Few days back interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi had raised a very pertinent question – “After May 17th, What? and After May 17th, How? seeking answers from the Modi government how it plans to deal post May 17 when the third phase of Lockdown 3.0 ends. The government as usual rebuffed Sonia Gandhi’s valid question and instead suggested the opposition party should not weaken the fight against the coronavirus.
But Sonia Gandhi’s questions have come back to haunt the government yet again. As the day for the third phase of the Lockdown nears to an end, there seems to be no clarity as to what would be the plan next to get things back to normal. The marathon meeting with chief ministers the fifth during COVID-19 did not come out with a clear picture. PM Modi even going on to hint of extending the lockdown with some more relaxations and the state chief ministers have been asked to come out with blue print on May 15 how they plan to ease lockdown and resume economic activity.
But some of the recent government moves have baffled the logic of lockdown . And the need for it to continue further. Take for instance , trains have started operations to 15 cities, airports have opened with Air India flights taking off in the Vande Bharat mission to bring stranded Indians from abroad, Special buses are been run to help migrant workers reach their their home towns . So where does the lockdown stand at the moment? Only government has the answer. Or perhaps clueless on what to do next.
The government has time again reiterated that it would come out with the stimulus package soon. It is yet to come out with it. As promised. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman surely needs to act fast.
But what has been most disturbing sight during the pandemic is the lakhs of migrant workers have been left in the lurch with no jobs following the lockdown. Adding to their woes was the government’s sheer carelessness towards their plight. The visuals of migrant workers with family members walking along the sun-baked highways on their way home is deeply disturbing. The government should have made necessary arrangements for their homeward journey at the start it self rather than waiting for the situation to get out of control nearly 38 days later. Yet despite the arrangements for trains, buses, there are still images of workers walking on the roads. “Shramik Special Train’ service i guess has come simply too late.
Senior Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in a tweet wrote, Now, governments are shedding crocodile tears for the migrant workers who were killed by a train. The tragedy on our highways and railway tracks is visible every day to all, except the governments.
In another tweet, Chidambaram took on the government writing, Congress was the first to draw attention to the fact that, despite trains and buses, thousands of migrant workers are trekking back home. No one paid heed to our warning. Further he wrote , Congress was the first to demand that migrant workers who desired to go back to their home states should be facilitated to do so. Central government dragged its feet for 38 days.
Moreover, Many countries ravaged by COVID-19 like Germany, France, Spain and even Pakistan (Lifting) have eased lockdown and getting back to normalcy. It is time India does the same. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s comment it is time to learn living with the virus , despite surge in numbers can be seen as a honest assessment of the situation. The continuous lockdown will impact businesses and hit hard not only lives but livelihoods and many businesses stare of closing forever.
Hence , It is time Modi government comes out with clear road map and spell’s out it’s agenda post-May 17. The right to ask questions is not a patent of a certain Arnab Goswami, it is a right that belongs to all to all journalists. But asking questions to Modi government is laced with danger too.
As former diplomat and former JD(U) leader Pavan K Varma, points out, in one of his columns ( Who is Anti- National?) in his book Chanakya’s view writes a very valid point , I strongly believe that India is nowhere close to becoming a fascist state. But still , it is important to learn the right lessons from history. Undoubtedly, a democracy should have effective economic governance, but it should also allow the freedom to dissent and debate. The equation is not either-or . To critique the ruling party or to disagree with its policies cannot be construed in a democracy as anti- national act. Not should be subversive and mala fide motivation be ascribed to every act of disagreement. Unfortunately, this is precisely what is happening today. Anyone who criticises this government is either accused of having political animus or is considered anti- national or is seen through the prism of his/ her religion or is dismissed as part of the regressive forces that are trying to sully the name of India internationally. This is to say the least both undemocratic and rather silly.