“Arey hum toh fakeer aadmi hain, jhola leke chal padenge ji… Ye fakeeri h jisne mujhe gareebon ke lie ladne ki takat di hai.” – PM Modi in a rally in 2016.
Cut to another term as Prime Minister; the fakeer initially abandoned his countrymen as the first wave of Covid-19 hit the country in March 2020. The gareeb (poor) he had vowed to fight for were left stranded at bus and railway stations as a countrywide lockdown was suddenly imposed. With no food, jobs or homes, the gareeb in this country bore the brunt of Modi’s policies.
They were forced to walk home as they were denied transportation facilities. When the government finally did arrange transportation, the same people who had lost their jobs and were surviving on the little savings they had were told to pay for the bus and railway tickets. The government later admitted to not having any data on the migrants who had died during the lockdown. Hence, no compensations were given to the families.
Over the course of 2020, as the pandemic subsided and the lockdown was slowly lifted, the gareeb left their home again in search of livelihood. In a bid to make the country “industry-friendly”, a majority of labour codes were suspended in BJP ruled states (UP, MP and Gujarat). By imposing higher taxes on essential commodities like petrol and diesel, the gareeb bore the brunt of the pandemic’s losses.
Instead of strengthening the country’s healthcare infrastructure, Modi used the time for his own PR project. While some states were facing a shortage of vaccines, it was reported that 60 million doses had been exported as of March 2021. But all of these doses were procured through the PM Cares Fund (₹1486 crores) and exported under the governments “Vaccine Maitri” initiative.
Amit Shah and the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Harsh Vardhan, had promised that vaccinations would be free of cost. But going to rallies in states that were scheduled to have elections, BJP leaders promised free vaccines if voted to power. And now, with the Serum Institute of India charging ₹400 per dose to States and ₹600 per dose to private hospitals, it’s clear that the vaccine is not going to be free.
In fact, if people do end up paying ₹600 for a dose, it will be the highest rate paid by citizens anywhere in the world.
Recently, Assam Health Minister Himanta Sarma said that there was no need to wear masks. With political leaders being allowed to flout Covid-19 protocols in states set for elections, the government set a precedent for the impending disaster. The Centre also participated in the plans to organise the Kumbh Mela. It was only cut short after thousands tested positive.
With the second wave of Covid-19, another lockdown is imminent, and migrants are again forced to go back home. India recorded 3,46,786 case on 23 April, 2021, and the 7-day-average stands at 2,97,696.
States that have been hard hit by the second wave are struggling. With the increasing number of Covid-19 cases, states have reported a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen supply. People have been forced to use unconventional methods (social media) to ask for help.
The 7-day-average of those who’ve died of Covid-19 stands at 1,985. But organisations and individuals have alleged that the numbers are far higher. Space is running out at cemeteries and crematoriums are having to turn people away. All of this while Modi is twiddling his thumbs and bragging about the size of the crowd at his rally.
Two days back, Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah held three rallies in West Bengal a day after the state recorded 10,784 Covid-19 cases. While further rallies have been cancelled in the state, Modi and other BJP leaders will hold virtual rallies as the country gasps for air.
The Centre has also started sabotaging non-BJP ruled states and is playing politics by reportedly hoarding Remdesivir in Maharashtra at a time when ordinary citizens are begging for supplies on Twitter and Instagram.
Addressing the nation on 20 April, Modi seemed to place the blame on the general public. Ignoring his own culpability, he asked citizens to stay home. And in the process, once again, with no social security measures for the poor, he has forgotten about those he claims to fight for.
For Covid-19 resources visit covid19-twitter.in