So far, India has done reasonably well, in battling COVID-19. Not with standing some of the hypothesis which gives credit for India’s satisfactory performance to our proximity to the equator, being part of the erstwhile malaria belt, the distinct age advantage, higher levels of general immunity (do they mean a blessing derived from living in comparatively unhygienic environment ?), lesser tests carried out, sheer luck etc, the fact is that, we seem to be getting our act together. The latest figure of 0.1 to 0.2 deaths per million population due to the virus in India, is a far clearer indicator of where we stand today. We have always had some people within our borders and some beyond it, who take pleasure in belittling our achievements. As far as some of them are concerned, The Indian government and Indians in general, are incapable of managing a crisis of such magnitude. They seem to be disappointed that the so called subjugated minorities, ill-treated migrant workers, huge numbers of malnourished and the illiterate of India, have joined hands and the country has displayed glimpses of its intrinsic strength to overcome extreme calamities. When India succeeds in keeping its death rates under control, it is amusing to see an international institution like the ILO only seeing the potential for a doomsday scenario of millions of Indians falling into extreme poverty.
Under the circumstances, such utterances sounds akin to the proactive defence of China by the WHO. We also have people whose only concern has been proper utilisation of donations. While we have rightly ignored such diversionary comments and focused on the critical task at hand, it is imperative that the government continues to take appropriate steps to handle our economy appropriately and also ensure that every rupee that comes from the citizens is utilised in the most transparent manner. The common man on the street (now in their houses) understands such things far better than what many people credit them for.
Beyond all this, one must say that barring a few blips, our administrative machinery has given a good account of itself. We can also be proud of the fact that in our own modest way, our country is lending a helping hand to even some of the developed countries to fight this calamity. Of course, the battle has just started and we have a long way to go. But the journey, so far, gives us lot of hope.
Our main battle across the country is being fought at the district level by the unseen army of health workers, people manning essential services and above all, the district level officials with active assistance from the state and central governments. The young, energetic district collectors, SPs’ and their teams are our main warriors guarding the line which cannot be breached and have their task cut out. They are called upon every hour of the day to meet this challenge. In conjunction with civil servants up and down the channel, they are waging a valiant battle.
It is a golden opportunity for the government servants to do a makeover of their image by getting rid of the unfair negative shade attached to it. Under the circumstances, while the health care professionals fight the medical front, the overall performance of the country depends entirely upon the efficiency and dedication of our government servants. They have to work relentlessly, the state and central governments working in unison and achieving synergy. Their ability to exercise initiative and initiate action without looking over their shoulders will be put to test. Every instruction, regardless of how good or well thought out it may be, or from where or whom it has originated, can only be implemented at the district and lower levels. The people on the ground at the district and lower levels are the last mile connectivity, the last link in the chain, for every action and plan that has been conceived by the country to combat this calamity. Going by what they have done so far, the country has all reasons to be optimistic.
Author: Lt. Gen CA Krishnan
The Author is Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Planning and Systems), Indian Army