Opinion: As COVID-19 rages, only focus is on saving Modi’s face

By Palwai Raghavendra Reddy

Covid-19 has wrecked lives of millions of people across India and around the World. Millions have lost their employment opportunities, and according to many studies, India has suffered maximum when it comes to financial damage.

The Centre for Sustainable Employment (CSE), a division of Azim Premji University revealed that the pandemic crippled the earning opportunities of many Indians, and the damage is more among the economically weaker sections of the society. The study indicated that at least 230 million additional individuals have fallen below the national minimum wage poverty line.

The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre wants us to believe that Indian economy is not in red yet; and that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would bounce back in a sharp manner. But CSE in its report suggested that country has not witnessed any drastic growth in employment or income numbers in last quarter of 2020, when Covid-19 case numbers were dropping.

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And instead, the latest surge or the second wave, as most people call it, has only hurt the economy further. No credible economist with proper exposure to Indian economy is willing to bet on sharp resurgence of Indian economy. While India is facing such a turmoil, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s parent organization, is making all possible efforts to ensure public attention is deflected away from the imploding economic and health parameters, in the name of “Positivity Unlimited”!

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat last week launched a campaign where he appealed to the people of India to move away from negativity and focus on positive thoughts alone. In his speech, Bhagwat stated that both people of India and the Government are responsible for the second wave of Covid-19. However, he made no comment on why and how Modi regime failed to build health infrastructure in the country, or at least in the State where BJP is in power. He also did not speak about the lockdowns which have broken the economic backbone of many poor families across the country.

Instead, Bhagwat wants people to move over the “bad news” and focus on a better future. Post his speech on May 15, his followers were swamping over mainstream and online media, and across social media platforms to suggest that people should watch news that highlights Covid-19 related deaths (India for many days is recording highest single day deaths in the World), and alternately look at the number of people who are recovering from coronavirus infection.

Many steps are being taken by the RSS, BJP, and sympathizers of both these organizations, to build a nation-wide narrative, which would divert attention away from the fact that lakhs have suffered untimely deaths in this pandemic; probably many more deaths have not been recorded; and this Government does not have an ideal plan to arrest the rise in Covid-19 numbers.

Unfortunately, no word is spoken on the vaccine policy of this Government, which is the biggest worry in the country which according to some health experts is a fertile ground to suffer third or even fourth waves of Covid-19 cases. The RSS agenda is to ensure two prominent personalities will appear on various television channels every day and speak for about 15 minutes about “how to stay positive and stay united in this hour of crisis, and how to win the battle against Covid-19”.

Interestingly, psychologists are being roped in, to pen articles or give interviews across English, Vernacular press, and to appear on national and regional television channels to spread the ‘Positivity Unlimited’ message. The ruling class probably believes that people of India can be made to trust their version on pandemic using these so-called experts.

The most notable happening in the country now is that, not just the poor and uneducated, but even the educated class are suffering with unemployment rising at an alarming rate across all sectors in the country. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), considered among the most credible agencies that study Indian Economy, in its latest report stated that the unemployment rate in India has risen to 14.7%, which is highest since June 2020, a time when Covid-19 crisis was still at an early stage in the country.

While 14.7% is the national average, urban unemployment is increasing more in comparison to rural unemployment, which is supported by Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Act, which was brought in by the previous United Progressive Alliance Government of Dr. Manmohan Singh.

While the situation is so perilous in the country, and people across the country are dying due to non-availability of proper healthcare, the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party Government and its parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh want people of India to develop “Positivity Unlimited”! Instead of trying hard to manipulate the minds of people in the country, it would be better if this Government focuses more on the better managing the crisis.

(The author is a political communications specialist; and has worked in Indian States of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and others)

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