When the pandemic becomes a horror and moral story for our great grandchildren, some names will have to be remembered.
For Tamil people, one of the names would be of Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS), the current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
After 2 May, he may or may not continue as the chief minister. But if, and when Tamil Nadu comes out of this pandemic, least scarred, and hence victorious, this simple man with no inherited advantages bestowed by film screens or political dynasties, should be remembered as the able captain who manoeuvred the ship of the state to safety through the second wave of the pandemic.
Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan, a bureaucrat identified and handpicked by none other than J Jayalalithaa, is assisting the Chief Minister in an exceptional way too.
The election rallies were a conspicuous lapse. But let us be frank, even most experts had not expected a wave like this, and to his credit Prime Minister Narendra Modi did indeed ask for virtual rallies and campaigning, which the opposition rejected and complained to the Election Commission (EC).
Apart from that, the way the Tamil Nadu government has gone about the Covid-19 battle has set a model for many states.
Tamil Nadu is one of the states where anti-Modi hysteria is in full plumage. This has morphed into anti-vaccine propaganda.
From fringe left-radicals to Tamil chauvinists to evangelist fundamentalists, many have indulged in anti-vaccine propaganda.
With every out-of-chance director and market-lost actor becoming an expert on vaccines, quite a lot of channels, including YouTube channels, with no regard to ethical responsibility, continued propagating their views.
The unfortunate death of actor Vivek came as an opportunity for them.
This false narrative had initially led to a low turnout for vaccinations, which even led to wastage of precious vaccines.
However, despite all this negativity, 2 lakh people received vaccination in the state yesterday (26 April).
This is mainly because the state government has fought back against the propaganda and made vaccination free in all government vaccination centres.
During the first wave of Covid-19, the Tamil Nadu government was one of the earliest state governments to take the situation seriously.
As early as 17 January 2020, the state health and welfare ministry had acknowledged the possibility of Covid-19 coming to Tamil Nadu and detected the state’s first case on 7 March.
Between these two dates, the EPS government had readied the rapid response teams (RRTs) at state and district levels; set up a 24/7 control room; started thermal scanning of air travellers from China; created isolation wards in general hospitals of four major cities in the state; and ran awareness campaigns.
These early measures by the government definitely saved the state from Covid-19 even in the first wave.
The police needs to be complimented in the implementation of the janata curfew and lockdown in an efficient and yet humanitarian way.
They helped the diseased, elderly and the needy while tackling the menace of misguided youth.
Influenced by high-decibel propaganda which denied the lethality of Covid-19, a significant number of youths tried to break the curfew and roam about.
The police used innovative ways – including deploying drones in finding out such elements and after friendly and stern advice sent them home.
Now, with the second wave, the Tamil Nadu government has emphasised on following Covid-19 protocol, and violators have been strictly penalised.
Almost 4 lakh violators have been penalised as yet. Approximately Rs 8.50 crore have been collected from them as fines.
The government has imposed restrictions on gathering. In Madurai, the most famous of the festivals – Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar marriage, has been conducted with only the archakas, and not the devotees, for the second consecutive year.
Again, a government that never takes potshots at the faith of the people has been in a better position to persuade the devotees for not gathering for their most auspicious festivity.
One shudders to think the kind of confrontational and partisan stand a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government would have taken, converting the whole situation into a disastrous battle ground.
The state has also introduced containment measures and has set up static and mobile fever camps, testing and screening centres to triage the positive patients to hospital, health centres, care centres or home quarantine.
Almost everyone who got admitted in the government hospitals for Covid treatment has claimed that the facilities were efficient, their food brought to them daily was hygienic and their medical care flawless.
In Kanyakumari district, where I live, the food for Covid isolation patients has been the talk of the town.
These are no small achievements. The image of government health facilities as dark and damp places, uncared-for and depressing, has changed under this government. Similarly, the experiences of people who have gone for vaccination in the government centres are also equally positive.
But the war is only just beginning.
With Covid positives rising daily and crossing the 15,000 mark, clearly the wave has started entering Tamil Nadu.
The EPS government has asked for an-all party meeting on the issue of reopening Sterlite for the production of oxygen, which Vedanta had offered.
As expected, radical Hindu-bashing (thank you Dr Elst for the term) parties like Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) of Thol Thirumavalavan and ‘Naam Tamilar’ of Seeman have opposed the reopening. Thirumavalavan has even stated that even if thousands die, the closed Sterlite plant would not be opened.
However, the DMK has distanced itself from such dark hysteria and has supported the opening of the plant. This should be considered another strategic success for EPS in the way that he has manoeuvred the DMK, keeping the welfare of the state in the mind.
Ultimately, when this second wave passes, there is a strong possibility that Tamil Nadu may emerge as the least scarred of the states.
It is too early to say. But that seems to be a plausible scenario. When that happens, irrespective of which party is in power, one should remember three heroes: the current Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, Health Minister Dr C Vijayabaskar and state health secretary, J Radhakrishnan.
It is a must for Tamil Nadu that whoever comes to power or continues in power, follows the same spirit, values and direction this trio have set.
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