Playing the fiddle

Thousands of miles away from home as it endures one of its worst humanitarian crises in recent times, I cannot but wonder how things were allowed to get so bad, especially since I know a close relative in Australia who has been living a fairly normal life for most of the past year. To an extent, I understand why it might be impossible to expect India to push down the curve as low as Australia – the lockdown made it clear that was not possible even with extreme measures. But why did it need to reach the point where the country is literally gasping for breath, without even hospital beds to lie on? It is all the more exasperating that this has come to pass an entire year after we encountered this virus – we can’t even claim that we were caught unawares.

It is almost blindingly obvious that this is a failure of governance. Common sense measures like restricting gatherings, which would be even less psychologically costly now that vaccines are only a few months away from reaching most adults, were all too easily discarded – but that’s unsurprising given the agonisingly stupid idea of allowing and promoting the Kumbh Mela (the contrast with the Tablighi Jamaat event and the subsequent ostracism of Muslims early in the pandemic is just another painful reminder of how low the republic’s sensibilities have fallen). But what really takes the cake is that absolutely no preparation was undertaken for an entire year to ensure that the healthcare system doesn’t buckle. Nero played the fiddle as Rome was splashed with petrol.

And now, as Rome burns, Nero continues to escape accountability. I had to rub my eyes in disbelief today as I saw a friend jump through the most ridiculous hoops to avoid blaming this crisis on the government, at one point even blaming the lack of philanthropy in India. Nero cloaked in Cicero is worse than Nero – at least your faith in the republican idea doesn’t die even as you do.

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