An Indian Citizen’s Request Today

These last few weeks have been tough for India, as we have had to deal with a nasty 2nd wave. It would be safe to say that almost every citizen has been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19. Either they have themselves been infected or have had to take care of someone infected or they have experienced the loss of their immediate or extended family members. It has reached every home in some way or another.

If one were to introspect, one would realise that almost everyone (Government, Opposition Parties, Citizens etc.) has had a role to play in inviting this catastrophic second wave. And if we want to get out of this mess all of us have to do our bit because there is simply no way for just one stakeholder to solve this problem.

As a citizen, I have a humble request to all key stakeholders.

To the Government (Both Centre & States):

Please don’t focus on just image management. If you deliver on the ground, people will recognise and appreciate your efforts irrespective of what critics may say. I am certain that some of your party persons & volunteers who are tirelessly working on the ground to solve peoples’ issues will continue to retain that good will which will be beneficial for your party.

Allow citizens to grieve and express displeasure at the system on social media without the fear of retribution — that’s the least you can do at this point.

Don’t get put off by criticism & international coverage of our situation. Be humble and acknowledge the fact that it is also possible that we are getting global aid not just because of our astute diplomacy, soft power but also due to the reportage, which is alerting the world to our present situation. If anything the world is realising that unless India is safe, they too aren’t out of the woods yet and that they should support India in whatever capacity they can.

Continue to propagate the good news to spread positivity and hope but don’t brush the problems below the carpet. In a democratic nation citizens should be conveyed the actual ground reality, which can to an extent bring forward more co-operation from their side. It is also possible that just mindless propagation of only positive news may have lulled many of us into complacency that the worst is behind us and all of us dropped our guard. There should be a ‘healthy fear’, which ensures people follow precautions.

Take the advice and help from competent experts irrespective of the fact that they don’t share your ideology or are in the opposition party. If needed co-opt a few competent members into the Government or set up task forces with opposition leaders to help with the smooth implementation of solutions.

Reform your vaccination policy: Ideally it is the Centre that should procure the vaccinations and distribute it to the States and allow States the flexibility to implement their respective vaccination drives. The Centre will have a better idea of the big picture and can use its influence to help States get the vaccines from domestic and international sources. To its credit, when it has shown resolve the Centre has managed to get international aid on a war footing. So I don’t’ see why it can’t do the same when it comes to procuring vaccines. In fact, if vaccinations are the way forward the Govt. should also consider compulsory licensing to improve supplies. With the current vaccination policy, State Governments along with dealing with the pandemic now have to worry about floating global tenders for the vaccines that are approved by the Central Government (At present only three- Covishield, Covaxin & Sputnik). So it’s quite unclear how State Governments are expected to increase the pace of vaccination with the present policy.

To the Opposition Parties (Both Centre & States):

Please be constructive in your criticism. While you are pointing out flaws and criticising Government actions, please also provide practical and workable solutions without politicising every Government action. If you have roadmaps, presentations on best way forward or solutions, please share it with the Governments.

It is quite all right to seek accountability, but there is a time and place for everything. At this juncture when saving lives are important, an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed. When the dust settles, do seek accountability and work with Government to ensure such a thing never happens in the future.

Encourage your public representatives and volunteers (those who aren’t doing so at present) to help solve citizen’s issues effectively strengthening the capacity of Government to deliver.

To my fellow Citizens:

Forget what Governments are doing or not doing. Following COVID Appropriate Behavior is something, which we as citizens need to do, and it is something, which is very much under our control.

Try to help those who are not very privileged or tech savvy with getting vaccinated as best as you can. With mounting evidence it is shown that the more we vaccinate, the probability of getting a severe infection is diminished if not eliminated. It will help reduce strain on our health care system

Be vigilant while reading those Whatsapp forwards. Verify and then disseminate information especially those, which have health implications or implications on the law and order situation.

We as a nation are resilient and we will overcome this situation, but it can’t be done unless we all come together and play our part in it. While I was recovering from COVID-19 these last few weeks, amidst the doom and gloom I saw some hope. I witnessed first hand how citizens, random strangers trying to do what they could to give another stranger/citizen a fighting chance at surviving this scourge irrespective what their religion or political ideology was. That’s why, I say there is always hope and optimism that India will win this eventually.

Neither a capitalist nor a communist just an issue-ist|| ex-Policy Analyst with NITI Aayog. Interested in public policy & international affairs