The defeat of the patriarchal, paternal attitude of India's corona warfare
The notion of ‘war against corona’ has been changed to ‘settlement with corona’.
Harsh lockdowns, restrictions on people’s movements and a tremendous burden on the public health care system have been the typical ways of making strategies against COVID-19 pandemic in India. The cross-country experience had indicated that the death toll in India would reach around 5 lakh, and the number of affected people would be around 80 lakh. This warning was enough for the government to impose a nationwide lockdown which came into effect from March 25th, 2020, and it was the beginning of a series of lockdowns as the number of Corona affected people increased number in India.
In view of the scarcity of the public health care facilities, the Central Government decided to implement the lockdown as strictly as possible. Imposed without giving a thought to people’s preparedness to stay at home for 21 days and the availability of resources at people’s disposal, the decision of lockdown came as a shock to people. Needless to say, it affected the poor and migrants the most, leading to the unprecedented issue of reverse migration of workers in the country.
The Central Government that was at the helm of the affairs until that moment completely ignored the state governments initially, and showed the patriarchal, paternal attitude while shaping strategy against the pandemic. It was unfortunate that the lockdown was announced without taking into account the difficulties that people would face. Several experts have therefore been arguing that it is great damage to our federal system, and the state governments are losing their autonomy during this crucial time when they are at the forefront to face the pandemic. This emergency situation actually calls for strong centre-state coordination and a properly planned distribution of resources and responsibilities.
Maharashtra being the worst-hit state in the country is unfortunately trapped in the turmoil of health crisis, scarcity of resources, Covid-19 infections and the politics around it. In the midst of ambiguous centre-state relations, the Government of Maharashtra is struggling with the increasing number of cases, especially in Mumbai. People in the State are facing political apathy, inexperienced leadership and lockdown trauma, in addition to the fright of Coronavirus. Amidst the increasing number of cases, the Government has announced the exit plan while it is anticipated that the peak point of Coronavirus cases is yet to come.
The widely used analogy of combing ‘Khabardari’ and ‘Jababdari’ popularised by the Head of the State clearly shows the inability of the government to control the number of cases. Thus, the notion of ‘war against Corona’ has been changed to ‘settlement with Corona’. Now the government is trying to resort to the participation of the people to take responsibility on their own since the situation is out of control. In fact, it is a late recognition of the fact that it is not possible to tackle such emergency situations without people’s participation.
The paternal approach to handle such a situation may lead to a burst of people’s unrest as people can protest such encroachment on their basic rights. During this harsh lockdown of 71 days, which is going to continue till June 30th in the containment zones, people have demonstrated courage and maturity for which they need to be appreciated. This is the strength of our democracy and people’s faith in democratic principles. Going ahead, the State authorities should bear in mind that participatory attitude is fruitful than the usual paternal, patriarchal way of addressing the problem.
Aparna Kulkarni is an Assistant Professor at Xavier's College in Mumbai. The opinions are the author's personal.