Don’t panic please

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By: Swarup Kalluri

Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown, I received a WhatsApp message, paraphrasing a Hindi nursery rhyme: “Haath lagao to dar jaenge, paani se nikalo to mar jayenge (Touching terrorises us, so does going out).” The novel coronavirus has not just brought the deadly Covid-19, but also laid bare many an Indian psychology such as groupthink and the propensity to fall into the left-wing snares. Days after the entire nation loudly lauded doctors and the other paramedic staff, reports emerged from all over the country that they were facing problems in their neighbourhoods. “Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers involved in Covid care are being asked to vacate their rented homes and some have been even forcefully evicted from their temporary residence by landlords and house-owners due to the fear that those healthcare professionals make them susceptible to coronavirus infection,” the Resident Doctors’ Association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences said in a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah.

This is typically hypocritical: glorify women in literature, romanticise them in culture, worship them as mother goddess—and oppress them socially and culturally.
The leadership of the Indian medical community has brought unprecedented worry to the nation, especially the poor. It has favoured lockdown, touted the menace of the coronavirus, and ignored the calamitous consequences of the lockdown. Top doctors have been exhibiting schooling behaviour. Encyclopaedia Britannica defines it as, “Activity characteristic of clupeiform fish (herrings, anchovies, and allies) in which many fish swim together, appearing to act as a single organism.” In a 2012 research paper, Ashley J.W. Ward, Jens Krause, and David J.T. Sumpter described decision-making in a school of fish. “A quorum response may be defined as a steep increase in the probability of group members performing a given behaviour once a threshold minimum number of their group mates already performing that behaviour is exceeded,” they wrote. In India, top medical professionals bar one came up with a quorum response in favour of lockdown, inflicting a massive cost on the society and the economy, particularly the most vulnerable sections. A small medical problem was presented as an apocalyptic event. I insist it is a small medical problem, whose solution is infinitely worse than the problem itself.

Consider facts: The first Covid-19 case was detected in our country on 30 January, a day before in Italy and the US, and almost three weeks before in Iran. At the time of writing these lines, Italy reported more than 80,000 infections and 8,200 deaths. In the US, there were over 85,000 cases and almost 1,300 deaths. In India, in contrast, the infection cases were in the region of 700 and fatalities 20. Why do we have such a low casualty rate, when much smaller countries with far better health facilities and infrastructure have suffered miserably? One reason is alertness on the part of PM Modi—ban on flights from China, a huge information drive, sanitisation measures. The demographic patterns and the extant immune status of the population probably played an important role in reducing the severity of flu in India in the past. The 2009 swine flu (H1N1) affected nearly 61 million people in the US. It caused 12,469 deaths in the US and 575,400 deaths worldwide.

On the other hand, India reported 33,761 cases and 2,035 deaths from swine flu. To believe that we are facing an apocalypse and react accordingly is sheer madness. Yes, we must not lower our guard but we must also not fall prey to propaganda. Dr Leonid Eidelman is a former head of the Israel Medical Association and immediate past president of the World Medical Association. In an interview with the Times of Israel (18 March), he said, “At the beginning, the government’s policy was to broadcast panic. And panic leads to more panic. It’s a chain reaction.” He accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, and other officials of spreading fear, leading to shortages in protective gear. “People started using them unnecessarily, and even today it’s being used inappropriately, because people are afraid. I tried to explain that the coronavirus scare causes more damage than the coronavirus itself. Because after all, by now we know that 97 per cent to 98 per cent of those infected get better. It’s not such a devastating illness that kills everyone. It’s very important to understand that.” The coronavirus scare causes more damage than the coronavirus itself. Arguing against the lockdown, US President Donald Trump said that the cure can’t be worse than the disease. Prime Minister Modi should listen to his friend Trump, a fellow Rightist, rather than fishlike medical experts and Left-leaning eggheads. It needs to be mentioned here that the coronavirus is a godsend for the Left. It makes the poor poorer, making them dependent on others, especially the state. The lockdown will ensure that it is metamorphosing them from self-respecting citizens earning their incomes, albeit meagre, to serfs perpetually looking for help to the government. The relief package, running into Rs 1.7 lakh crore, is just that. This pleases the professional revolutionaries the most, making them demand a bigger and more interventionist government and affording them the opportunity to capitalize on the misery of the starving classes. INAV

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