Coronavirus News Asia

Modi promotes Hindutva even in the pandemic

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity is continuously mounting, and it seems he is unstoppable despite a massive discrepancy between his words and actions amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the world’s second-most-populous country.

All his aides including Amit Shah, his trusted henchman and hawkish minister of home affairs, are nowhere on the scene. In addition, the people of India have supported successive Hindutva-promoting publicity stunts during the pandemic. The Indian media, as always the leading cheerleaders of Modi’s agenda, have jumped wholeheartedly on to the bandwagon.

Modi announced a three-week nationwide lockdown on March 24 with little advance notice, and it became effective the following day. The majority of the people of India supported Modi’s call for this illogical, draconian and complete lockdown.

However, the opposition parties and economists drew a parallel with Modi’s hastily announced annulment of the legal tender of the 1,000- and 500-rupee banknotes, later known as demonetization, on November 8, 2016. Another parallel drawn was the hasty and unplanned implementation of the goods and services tax, passed by a constitutional amendment act on July 1, 2017. India has faced an economic slowdown, which many commentators say is the impact of the demonetization and GST, since 2018.

Modi comes across as inexperienced and impulsive in this context and seems to have failed to learn from the mistakes of the past, which are evinced in his hasty decision to declare a complete lockdown, which was followed by mass migrations on foot from the nation’s capital by daily-wage earners and shortages of daily essentials across the country. 

Many economists and experts believe that Modi’s announcement of the complete nationwide lockdown was superficially calculated, based on emotion, not facts and figures, and hasty by any standard as compared with any other country affected by the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

India’s case is strange for several reasons. First, experts believe India has a much less severe public health crisis due to Covid-19 than many peer emerging-market economies, as well as advanced economies. Second, the lockdown does not guarantee prevention of the spread of the virus, and even it works well, there will be a relatively minimal benefit in the reduction of the spread of infection.

Modi’s call for “social distancing” has not been maintained because of the mass exodus of migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometers to their homes from major cities in every state of India. 

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