July 29, 2020

Fighting COVID-19: A losing battle or battle already lost in Assam


COVID-19 situation in Assam is rapidly turning for the worse with every passing day. Till the exodus of people in lakhs to Assam from other states was put into place by the Centre, the situation was fairly under control and healthy despite the aberration in the fight caused by the Nizamuddin Markaz event. The resolute, aggressive and determined confrontation made by the Assam health department led from the front by Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma against the pandemic even caused some pro-government media houses to go hammer and tongs over the achievement of keeping the killer virus almost at bay.

Unfortunately, today the novel coronavirus landscape in Assam is frighteningly bleak and grim with a thousand plus or close to thousand new COVID-19 positive cases adding to the overall tally of the state every day.

The question, however, arises as to how could a fairly healthy scenario could dramatically turn for the worse with such accelerating momentum.

The Centre’s decision to fling open the flood gates to facilitate the movement of stranded people from one end of the country to another led to the exodus of people in lakhs and statistically this clearly proved to be the force that accelerated the transmission of COVID-19 from state to state. At the ground level, it turned out to be an act of pulling down all barriers for unobstructed spread of the killer virus with galloping momentum to all states including Assam.

As of now, the damage caused on the novel coronavirus landscape appears to be almost irreparable. If at all normalcy returns, it may be several years or even decades. The lockdown, followed by some relaxations, re-imposition of total lockdown, clamping of total curfew again, non-stop hike of COVID-19 positive cases in thousands on a daily basis in some states at times, including Assam,  is a clear pointer as to how the people are reeling on account of the directionless approach adopted by the Centre from the very beginning of the pandemic, compounded further by some confused orders issued by the Assam Government.

If the Centre and the Assam government had some degree of political acumen and pro-commoner economic wisdom, Assam would have been much better placed today both economically as well as in respect of the pandemic.

Being ruled by an ultra-rightist dispensation at the Centre, even an iota of the plight of the commoners and the working class leading a hand-to-mouth existence was never known to the Delhi Sultans calling the shots. It was absoluteness fool-hardiness on the part of the Centre to announce the national lockdown from the midnight of March 24 with a notice of just 3-4 hours.

Sans food, sans any money crores of commoners and workers (migrant workers – a used by the Centre) got stranded in several parts of the country. It was a pathetic sight to see lakhs of workers making way to their home states on bicycle, tri-cycle, or even walking with kids in their laps making their way from cities like Delhi and Mumbai to far off states like Bihar and Bengal. These people perhaps thought they were embarking upon a relatively safer struggle or survival than to be stranded in far off city sans food, water, money and also in some cases sans shelter. It is definitely not quite known as to how many of such people perished on the way. One is only reminded of Muhammed Bin Tughluq who forced the population of Delhi to march to Tughluqabad while shifting the capital followed by ordering the people to march back to Delhi. The result being tens of thousands died on the way. Although not officially, the march of the working class was similar to Tughluq Raj in action on the road out of compulsion of the teeming millions.

 As already stated above, the well being of the working class and the teeming crores can never be a matter of concern for an ultra-rightist government. Such people are considered as just tools in the matter of production for the employer class, business community the corporate class et al. Hence, in a manner that may best be described as ‘madness without method’, the lockdown was imposed with just 3-4 hours notice. No wonder the lockdown came in as murderous bolt from the blue.

Political sagacity and pro-commoner and working-class economic sense at around the end of February 2020 demanded that three to four weeks of notice should have been given for the people to move to their home states while announcing an appointed or tentative date of lockdown. Although there might have been a huge rush, the trains surely would not have been COVID-19 transportation carriers as the outbreak of the killer virus was on a low key till late March. Beyond a shadow of doubt the timing and the method of announcing the lockdown was grossly wrong and directionless.

In contrast, when the coronavirus landscape across the nation was rapidly plunging to its nadir, the government facilitated the migration of workers and others from other states in lakhs to Assam in May-June, Suddenly, it came to the notice of the Central heavyweights that production must begin for economic revival and for that purpose worker (or tools?) were necessary. Hence, began the movement of workers to make them available for the employer class.

The hard truth is that, till the Centre flung open the flood gates to facilitate the unobstructed entry of COVID-19 in thousands to Assam with Dispur boisterously announcing “Yes Sir”,  the coronavirus situation in the state was fairly under control. But the Centre’s decision on transportation of workers and other when the pandemic was peaking in mainland India helped in turning Assam into a massive pool of multiplying COVID-19. In the process, the attempt sans direction made by the Delhi and Dispur God-fathers has backfired. The effect of the backfire is clearly visible in the revised and confused orders issued by Dispur on a frequent basis.

As of now, the COVID-19 scenario while turning from bad to worse appears to have caused almost irreparable damage, courtesy Delhi and Dispur. Today, while the number of new positive cases rise by over a thousand a day on certain days, the total COVID-19 positive cases is rapidly closing towards the 30,000 marks. At this rate, mathematically speaking, sometime in September Assam is likely to witness one lakh COVID-19 positive cases.

On its part, the Centre focuses on highlighting the recovery rate on the rosy side as improving from 60% to 61, to 62 % and so on and so forth. However, there is a mathematical puzzle beyond one’s comprehension. For instance, if the daily fresh COVID-19 cases are on an average 1500 and daily recovery rate is on average 900, how could the recovery rate be better than the infection rate. If Dispur and Delhi have developed a new brand of mathematics, the same may please be made public.

At the end of the day, perhaps the time has come for the people of Assam to live and die with COVID-19 the way tens of millions in Assam, as well as wildlife in large number, are learning to live and die with floods.

Also Read: Unlock 3.0: Night curfew scrapped, Gyms allowed to reopen from Aug 5

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