Mentor among Tormentors: India to lead the Global Combat
India has emerged as the mentor among the tormenting forces unleashed by COVID 19 the world over. Vexing questions such as: health or wealth, life or livelihood, survival or revival, growing social tensions, unemployment, disruptions of logistics, economic slowdown, inadequate testing facilities, evacuation of thousands stranded abroad, feeding the millions, deploying healthcare teams in a country of continental proportions, providing relief to the needy, still keeping the country going, is a stupendous task which will disturb and shake anyone at the helm of affairs. India reached out to the world and made crisis diplomacy a weapon of great élan in containing the pandemic. While the other nations chose to be insular, treating the disaster as a national one, here is a nation, the largest democracy in the world, which perceived this as a global problem and acted with speed and despatch. India has faced the situation squarely, with dexterity and equipoise, rare and brilliant. India has proved that ‘an army of sheep led by a lion is more effective than an army of lions led by a sheep’.
If facts have tongues they would speak out in favour of the Indian approach to combat the COVID menace. When it took US, UK and European countries like France, Spain and Italy two days to double the number of the infected; it took India six days to reach that level.
The massive operation spearheaded in India involved fast and swift decisions and follow up right from the initial days of sensing the trouble. Incoming air traffic was regulated, arriving international passengers tested, quarantined or isolated and ingress and egress of international flights were kept under strict control. Healthcare facilities geared up with lightening speed, food grain buffer stock built up in all parts of the country and a sleeping nation woke up and kept itself well oiled and fighting fit. The states were kept informed at every stage. Government of India kept up its connect with the Chief Ministers. Public were informed of the do’s and don’ts from time to time. Loopholes were plugged. The major stakeholders including the states, experts, opinion leaders, health workers and public men were taken in confidence along with 140 Crores of citizens by the Prime Minster.
The zest and vigour which marked the swift moves of America, China and the G20 nations in responding to the recession in 2008 is sadly missing in the combat against Corona. Each nation became insular for reasons best known to them, creating a leadership vacuum in the world. The pandemic was not met with any global action. That is where India got a new space in the world. India reacted with broad despatch and started preventive action even before the death toll raised three-digit figure. The nation which did not have masks, sanitizers, leave alone personal protection equipment, suddenly woke up to vigour and produced more than enough for its internal consumption and started supplying it to other countries.
A massive population of 1.4 billion was locked up. Public health and public distribution systems were spruced up and an unready nation became ready for anything. India decided to give 10 million USD as its initial contribution to support the SAARC emergency fund. Hydroxychloroquine was mass produced and supplied to different parts of the world. World Health Organisation complimented India’s efforts in tackling the pandemic. Bill Gates wrote to the Prime Minister of India appreciating the great leadership and proactive moves of the country in containing the COVID crisis. The innate immunity which the traditional Indian food gave to the people became an “enigma, a riddle and a puzzle”. India is moving towards world leadership. Its logical conclusion should be the creation of a global platform to define and coordinate the post COVID world. With its proven track record and its position as the largest democracy and the second largest population in the world, India emerges as a natural choice to lead the organisation.
The Corona war showed that Indian federalism is vibrant, dynamic and effective. It could deliver. The COVID combat also established that Indian pluralism is not a myth but a living reality. All communities and social segments stood together and acted in unison with the Government of India.
India has 100 million tonnes of buffer stock in warehouses across the country, as against an annual requirement of less than half the volume. The projected production of food grains is 292 million tonnes, according to the Food Corporation of India.
World looked at India as a friend in need in an hour of crisis. India responded quickly and proactively so much so that in Corona care, India became a friend, philosopher and guide to the global fraternity. India has sent its floating islands, the naval ships and a fleet of aircrafts to bring back to safety its stranded citizens abroad. China complimented India for the help and support given to them to tide over the crisis. President of Brazil Mr. Jair Bolsonaro appealed to Narendra Modi alluding to the Ramayana, to send ‘mrit sanjivini’ to save his people as the monkey God Hanuman did to save the life of Laxman. Donald Trump of USA sulked and murmured when he felt India might not lift the ban on sending hydroxychloroquine to them. India did respond favourably and stood by the people of USA in their hour of need. The other nations supported by India in various ways include; Spain, Germany and neighbours like Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bangladesh; along with Seychelles, Mauritius; Brazil, Dominican Republic; and Bahrain.
Post COVID world will not be the same again; a paradigm shift is inevitable. The world is passing through a phase which is unique, intriguing, unprecedented and precarious. The new world order is chimerical and lackadaisical. No one knows what is in store for himself and others around him. World has to go in for open governance of rebuild, openly arrived at. What are the challenges ahead of the world where one hears the death throes of an old order and the birth pangs of a new one? Yes, all the nations of the world are ‘torn between two worlds; one dead, the other powerless to be born.’ The world looks at India to show the way forward.
What should be the post COVID road map for humanity? COVID has taught us that there was disconnect between man and nature, man and man and nations and nations. The umbilical relation between parents and children had weakened. The relation between the self and the soul seems to have ‘vanished into thin air’. The new world has to rediscover itself. There should be concerted and effective efforts to go back to the basics, back to the roots.
Life out of tune with nature, environment-hostile attitudes and approaches, men’s predatory onslaught on mother earth, the worship of ‘almighty dollar’, the trigger happy psyche of the war mongering rulers, all will find a sea change in the struggle for survival in the post COVID world. COVID lockdown has cleaned our air, earth and water. It goes without saying, ‘he who pollutes must pay’. The polluting humanity has paid the price, a very high price indeed. This is a time for repentance and reparation. The realization that “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” should go deep down in our hearts. Gandhiji is there instilling sense in the minds of post COVID humanity. “The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed."
The litmus test of crisis management came when the universal enemy had to be encountered with an army that was divided among itself. The federal structure of the country which delegates power and authority between the centre and the states was put to test. With virulent opposition parties ruling in many states, the strength of federal unity to face the enemy appeared precarious in the beginning. As Nobel laureate Amartya Sen rightly pointed out, Prime Minister Modi could seize the gravity of the situation much ahead of many other world leaders. The Modi magic could transform the hawks into the doves. Indian federalism was seen at its best during the corona crisis. Modi compared the COVID combat to the Mahabharata war, but here the world saw Karna and Arjuna fighting shoulder to shoulder to defeat the common enemy under Generalissimo Modi.
Relief package to the tune of 1.7 lakh crores was announced expeditiously followed by a stimulus package with a whopping 20 lakh crores, amounting to 10% of India’s GDP. Direct transfer was done through Jan-dhan accounts to keep up buoyancy of the cash starved poor. Farmers who kept the country above starvation during the crisis, women who ran the nation from their kitchens during the lockdown, workers in the unorganised sector and all the vulnerable sections of the society, were handheld and taken forward. Stifling bureaucratic wrangles were cut across, the Rubicon crossed, boats burned and the economy was opened up with focus on the farmers, MSME, workers and all the stakeholders in the nation. India will promote this unique experience in its onward march. The brave new world which emerges after COVID needs new institutions, new approaches and new ways to pay old debts.
In the Mahabharat there is a scene. Arjuna is under oath to slay Jayadrath before sunset or else Arujuna will end his own life. As the battle proceeds the sun sets and Arjuna has not slain Jayadrath. The Kauravas are in jubilation and Jayadrath taunts Arjuna in front of his chariot. Suddenly the sun again appeared in the sky. Who doesn’t know this is the handy work of the crafty Krishna? Arjuna remains flabbergasted. With a mischievous smile, Krishna asks Arjuna, the sun is above you, the enemy is in front of you, the arrows are with you; why don’t you act Arjuna. The world is asking India, the sun is above you, the enemy is in front of you, the arrows are with you. You need only act with your characteristic determination. The world is all ready to receive India as the leader of the future, mentor of the tormented world.