Modi’s pandemic lockdown becomes a human tragedy | Pakistan Today

Modi’s pandemic lockdown becomes a human tragedy

Indian propaganda masters have been giving a spin to Modi’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in India by criticizing Pakistan. Indian news agency ANI quotes Washington-based Gilgit Baltistan (GB) political activist Senge Hasnan Sering as stating “Indian PM Modi is playing a constructive and supportive role as expected from the leader of the world’s fourth-largest economy. His policy of ‘no citizens left behind’ has earned him recognition from opposition parties who are also supporting his Sunday lockdown directive.”

Senge Hasnan Sering, allegedly an Indian factotum, in the same breath, also took a swipe at Islamabad’s alleged total lack of a coordinated response for combating the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s complete apathy towards GB by saying “Although Gilgit-Baltistan is a direct neighbour of China’s Xinjiang, its inhabitants are getting coronavirus infection transmitted from a completely unexpected location like Iran.” To prove his point, Sering remarked, “When compared with Pakistani provinces and Pakistani administered Kashmir, GB has the highest number of positive cases in proportion to population size,” and this is an undisputable fact.

If that were not enough, Indian media is spreading the disinformation that the residents of Azad Jammu Kashmir are incensed that the government of Pakistan has established quarantines for persons testing positive to COVID-19 in cities of Azad Kashmir, which are housing patients from Punjab.

While the pack of lies of Modi’s deft handling of COVID-19 outbreak is being propagated in Chanakyan fashion that “tell a lie so often that it appears to be the truth”, it is being negated by independent media sources.

The harsh reality, being reported by internationals news agencies and TV channels with vivid and heartbreaking videos depict the thousands of Indians trudging home in the sweltering heat because they were caught unawares by the sudden lockdown of India by Narendra Modi and his cash-strapped government’s inability to provide food and basic necessities to the people. Work and wages dried up after India declared a 21-day lockdown with four hours’ notice on the midnight of 24 March, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Indian policy makers have announced several measures to counter the impact of the virus on the economy and more are likely to come in the next few weeks. While the government has announced a relief package for those hit worst by the 21-day nationwide lockdown to prevent community transmission of the coronavirus, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) took a series of steps to boost liquidity in the banking system and encourage banks to lend

All over India, millions of migrant workers are fleeing its shuttered cities and trekking home to their villages. These informal workers are the backbone of the big-city economy, constructing houses, cooking food, serving in eateries, delivering takeaways, cutting hair in salons, making automobiles, plumbing toilets and delivering newspapers, among other things. Escaping poverty in their villages, most of the estimated 100 million of them live in squalid housing in congested urban ghettos and aspire for upward mobility.

Soutik Biswas, BBC’s India correspondent, in his opinion piece titled ‘Coronavirus: India’s pandemic lockdown turns into a human tragedy’ writes that last week’s lockdown turned them into refugees overnight. Their workplaces were shut, and most employees and contractors who paid them vanished.

Sprawled together, men, women and children began their journeys at all hours of the day last week. They carried their paltry belongings─ usually food, water and clothes─ in cheap rexine and cloth bags. The young men carried tatty backpacks. When the children were too tired to walk, their parents carried them on their shoulders.

They walked under the sun and they walked under the stars. Most said they had run out of money and were afraid they would starve. “India is walking home,” headlined The Indian Express newspaper.

The staggering exodus was reminiscent of the flight of refugees during the bloody partition in 1947. Millions of bedraggled refugees had then trekked to east and west Pakistan, in a migration that displaced 15 million people.

This time, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are desperately trying to return home in their own country. Battling hunger and fatigue, they are bound by a collective will to somehow get back to where they belong. Home in the village ensures food and the comfort of the family, they say. Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologized for the lockdown “which has caused difficulties in your lives, especially the poor people”, adding these “tough measures were needed to win this battle.”

Whatever the reason, Mr Modi and the state governments appeared to have bungled in not anticipating this exodus which has made a mockery of the lockdown and turned it into a human tragedy.

Mr Modi has been extremely responsive to the plight of Indian migrant workers stranded abroad: hundreds of them have been brought back home in special flights. But the plight of workers at home struck a jarring note.

“Wanting to go home in a crisis is natural. If Indian students, tourists, pilgrims stranded overseas want to return, so do labourers in big cities. They want to go home to their villages. We can’t be sending planes to bring home one lot, but leave the other to walk back home,” tweeted Shekhar Gupta, founder and editor of The Print.

Simultaneously, bone-chilling stories of the collapse of Indian economy are rampant. The Indian economy is set to slow down sharply as companies face the prospect of going weeks or even months with virtually no revenue, and consumer demand is likely to remain soft even after the coronavirus crisis blows over because of bankruptcies, job losses and the resulting psychological scars.

India’s COVID-19 measures have been disastrousIndian policy makers have announced several measures to counter the impact of the virus on the economy and more are likely to come in the next few weeks. While the government has announced a relief package for those hit worst by the 21-day nationwide lockdown to prevent community transmission of the coronavirus, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) took a series of steps to boost liquidity in the banking system and encourage banks to lend

Forecasters are slashing India’s economic growth estimates for the financial year starting 1 April, with most expecting a severe contraction in June quarter output. Last Monday, S&P Global Ratings cut its estimate for India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 3.5 percent from its earlier estimate of 5.2 percent, as it expects the damages to the economy from the covid-19 pandemic for the Asia-Pacific region to be as severe as the one during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.

“Amid unusually high uncertainty, we forecast Asia-Pacific growth to dive to 2.2 percent in 2020 with a U-shaped recovery taking hold only later this year— this would push activity four percentage points below trend,” it said in a recent report.

Indian policy makers have announced several measures to counter the impact of the virus on the economy and more are likely to come in the next few weeks. While the government has announced a relief package for those hit worst by the 21-day nationwide lockdown to prevent community transmission of the coronavirus, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) took a series of steps to boost liquidity in the banking system and encourage banks to lend. Last week, International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Kristalina Georgieva said the global economy could be staring at a recession that is as bad as or worse than the global financial crisis of 2008. The IMF is expected to substantially reduce its growth estimates for most economies in its World Economic Outlook, which is scheduled to be released in April. Reflecting the pessimism, Indian stock markets continued their downward march, dumping stocks and conserving cash. The Sensex plunged 4.61 percent to 28,440.32, while the 50-share index Nifty shed 4.38 percent to 8,281.10.

Clearly, a lockdown to stave off a pandemic is turning into a humanitarian crisis.

Sultan M Hali

The author is a retired Group Captain and author of the book Defence & Diplomacy. Currently he is a columnist, analyst and TV talk show host.



One Comment;

  1. Suntest said:

    Dimwit. Indian economy will be one of the few that will grow unlike paki who will continue to beg. Also all migrants are being hosted by the respective host govts. Unlike im the dim, modi is decisive and fast while pakiland will see a spike in cases. How can the poor work in pakiland when no businesses are running…dimwit? I like it that paki defence personnel are just like im the dim, always dumb and no wonder they have brought their country to the knees.

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