The dreaded second phase of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit India with the force of a tidal wave. The rapid spread of the disease in the general population is indeed a tsunami. That there could be a second wave, and that this may be deadlier than the first, should have been clear to the bureaucrats in the Union Ministry of Health. They are all aware that there will not be any negative consequences to their careers, no matter how many lives and how much treasure is lost in the lackadaisical manner in which they complacently assured the political establishment that the worst was over. Those responsible for not preparing India for a second wave through ensuring supply of oxygen, hospital beds and medication should be identified and their careers brought to a close. This happens in the private sector and needs to happen within the portals of government as well. The good should be encouraged with rapid promotion, the bad removed from service. A second wave deadlier than the first being a possibility was precisely what Germany and the UK believed would not take place, before the second wave struck with devastating force. After the event, several models were generated by epidemiologists about the extra severity of such a second wave. It was that which led to massive lockdowns in some countries, although the evidence suggests that those that avoided such job killing measures did not suffer more than countries that enforced lockdowns that caused a ballooning of public debt. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is right in counselling state governments to avoid lockdowns when micro containment is what is needed.
In the UK, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak opened the spigot of government spending so as to protect citizens from the consequences of a pandemic that was caused by the manner in which the WHO refused to issue any warning about the danger of flights landing from affected parts of China for several weeks after first North Korea and later Taiwan shut the doors to such flights. Soon afterwards, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did the same, but it was too late. The virus had entered and was multiplying. In hindsight, it may have been wiser to ensure that all citizens landing from Wuhan at the least should have disembarked at any destination where they and those who travelled in seats close to them could be quarantined in facilities created for the purpose. The WHO failed totally in understanding the virulence of SARS CoV-2 and the world is paying the price. There seems to be zero accountability within the UN system for accountability in the case of those in the WHO, who so mismanaged the Covid-19 pandemic. The presence of China as a permanent member of the UN Security Council courtesy the generosity of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru may be the reason for such lack of concern at the damage done to the UN by the failure of the WHO to prevent what ought to have been a localised matter to spread across the world.
It was only after Prime Minister Modi took direct charge of the handling of the pandemic during its second wave that the situation is starting to be turned around. A probe needs to be conducted whether some dealing with the subject were influenced by Big Pharma based in US and the EU (besides the PRC) to delay sanction for those eager to produce more of the medication needed in Covid-19 cases and vaccines. The ramping up of output that has followed the Prime Minister’s intervention gives rise to the suspicion that regulatory and other bottlenecks may have been the reason why progress in these life-changing items was earlier so slow. The many institutions in India that are presumed to monitor wrongdoing are each suffused in a culture where cadre protects cadre, batch ignores the transgressions of another batch. The number of officials holding major responsibility that have been outed for their misfeasance is far below the actual number, although even this is an improvement over the past, when such officials were rewarded rather than punished. Just being the relative of a senior official or better still, an important politician, conferred immunity from action against corruption in the manner a vaccine protects against the disease against which it has been developed. After the second wave has been reduced into insignificance, as is expected to happen in weeks because of the Prime Minister’s intervention, a post mortem needs to be conducted of the failures in the system that led to the hell that so many patients are being put to. They desperately search for hospital beds, for medication and for oxygen and some do not find it before death takes them away. In the meantime, recrimination needs to be put aside. State governments need to work alongside the Central government in this moment of national emergency. When a ship is in trouble, the captain gives the command for all hands to be on deck, ready to act to overcome the problem. The captain of the ship of government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, deserves to see all hands on deck irrespective of party in this hour of crisis.