There is an easy way to end the pandemic quickly if ‘denying new host to the Covid-19’ becomes a national mass movement
Nandkumar M Kamat
The government and the opposition can agree on a single goal- let us join hands and appeal to patriotic spirit among the people and declare that by August 15, 2021 we aim to be free of the pandemic because it is our 75th historic Independence Day. Statesmen give such goals to their people. When every Indian realizes that it is her or his duty to see that goal achieved then the pandemic can end much before August 15, 2021. But by now it is clear that the people view the current pandemic as another big “government problem” and not their own problem.
The patriotism of 1,350 million Indians is therefore definitely questionable. There is an easy way to end the pandemic. Countries like New Zealand have shown the way. It is a small commonwealth country with conditions favourable for transmission of Covid-19 but since the beginning of the pandemic in the past 16 months it has not seen more than 2,800 cases and only 26 deaths. Although it has not declared itself as a pandemic free country the citizens there feel safe and happy. Why was this possible? The simple answer is patriotism of common Kiwis- the citizens of New Zealand. There was no trust deficit between the government and the citizens.
There is an easy way to end the pandemic quickly if ‘denying new host to the Covid-19’ becomes a national mass movement. Everywhere in private and public common space, deny the SARS-COV-2, the new coronavirus, Covid-19, new human host. In every ward of every village and town in India this can be done. Break and terminate the transmission chain. Irrespective of the nature of the variants circulating in the community just deny the virus any new human host. Self imposed lockdowns and isolation by the people would curtail movement, mobility, mobs, and community transmissions. Patriotism demands self sacrifice and selfless societal services.
The “second wave’ was caused by the lack of patriotism because people were not ready to sacrifice anything and expected the government to treat them after sickness. People cooperated with the virus more than the government machinery. Once patriotic actions by 1,350 million Indians lead to denial of new hosts to Covid-19 from Ladakh to Laccadives and Kandla to Kohima then the pandemic would end. New positive cases would begin to fall rapidly. Till then every state would be busy in doing only firefighting or what is known as “supply side management”, that is go on testing and treating people till the whole health infrastructure collapses. This “supply side pandemic management” has created the present situation of Remdesivir and Oxygen cylinder shortages. But the “demand side management” that is prevention of new infections, community transmission has failed.
Over the last 15 months the national and state level publicity machinery and almost all public funded educational institutions have miserably failed to create a wildfire of anti pandemic patriotic fervour. In the turbulent and churning rough ocean of present chaos India has also created thousands of Covid-19 free islands- villages, towns, districts which have not seen any infections. None of these islands of hope have been rewarded or incentivized. Only case specific firefighting is a wrong strategy. It can continue indefinitely, and the virus would wear out the whole system after each successive wave. Minimum eight to ten such waves are expected in the next four to five years. Even if the whole country is vaccinated it would buy six more months before some double or triple or quadruple mutant hits the country showing resistance to the vaccines.
Government would collapse if every six months 1,350 million booster doses of new tweaked vaccines against novel immune escape variants need to be administered. The correct strategy is administering to every citizen the powerful vaccine of spontaneous heartfelt patriotism. As small kids we knew nothing about China or Pakistan but the media bombarded us day and night with news, announcements, speeches, songs on patriotism. Central and state governments are churning out only technical literature on pandemic- but nothing to invoke patriotism. The politics of pandemic has divided the country. The politicians in opposition have not told the people to be patriotic and defeat the virus through individual and collective actions.
The new strategy is to officially announce a war-like emergency and continuously appeal the conscience of the nation. Tell them that the country is at a war against an invisible enemy. Tell them that this war is more challenging than Kargil, or with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 and with communist China in 1962. Tell them that this time the army, navy and air force alone would not be able to fight it and win. Tell them that in this war against the invisible viral enemy every citizen is a soldier and needs to understand his or her duties as a battlefront soldier. Launch a powerful and effective media campaign nationally and locally to create an army of 1350 million soldiers. No pandemic can continue in front of such a powerful army. It can be shown that by invoking the same spirit which India saw during 1905-1942, the critical period of freedom struggle and Goa experienced during 1946-1961 the pandemic can end with inspired mass support of common citizens.
Nationalism and patriotism became merely academic words after India got freedom and Goa became liberated. Powerful multi and transnational advocates of globalization and economic liberalization tried to create an idea of ‘global consumers” and “global citizens” and after 1991 slowly people forgot all about nationalism and patriotism. The liberal thinkers and writers then began to propound new theories against nationalism and patriotism. Then scholars began to equate ‘patriotism” with right wing organizations like RSS. After ‘patriotism’ came to be co branded with RSS and BJP and politics of ‘Hindutva’ and “Akhand bharat” etc India’s new smartphone wielding global citizens forgot all about it. This much is clear from the behaviour of the people before, during and after the lockdowns and unlockdowns.
The BJP government at initial stages tried to give a cultural flavour to citizens involvement by appealing them to light lamps, display flashlights, bang utensils and millions followed these novel appeals. Now where do we stand during the second wave after doing all these ritualistically last year?
The virus does not recognize any ideology because it is aiming to eliminate all the humans who are misfit or unfit to live on this planet. Biologists know this. The virus has launched an evolutionary war against humanity. India cannot look to other countries for help because we had won our Independence on our own. If we invoke that spirit which gave us Independence 75 years back, then it is not difficult to win this war too against the invisible enemy. Patriotic people know what to do and how to act. And it is time to act now, before it is too late.