Covid Is Killing At Least 2500 Indians Daily
India is reeling.
Hospitals are overflowing. Oxygen is being imported. Vaccine appointments have been cancelled. Metal structures of some crematoriums are melting from continued use. We aren’t even at the peak.
Make no mistake though: this isn’t just Covid’s doing. It’s gross mismanagement, unpreparedness and hubristic complacency.
Since becoming the PM in 2014, Narendra Modi hasn’t attended a single press conference. Why? When I make a tiny change in my day-job, I have to justify my reasoning to at least two levels of hierarchy. So, how does the man responsible for serving 1.4 billion people evade questioning? Why does he get a free pass? More worryingly, why does he not want to explain his thinking to the world?
These aren’t tiny changes that he’s presided over. They’ve been monumental ones affecting hundreds of millions of people. He didn’t feel the need to take questions while demonetising 86% of cash in circulation in the country. Or setting up detention camps for “illegals”. Or spending $2.5 billion of taxpayer money on a new office. Or announcing a countrywide lockdown with four hours of notice.
Say what you want about Trump or Boris Johnson. Both populist, right-leaning leaders. But they answered questions from a free press. Ferociously and wrongly, often times. But at least they faced the music. Our guy doesn’t.
Any communication between the princely PM and his subjects is purely one-way through an anodyne radio show. Or knee-jerk televised announcements. No real conversation or feedback. All televised interiews and interactions of him with the normal public are scripted. A 90-second live video feed last week had him spooked. Why?
We are told he’s taking all the decisions. So, why can’t he justify them?
The fawning media is complicit also. Why is there zero pressure on the PM to take questions from the floor? Why can’t the media boycott all engagements with the BJP until the PM has the decency to take a presser? Don’t you want to know why he thought campaigning in Bengal in the midst of a raging pandemic was a good idea? Or about why vaccine prices in India are the highest in the world? Or who exactly is accountable for the thousands of Indians dying every day?
If the media is the bastion of freedom as it claims, it is their job to make him squirm. And it is his job to keep his bosses — us — informed.
With an overwhelming majority, a pliant media, a plethora of yes-men and mega-billionares backing him, why won’t he face the press to defend his own decisions?
Is it because his own party hierarchy knows he’ll shoot himself in the foot? Or wilt? Best to keep him wrapped in cotton wool, out of the firing line, growing a beard, spouting inane aphorisms and presiding over a billion souls with zero accountability?
Is it just insecurity?
Either way, cowardice or incompetence aren’t what Indians voted for. The least a true leader can do is answer questions. He’s gotten away with not answering any so far. Covid is an untold disaster. No one expects the government to be faultless. But at the very least, we deserve to be led by some one sincere, bereft of arrogance and an openness to communicate. Deaths are too high a price to pay for insecurity.