Time for BJP to stop hate politics and start preparing for COVID-19

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As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the world, there are increasing questions being raised about the measures – or more accurately, the lack of measures – the BJP led government is taking to protect the population.

Less than a month later, the virus has killed at least 3,000 people, sickening over 90,000 in total, and is all but sure to spread in the mainland India. “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when the Modi led Brigade will start awareness about the virus.

Almost 60 countries, including India has confirmed the coronavirus infections, there have been predictions of the havoc the coronavirus could wreak, so It’s high time for BJP to stop worrying about hate politics. And instead focus on not getting trapped in the dangerous virus.

In February, Microsoft founder Bill Gates warned that the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, could overwhelm already creaking health systems and claim up to 10 million lives.

Unfortunately, there are confirmed case of the virus in India also, a sense of panic has been building, fed largely by a perception that the BJP government has been slow in enacting awareness to prevent the virus getting into the country as well as by a dearth of public information on what to expect once its presence has been confirmed.

Instead of awareness, there have been several instances where leaders of the BJP have openly supported the perpetrators of religious violence, showing a blatant disregard for those who have suffered. The party’s Hindu nationalist ideology and some of its senior figures are busy with spreading venom.

Look a Yogi, the firebrand chief minister of Uttar Pradesh known for preaching hate and violence against India’s Muslims, did not mince his words. Earlier, during election campaigning in Delhi, Yogi said, the thousands of women who have been gathered for two months in Shaheen Bagh in protest against India’s new citizenship law were “terrorists.” He didn’t stop, he even said, they are happening because these people want to prevent India from becoming a global power. Terrorists, he added, should be fed with “bullets not biryani”.

The fear-mongering has continued to escalate. The BJP MP for West Delhi, Parvesh Verma during campaigning warned Delhi voters that “these people [at Sheen Bagh] will enter your house, will abduct your sisters and mothers, rape them, kill them, that’s why today is the moment.” Verma added: “It is an election to decide the unity of a nation. If the BJP comes to power on 11 February, you will not find a single protester within an hour. And within a month, we will not spare a single mosque built on government land.”

At one rally, Union minister Anurag Thakur led a crowd of BJP supporters in chanting the slogan “shoot the traitors.” While Amit Shah condemned the statements given by the leaders after Delhi rejected BJP, he didn’t call for the men to resign immediately.

As we know, currently, the number of coronavirus patients and fatalities is rising rapidly. The virus is spreading fast. Yet like all epidemics, the infection rate will eventually taper off because those infected by it will have become immune. And, judging by figures, only one in 40 cases has so far been fatal. It also needs to be said that many infected with coronavirus around the world are simply staying at hospitals to recover, but, unfortunately as so far no effective drug treatment exists. So while there are individuals seeking hospital care due to serious symptoms, many more unreported cases presumably exist as well.

However, focusing exclusively on measures to prevent this virus reaching India is problematic.

This is not to say that travel restrictions and other measures to contain the virus and stop its spreading, such as tracking and quarantining those infected, are not important. As WHO officials have noted, such measures, while not necessarily stopping the virus, do slow it down and give countries time to prepare.

At present, government efforts on trying to prevent this virus getting to India seems less, little attention is being paid towards preparing the health system and the public.

No doubt, the news of an impending epidemic is scary, and the novel coronavirus appears to be spreading rapidly with the number of deaths rising continuously. China, where the virus emerged, has implemented drastic measures and placed no fewer than 43 million citizens under quarantine. But, if we will talk about our country, the lack of a public information campaign to educate people on what to expect and how to protect themselves in coming days may lead the growing panic and fuelling anti-government sentiment. Public ignorance is reflected, as the men in power are busy with Delhi riots, where at least 48 innocent people lost their lives.

However, instead a routine of theirs, that will do little to convince already hopeless minorities. Rather than placing all its hopes on stopping the virus by awareness, Modi governments efforts should now be geared towards preparing for its eventual arrival.

Author is a Srinagar based journalist. He tweets at @KashmirukSuhail



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