Where does the buck stop??

India did just great with managing the first Covid wave…But what really happened now?? Who messed up – Mr Modi? Mr Kejriwal? Mumbai Mantralay? Elections…? You?…me???

No definitive answer would emerge, ever… But an incontrovertible role- has to be attributed to all of us. We – declared victory too soon. Post lockdown narrative had almost nothing to do with COVID19. Pent up demand, double digit GDP growth, continual patting ourselves on the back with FDI stats…it was all about economy – which – then, understandably was expected and accepted.

So where does the buck stop? I guess at Mr Modi. I have been and shall continue to be a staunch ‘bhakt’ as those who know me say. And truly nothing – as yet- would shake my confidence in his leadership – both in terms of ability and intent. He is the best our nation’s got. Yet we’ve been much disappointed just because we compare Mr Modi of today with Mr Modi which the country has known.

Certainly, the buck stops at Mr Modi to not see it coming. Buck stops at him to not have enough Remdesivir. Buck stops at him to not have enough Oxygen. Buck stops at him for having been distracted with Bengal… and there absolutely would be many other areas where the buck would stop at Mr Modi.

But I earnestly believe the biggest blunder Mr Modi probably committed – was to trust the states.

Having braved huge, consistent all-round criticisms for its strict 2020 lockdowns, maybe Mr Modi got overwhelmed by the immense economic sufferings of the strata – whom we – living room commentators – would never ever be able to fathom.

Understanding India’s size, regional diversities and varied work culture dispositions, Mr Modi believed – or maybe was made to believe – that one size would not fit all and left critical decisions to address COVID imperatives to – almost all – inept state governments – irrespective of the fact whether they were from the ruling dispensation at centre or otherwise.

However, the basic difference in the predicaments of the Centre and State was limited to not just the quality, but also about the ‘intent’ of leadership. When the lockdown was imposed by the Centre, massive relief and stimulus packages were announced, running into hundreds of billions – funded and underwritten by the centre.

And still reeling under the impact, the ‘lockdown authority’ was abdicated to the States. And the States crumbled to the fear of losing revenue. The fear made them live in denial. State leaderships were back at setting Rs 100 Crore monthly targets from its forces. State CMs were busy campaigning in other far away states – just to settle political scores – not even remotely bothered about setting up O2 plants – funds for which were granted to all states by the Centre in December 2020. BJP state or not – made no difference. Almost all state leaderships were back to doing what they’ve always practiced – self serving politics.

But having said the above and fully acknowledging – a definite deficit of political leadership, the buck stops at all of us – you and me included. We carried on with our lives as if all was ok. As if there was no COVID19. We threw caution to the air. Withering mask discipline, ‘socialising’ and celebrations peaked. Restaurants were consistently running overbooked. Celebrating the recent quarter GDP numbers, auto sector figures, GST collections, revelling in almost everything. We celebrated too much, just too soon.

But things still haven’t changed… and what’s truly frightening is that we’re still not getting it. So many of us inexplicably and pretentiously continue to go to live life as if all’s still ok – either with a pure selfish intent and fear of lost business or a foolish, careless contempt, putting lives of all around us at grave risk.

However, what’s happened cannot be undone… Whether you and I are vaccinated, or have COVID antibodies in our bloodstream, simply does not matter any more. We absolutely- are responsible not just for our families, but for all around us… Those who work for us and for those who earn daily to see it through.

Remember, what goes around comes around. History shall be unequivocally and brutally unforgiving if we still do not get it now… Please, be compassionate; please, stay at home; please, stay safe. Not just a slogan – but an undeniable imperative.

Its sure tough out there, but keep your chin up friends!!

We are in a marathon and it’s not over…until it’s over…

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