Skip to main content

Covid crisis: How India 'has become' an even more macabre version of Bolsonaro's Brazil

By Aviral Anand* 

It will be considered no mean feat to outdo the likes of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. At every step of the corona crisis, he maintained a head-in-the-sand, denialist attitude. He pooh-poohed covid protocols and repeatedly played down the threat from the pandemic. He invested little to no resources in Brazil's testing and vaccination campaigns. As a result, Brazil experienced devastating loss of lives as the pandemic struck the country even in the first round of the pandemic in 2020.
It just crossed 400, 000 deaths a few days ago.
Till about a month ago, some of the most horrifying images that the world had seen related to the pandemic were from Brazil as the country was running out of burial space. Newer graveyards -- some of them vertical -- were being constructed just to keep up with the rush of bodies. And thousands of the dead were being put into unmarked graves.
Till recently, older graves were being exhumed to make space for the people continuing to die.
In 2020, during the first wave, though India notched up second place behind the US in terms of total cases, its death rate was always seen as inexplicably low. Even left-liberal commentators like Karan Thapar writing in the “Hindustan Times”, were arguing that "the number who have died has to be close to accurate."
By all measures this low fatality rate seemed a remarkable phenomena and the government was always quick to point that out. We were not Brazil, and we did not seem to have bodies piling up in hospitals, crematoriums and graveyards, it seemed to say.
The sense of hubris running through the entire battle with covid in India was palpable. Even galloping to the number two spot in cumulative cases in 2020 did not ruffle the composure of our leaders. The "India is a vast country" narrative -- therefore any "high numbers" represent only a fraction of the nation's population -- was in full operation.
The promise of indigenous vaccines, and India as a global vaccine exporter, was tom-tommed with barely concealed pride. "Jab tak dawai nahin tab tak dhilai nahin," was a slogan that gave a glimpse of a more liberated future just up ahead for India - and merely advised continuing caution as a formality till such time for celebration.
But, Humpty-Dumpty, who sat pretty on the wall till just a few weeks ago, came crashing down - and took India into a descent into hell, as well. Now the earlier pictures of mass burials and piles of bodies from Brazil have been replaced by scenes of endless simultaneous cremations and graveyards that keep filling up.
Hospitals do not have beds or oxygen, critical drugs are out of supply, testing is choked-up - and the citizenry is running hither-and-thither to save their loved ones. Worst of all, the much-touted vaccine programme seems to be in tatters as supplies do not seem to be matching the anticipated demand.
Till about a month ago, some of the most horrifying images that the world had seen related to the pandemic were from Brazil
In one fell swoop, so it seems, the two BRICS nations, Brazil and India, have swapped places, with India now becoming an even more macabre version of Brazil. Every failing, every oversight, every slip-up of the Modi government that is now becoming apparent seems to be a super-sized version of Bolsonaro government's fatal follies.
Still, for a moment one might balk at such a suggestion, such an equating of Modi with Bolsonaro. Our prime minister has seemed more measured in his approach to the covid situation than the more obdurate and headstrong Brazilian premier. Bolsonaro clearly comes off as a right-wing conservative nut with crazy policies to harm the Amazon forests and smash grassroots movements -- in addition to the wilful murder of his countrypeople by ignoring the dangers of covid.
But it will not take too much reflection to realize that the signs of a heartless megalomania form the basis of so much of Modi's actions and ways of thinking. Without reaching too far back in time, one can get enough evidence from the recent past. The distress caused to the migrant workers last year and the callousness with which the entire issue was handled; the construction of the Ram Mandir and the prime minister attending its dedication amidst a pandemic; the slap on the wrist to the Kumbh organizers and participants; and the gloating over large rallies during the canvassing recently for elections.
In each such seemingly disparate instance, there was what is called chutzpah and lack-of-caring at the same time - an insolence about action and an insensitiveness to the suffering of people. These are traits that define Brazil's Bolsonaro and have led his country to the brink of disaster. The same combination is threatening to submit our entire country to a carnage. Only, India is less than half the size of Brazil and has about six times more people. The scale of the calamity upon us is something a Bolsonaro could not have dreamed of.
---
*Writer based in Delhi NCR

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Liberating Bengal Hindus? Worst flames of communal division, lessons from the past

By Shamsul Islam*  The whole thrust of the RSS-BJP election campaign for 2021 state assembly elections in West Bengal has been to save Bengal from the rule of Mamata Bannerjee who is allegedly not a ‘Hindu’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, as usual set the polarizing agenda. While addressing the first election rally, he called upon the electorate to overthrow the ‘nirmam’ (cruel) rule of Mamata by showing a ‘Ram Card’. He did not name Hindus directly but there was no confusion about the religious identity of the electorate Indian PM was addressing to.

Pradeep Bhattacharya, who spent his life for the cause of working masses, rational thinking

By YS Gill*  At 11:30 pm on May 3, 2021, I lost my best friend and comrade Pradeep Bhattacharya. He spent his life dedicated to the cause of the working masses and rational thinking. A person of thorough scientific outlook and a well-read student of Marxian thought, he was a walking encyclopedia and could speak on a wide variety of topics from art and culture to science, philosophy, history and politics.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Rs 5 crore 'demand' for India Today anchor: What about 52 lesser souls who died in April?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  A well known Hindutva protagonist masquerading as journalist passed away recently resulting in messages of condolences and tribute right from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to progressive liberals expressing grief of his untimely death. It is said that he passed away due to cardiac arrest, though the fact is, he was also Covid infected. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister termed him a ‘brave’ journalist, insisting, his passing away has left a big ‘vacuum’.

Modi's Hindutva 'ensuring' empowerment of rich, disenfranchisement of poor

Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The Hindutva socio-psychopaths are neither nationalists nor patriotic people. These medieval reactionary forces don’t understand the idea of citizenship, justice, liberty, equality and humanism. Indian democracy is merely an electoral transaction for the Hindutva forces. Hindutva forces neither follow science nor understand the sufferings of fellow human beings. These core qualities are common among the Hindutva forces in India.

Despite crisis, Modi's Hindutva strategy 'increased' mass base in society and polity

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Narendra Modi and his RSS brethren can qualify as masters of fake claims. There is a long lists of lies spread by RSS, BJP and their IT cell workers. It is not a personality disorder or lying with fear. They are trained to defend Modi and his government’s decisions in whatever possible way. They defended demonetisation by arguing that it is “an important step” in his fight against black money and corruption.

India's Covid-19 'nightmare': A product of majoritarian Hindutva ideological praxis?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Indians struggle to find place and time to bury their dead due to the devastating effects of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. The crematoriums in the capital cities are overflowing with dead bodies. People are dying without oxygen and basic medical support. The cities like Delhi and Mumbai are struggling to cope with the rising number of infections and COVID-19 led deaths. The deaths and destitutions are products of a defunct BJP government led by Narendra Modi.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Indian media persons collapsing to Covid disease as fast as 3 per day, third highest

Yogesh Sharma, Shailesh Rawal  By Our Representative  The Switzerland based media rights and safety body, Press Emblem Campaign ( PEC ) has said that it is “alarming for Indian journalists”, who have lost at least 107 colleagues to Covid-19”, noting, Indian “journo-colleagues” have been collapsing to the Covid-19 complications now as fast as three scribes per day. In a statement, PEC said, “India with 107 media corona-casualties has already placed itself on the third position just below Brazil (181 dead) and Peru (140) in the list of Covid-19 victims among journalist.”