Why super-spreaders like Election and Holy festivals are given primacy over containing exponential rise in Covid pandemic


Number of Covid 19 infected Indians might soon cross 15 lakhs in no time, forecast the experts and concerned medical fraternity. If 1% of them require hospitalization, the available health infrastructure in the country would prove to be too inadequate. Over 60% of India’s adults are reported to have been fully vaccinated with two doses of anti-Covid jabs, whereas nearly 89% have received at least the first dose, claim government sources. Omicron variant is spreading exponentially whereas the delta variant is also active to invoke a third wave–more engulfing than the previous two. Many fully vaccinated Indians are also contracting the infection second time and even third time. Such is the rampage of Covid 19 pandemic now.

Elections are not postponed despite Covid surge and protocol violation
While common sense would say that to stem the surge, it is absolutely necessary to strictly abide by covid protocols and those at the helm of governance should lead by example. But is it so happening? The Election Commission (EC) has declared on 8 January last that the assembly elections of the 5 states–Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur–will be completed in seven phases beginning from 10 February and ending on 7 March 2022. Though the EC in its customary declaration has talked of certain restrictions like banning public rallies till January 15 (and review thereafter) and a renewed empty appeal to comply with Covid directives, one, based on past experiences, wonders how far would all these be implemented. In fact, already the leaders of the BJP and their bourgeois opposition have been engaging in full-fledged campaign throwing Covid safety norms to the wind. Be it the BJP or Congress or the Samajwadi Party, visuals from these rallies show people packed together with no physical distancing. Only a handful are seen wearing masks. Why talk of the participants in the rallies? Even the BJP leaders are seen on the dais without mask. Let us start with the BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ruling party and bourgeois opposition leaders are violating Covid norms
In his address to the nation on the day it was claimed that India had crossed administration of one billion Covid vaccine doses, the Prime Minister’s parting message was about the need to continue using masks. ‘‘We have to wear masks in the same way as we wear shoes when we step out,’’ he had said. But he himself did not wear a mask during the G20 Summit. Nor was he seen with a mask during his recent visit to poll-bound Manipur. A video of prime minister went viral on social media in December 2020 which showed him without any mask, and refusing one when offered at a handicraft fair in Kutch, Gujarat. Though this has led to a lot of criticism, but according to his sycophants in the saffron brigade, Modi is a superman and hence he is not afraid of germs and viruses. The BJP Home Minister Amit Shah, meanwhile, is almost never seen with a mask. His recent Kashmir trip saw him interact very closely with uniformed personnel and civilians in the Valley, without mask even though most officials around them were masked up. In the last week of October 2021, BJP Defence Minister Rajnath Singh attended an Ambassadors’ Round Table in New Delhi. The photos tweeted by Singh showed him as the only person without a mask in a room full of men and women wearing them. In October again, BJP Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and BJP Minister for Housing & Urban Affairs and Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri launched an audio-visual song on India’s vaccination drive. Photos from the event showed that both the ministers were without mask. Paradoxically, Mandaviya’s ministry has been consistent in its messaging that the second wave of Covid is not over yet, and therefore, masks should be worn strictly at all times. As already mentioned, rampant violations of Covid restrictions are on at the electoral campaigns and rallies in Uttar Pradesh. In photos published in the media, the state BJP chief minister is also seen without mask in meetings and public functions.

Electoral spectacle of UP is horrifying from Covid perspective
Visuals from the Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s roadshow in Hardoi, Congress’s women’s marathon on 29 December, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav’s rally at Unnao, the attending people were seen paying scant attention to the Covid safety rules– a situation that is causing much concern, especially in view of the rapid spread of the highly infectious Omicron strain of Covid. Less than 30 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated in Uttar Pradesh, which was one of the states hit worst during the second wave of the virus. Images of thousands of bodies buried on the sandbanks of Ganga and floating down the river had made headlines even in the foreign media. The situation has come to such a pass that Allahabad High Court had to request UP BJP government and Election Commission a month or two back and ban the election-related gatherings. ‘‘Gram Panchayat elections in UP and the Bengal assembly elections infected a lot of people, which caused many deaths as well,’’ the Court said, adding ‘‘If rallies are not stopped, results will be worse than the second wave’’. But who cares to pay heed to righteous advices? Lust for power overrides all.

Equally worrying is the situation in West Bengal
Everyone knows how the decision to go ahead with assembly elections in West Bengal last year triggered a phenomenal rise in the Covid 19 figures. Repeatedly the doctors and other health experts requested to postpone the elections. But those requests were of no avail. Desperate to win in that election, the BJP top brass right from the Prime Minster, Home Minister and others virtually camped in the state and organized big rallies brazenly violating Covid 19 safety measures. Equally beside themselves were the TMC and other vote-based parties in flouting the norms. The result-the TMC won and the BJP trounced. But the citizens of West Bengal had to pay a big price for satiating the greed for power of the parliamentarian parties.
However, it seems no lesson has been taken by the vote-savvy politicians. Despite exponential rise in Covid 19 cases, the elections to four municipalities including Bidhannagar (Salt lake) of greater Kolkata are scheduled to be held on 22 January. Neither the Election Commission nor the TMC-led state government is willing to postpone the polls despite request from our Party and subsequently from other parties in opposition. In fact, there was too much laxity in allowing Christmas and New Year celebration, which was evidently a key factor behind astronomical spiral of Covid third wave. The TMC leadership is fighting shy of the question by arguing that it is upto the Election Commission to decide the issue. Already both TMC and the opposition parties like the BJP, CPI (M) are undertaking campaigns in full swing caring little for maintaining Covid protocols. In tandem is rising the number of Covid patients. Even those who might go to cast vote would also be immensely vulnerable to Covid attack. Such is the inhumanity of the power craze of the parliamentarian parties and the disdainful attitude of the administrative bodies like the Election Commission.
Not just the municipal elections. The annual Ganga Sagar Mela where lakhs of pilgrims from all over the country assemble on the Sagar Island in the South 24 Parganas district on the occasion of Makar Sankranti to take a dip where river Ganga meets the sea, has also been permitted. TMC Chief Minister has categorically stated that her government cannot stop or impose restrictions on the Mela because this is a public event. One would recall that the ruling BJP governments, both at the Centre and in Uttarakhand, gave green signal to Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, Uttarakhand, in April 2021 when the country’s daily new Covid-19 cases had crossed the two lakh mark. Scorning the medical advice and cautions from all worried quarters, the RSS-BJP, in order to foment Hindutva sentiment to reap electoral benefits, went on with the event. They openly encouraged people to participate in the event claiming that the ‘blessings of Ma Ganga would ensure that coronavirus did not spread’. But alas! Much to their discomfiture, Ma Ganga did not come to their rescue. Thousands of the pilgrims including the sadhus and Hindutva protagonists had to face the fury of corona. Over and above, it came to light that around 4,00,000 Covid-19 test results issued during the Kumbh Mela were fake. Besides the Uttarakhand Health Department, independent investigations carried out by media outlets had also revealed that a private laboratory which was appointed by the Mela authorities conducted the tests. The test results deceptively showed a positivity rate of only 0.18% during the Mela whereas, in reality, the overall positivity rate in Haridwar at that time was 10%. The Modi government’s refusal to accept advice from its own scientists and to be guided by doctored data was one of the main causes of the Covid-19 crisis, a global health expert commented. The Kumbh Mela was indeed a super-spreader as pilgrims from all over the country had flocked there. The stubborn refusal of the BJP government to not only not to prohibit but even cut short the event was grossly irresponsible and short-sighted as well as unconscionable. Now, apprehensions are galore that the ongoing Ganga Sagar Mela might prove to be another super-spreader despite all assurances by the TMC government to adopt all precautionary measures. One does not need to be too intelligent to understand that it is impossible to enforce covid norms when lakhs of people assemble at one place. In fact, photos of flagrant violation are flashed in both print and electronic media as well as social media.

Why the BJP and TMC are sailing on the same boat
Obvious question is why people’s health and pandemic are overridden by the bizarre hurry for holding elections or overzealousness in organizing a religious festival. The answer is obvious. The bread and butter of the vote-oriented parties is election. And the election is not fought by them on people’s issues or by truly addressing the pressing problems of their life. Their whole and sole plank of these parties is polarizing the voters along religious, casteist and ethnic lines, surfeit of counterfeit promises, announcement of freebies and sops, hurling invectives against the opponents and sickening self-eulogy. The RSS-BJP have no issue other than fomenting Hindutva sentiment, if not frenzy, and fuelling anti-minority hatred to win at the hustings. Alongside, there is a persistent attempt by the ruling quarters to project a ‘larger than life’ image of Modi as Prime Minister and capitalize on that. That is why they allowed Hindu religious festivals like Kumbh Mela or Char Dham yatra ignoring the question of concomitant threatening surge of the pandemic. Since this Hindutva propaganda is found to be paying in the country engulfed by religious backwardness, obscurantism and marked by absence of necessary political consciousness, the bourgeois opposition is also peddling Hindu sentiment in this or that form. So the TMC leadership is not inclined to stall Ganga Sagar Mela lest that should injure Hindu religious sentiment and provide a fodder to the canon of the RSS-BJP, now its principal electoral opponent, after virtual decimation of the pseudo-Marxists who are also wholly anchored in electoral politics.
It is for the suffering people to realize this hideous underbelly of bourgeois electoral politics. Neither over-chanting of Hindutva, nor a holy dip in the Ganga or rallying blindly behind any catapulted power-monger superman leader would bring them any succour. The covid pandemic can be thwarted only by science and scientific prescripts of conduct including strict adherence to specified safety protocols. Capitalism and its lackeys would give them nothing but misery, pauperization, neglect, injustice, deception, deprivation and despondency. It is time for rallying unitedly against capitalism and its ruthless oppression, isolate its servitors irrespective of hues and tread along the right path towards ultimate emancipation under correct revolutionary leadership while intensifying class and mass struggles against all machinations of capitalism including precipitation of communal-casteist-ethnic division, inciting blind religious passion and playing with people’s health. (Source: Deccan Herald-16-04-21, The Wire-06-05-21, 15-06-21, CNBC TV 18 15-06-21, The Print 30-10-21, Hindustan Times-02-11-21, The Hindu 05-01-22)

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