you see the substandard performance, you should hold someone accountable. Someone has to take the responsibility for it. The media and the people have to come together to fix the accountability. We cannot follow our leaders blindly in a hope that things will turn better. This monumental administrative incompetence cannot be left unanswered. Some heads need to roll.
The government is meant to protect its people in the time of crises. The true measure of leadership is the ability to confront the anxiety of the people and be at your best at the time of crisis. Let us start preparing for the third wave now, lest we don’t miss the bus once again.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy or position of Taazakhabar News.