Thousands of speeches have been made by prime ministers, presidents and other leaders, of every country in the world. Ironically, the best speech was made by Kaguta Museveni, the current President of Uganda.
Yes, Uganda – the country which is associated for most of us with the bitter and disturbing memories of Idi Amin. His speech, shortened and amended, should be read and followed by every citizen of the world:
Before going any further let us be very clear about one thing. We are dealing with a diabolical virus whose morbidity has no equal in our conscious human history. Its army is more lethal than the Bubonic plague, the Spanish Flu, SARS and the Ebola virus, all four combined.
In India the first case of Covid-19 came from China on 30th January 2020. The cases peaked in September, and then there was a steady fall, till it came to an all-time low in January 2021. We were jubilant – rightly so.
The whole world started to wonder how a developing country like India, with all its drawbacks of overpopulation, congestion, poverty, and lack of discipline, could achieve such marvellous results.
It was possible because of -entirely because of- the stringent lockdown and the way we were repeatedly made to comply with the disease prevention protocol – washing hands with sanitisers almost every thirty minutes, wearing the mask and keeping the social distance.
A nation of almost a billion people obeyed these protocols and followed them mostly voluntarily. The national discipline that emerged was astonishing.
The entire world marvelled with envy.
Then what happened to reverse the trend and make India to have the second largest number of cases in the world?
The answer lies in the complacency that had set in, starting from the common man and let us face it, right upto the government.
Even before the Government started relaxing, there were mass gathering and agitations egged on by the media. These followed no social distancing.
One remembers how the agitators behaved during the Republic Day and how their behaviour got encouraging spotlight from the media national and international.
The Government too was gradually relaxing all restrictions, allowing elections to take place, and permitted religious get-togethers. But the cases had started surging. There were even conspiracy theories afloat that the entire Covid-19 was only an international hoax.
But now things have to this point where either we have to take action – individually and collectively or perish. So, what should be done?
1. Elections are important in a democracy. But time has come when we have to look for alternative ways to conduct elections. One remembers how initially the central government came out with a proposal for virtual rallies which was shot down by opposition parties.
The government, election commission and the opposition parties should evolve new ways of reaching out to people without election rallies, with the help of modern technologies. Meanwhile all political meetings and rallies should be banned.
2. Religious gatherings have already been banned. Even during the first wave, certain religious groups using their vote-bank clouts had arm-twisted the political system to allow their functions with mass participation.
Such violations had the effect of initiating vicious cycles of rival religious groups clamouring for similar show of strength which can lead to disasters.
So here, secularism should reign supreme – complete supremacy of secular state for the sake of human welfare over religious institutions.
Some massive temples like Swami Narayan have already shown they can be true friends of humanity by converting their massive temples into corona care facilities.
3. Marriages are important events in our lives. But now marriages should be conducted with minimum attendance.
4. The Central Government has already made the decision for lockdown a state government decision. This gives a lot of room for state governments to enact lockdowns in a way that will suit their states’ economy and society – in a way there will be minimum damage to economy and the bottom layer of social pyramid.
5. The pandemic has also brought out the anti-science forces lurking in the dark corners of the society. There is an orchestrated anti-vaccine propaganda. Unfortunately, many media houses too go in for the same in their over enthusiastic anti-Central government stand.
The government has to rope in actors and sports personalities and launch a pro-vaccination campaign in all the media including social media.
6. The governments, state and central, should distribute the masks free to all the people.
7. Learning from our past experience of first lockdown, this time the hardships of migrant workers should be mitigated effectively.
8. The Covid-19 data sheet shown across in almost all media contains only the infected and the death toll. They should mandatorily also show the numbers recovered. This can boost positivity while at the same time caution people about the seriousness.
9. District level ‘pandemic health experts teams’ and ‘pandemic economic recovery teams’ should be set up which should be filled with experts and professionals and not party men. They should start functions immediately. Local expertise will be helpful in formulating locally suited effective solutions.
10. Though given the vicious atmosphere against the present government this will not be heeded, the opposition and sections of media rather than seeing this as an opportunity to attack the Central Government should come together and help the government in fighting the pandemic.
To sum up the real battle against COVID-19 has just begun. Upon this battle depends the survival of the human race.
Historian Ian Morris in his ‘Why the West Rules the World – for Now’ envisions what he calls ‘nightfall’ scenario for humanity. It is the total collapse of planetary civilisation as we know it.
For this, he speaks of five horse men bringing in this apocalypse doomsday scenario. The climate change, pandemic, famine, massive migration and collapse of government.
Come to think about it we may well be in the middle of at least three of these five horse men. So, upon our discipline in conducting ourselves now depends our own precious lives, and the long continuity of our institutions and human civilisation.
The element of surprise, the choice of its victim at random, the swiftness with which it attacks, and its choice of the vulnerable part of the human physiological system, which it attacks and destroys with lightning speed, resulting in the death of the victim have already given the virus an unfair advantage.
It seems this virus ’knows’ that it will have to break us in this planet or lose the gains it has already made, and perish. If we can stand up to it, our country may be freed and the life of the whole world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, England, Italy, Germany, Japan, Australia and all other countries including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into a gigantic black hole, from which we can never hope to come out.
Let us all therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if humans survive on this planet for a thousand years, men will still say" This was mankind's finest hour."
V.S.Ravi is a distinguished and highly decorated IPS officer having served both the Government of AP and the Government of India, for 35 years. He retired in 1998. He is a scion of the Alladi family, being a grandson of the Late Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, one of the Chief architects of the Constitution . Sri Ravi is one of the foremost authorities on Shakespeare in the country. He has contributed articles on Shakespeare to the Hindu and News Time Now. He passed Physics (Hons) with distinction and he has kept himself in touch with the latest developments in science and technology.
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