- Covid-19 has attacked India as a whole and the country does have nearly 30 governments and hundreds of political parties.
As Covid-19 appears to go out of control with India earning the dubious distinction of having world’s most positive cases in a single day, it is time for the political leadership of the country to take responsibility for the past actions, admit mistakes and think differently of a way forward more determined and further motivated.
And when I am saying of the political leadership, it is not of a particular person or a specific political party. The Covid-19 has attacked India as a whole and India does have nearly 30 governments and hundreds of political parties. We have governments at the centre, states and union territories. And since health happens to be “state” subject, lambasting the central government will not do.
Now it is a question of the national strength of India to protect the lives of its people. Blaming a Narendra Modi or Udhav Thakeray or Arvind Kejriwal or Mamata Banerjee or Amarinder Singh will not do. It is not time to blame for what happened. Doing that will further sabotage our ability to come up with solutions and next steps forward.
Now is the time to accept the situation as it is and make peace with what has happened. We have to keep ourselves from panicking. We have to stay, like never before, calm and rational. We have to create a mindset, which, while accepting the prevailing situation and mistakes made, will take us forward. As Steve Jobs had once said, “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It’s best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.”
Similarly, if the policies we have adopted so far and the way we have fought the Corona through them have not exactly worked, we must come out alternative paths. There are no guarantees that the alternatives will work, but they will be the best way to keep alive the HOPE, the hope that we will eventually win the war against Corona. As former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli had written 188 years ago, “I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.” His inspiring advice is ever relevant when one has to think through the worst-case scenarios and consider how you would react.
In my considered opinion, the alternative path cannot come from the Prime Minister Modi or few Chief Ministers. Modi or his ministers cannot fight Corona with their ideas and advisers. He must allow others to come and join him in the fight against the Corona. India now wants a collective fight, not a fight by a single leader or single political party.
Modi must form at the earliest a NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR FIGHTING CORONA of 50 members headed by him that will suggest the policies and measures for fighting Corona which the central government and the state governments will be BOUND to implement. This Committee will be an inclusive one and reflect, in its composition, the whole country, its politicians, ministers, professionals and civil servants.
Notwithstanding the increasing ridicules for the politicians as a class, the reality is that it is the politicians who are nearest to the people in a democracy. Keeping that in mind, as many as 30 members of this Committee should be political representatives, including ministers and the Chief Ministers representing different political parties. It is not possible to accommodate all the Chief Ministers, but those chosen will be at least representing some parties or the other parties so that we have chief ministers belonging to the BJP, Congress and regional parties. All political parties that have at least 10 MLAs in a state should find a place in the political quota of this Committee. The idea here is that since any decision that will be taken by this Committee represents every political party, state governments under different political persuasions will not feel aggrieved and support it fully.
Of the rest 20 members, 10 should be the country’s best medical experts and remaining 10 will be with vast experience of implementing the decisions. Of course, there should be some flexibility here and there, but the essence is the same – it will be a Committee of politicians/ministers, medical experts (doctors and entrepreneurs) and civil servants.
It may be argued why a Committee but not a National Unity Government? After all, during national crises, countries have gone for national unity governments or national governments representing all political parties (including experts or specialists). During the great economic depression in 1930s, the UK had a series of such governments. Even during the World War II, it had such a government, though technically it was coalition government (of the two principal parties that had fought the elections as rivals), not national in strict sense of the term. South Africa, Israel, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have undergone such experiences. Nepal also had a national unity government following massive earthquakes in 2015.
This model cannot be replicated in India all that easily because of three reasons. One, we have scores of political parties that are in power in various states; all of them cannot be accommodated in a single cabinet. Two, and this is a corollary of the above point, India is a quasi-federation that has central governments and state governments; it cannot be run by a single government. Thirdly, though fighting Corona is now the principal challenge confronting the country, it has myriad other tasks to look after as well and that too simultaneously. We cannot have a government only with a single agenda of fighting Corona.
Viewed thus, a National Committee is a more practical alternative. Since this National Committee will be a non-partisan body whose guidance will be the order of the day all over the nation with regard to Corona-related issues, it will be strictly in fitness of things if the judiciary keeps itself away from the matter. If under the plea of protecting the right to life, it goes on taking up public interest litigations and determines how oxygen will be distributed, how hospitals will be run and how the medicines and vaccines will be manufactured and priced, the judiciary, as has been the recent examples, will prove to be the biggest bottleneck in our fight against Corona. The way Indian judiciary is spreading despairs and negativity among the people and demoralizing the government in the fight against Corona is nothing but one of the saddest spectacles in India today.
Therefore, it will be not a bad idea for the Modi government to bring an ordinance restraining the judicial interference in the Corona-related decisions of the proposed National Committee. Since it is going to be an inclusive and a nonpartisan body, there should not be any problem in garnering the support of all the parties in the Parliament to approve the ordinance, which must be time-bound.
The perverse entertainment of the PILs by the Courts has already done a lot of harm to the nation. It is incumbent on the Courts to realize that for the common good, they will not be able to do everything they want to do, whenever and wherever they like, and under conditions that only they can dictate. Instead, they will have to think of the good of the community, and, indeed, of the nation as a whole.
Prakash Nanda is New Delhi-based author and journalist. He is a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, a Delhi-based think tank. Among his several books is “Prime Minister Modi: Challenges Ahead.”