Nations are now forced to choose between containing the spread of the pandemic at the cost of economy, or tolerating a higher human cost to save the economy.
By Lt Gen AB Shivane (Retd)
These are strange times we live in. The world is undergoing a revolution of uncertainty in an era where the certainty of human survival itself is under threat. Overnight the world stands united looking at prayers as the best medicine and spirituality becoming the steering wheel from the erstwhile spare wheel. Mythology, numerology, astronomy and astrology seem to have suddenly gained currency and belief. Globalization defined by the power of economy is now taking the shape of isolation with nations debarring all-access beyond borders, strengthening territorial nationalism. WHO which is based on “last century’s models”, seem stymied by the COVID. All global friction points and threats seem to have lost relevance and concern. COVID has shown healthcare is the invisible roots of the tree, people the trunk to brave the storm and the crown the prosperity of the nation in a balanced ecological environment. The roots are today under test. The effectiveness of governments will now be measured by their capacity to effectively change people’s everyday behaviour/attitude and ability to transform Comprehensive National Power to Comprehensive National Capacity.
Nations are now forced to choose between containing the spread of the pandemic at the cost of economy, or tolerating a higher human cost to save the economy. Five thousand years ago, the Indian time tested system which embraced the Upanishads world view of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (Sanskrit – “World is one family”) is again to the fore. Krishna and Mahabharat hold lessons on the challenges of today’s India. I am reminded of the present “Corona Pause”, to an event of “Mahabharat”. Ashwatthama became very angry when his father Dronacharya was killed in the Mahabharata war. He shot a terrible weapon “Narayana Astra” on the Pandava army. None could retaliate it. It used to burn people and immediately destroy those who had weapons in their hands and were seen trying to fight. Lord Krishna ordered the army to leave their weapons and remain quiet with folded hands. And said, “Do not even bring the idea of war to mind as that would also destroy you”.
Narayana Astra gradually calmed down, when its time expired. In this way, the Pandava Army was saved. Battles are not just about attack and counter-attack. Some battles are won by staying put with resolve, remaining patient and braving the storm by letting it subside before setting course. It also highlights the need for a visionary leader taking a tough decision, soldiers displaying solidarity, discipline, patience, resolve and above all trust in their leaders. We are back to those days once more. Indeed, India battles Covid19 with all its dynamism and tenacity. In these times of Nation’s biggest existential crisis, India took a daring decision to lock down a country of 1.3 billion people, to save their lives even at the cost of the economy taking a backseat.
The nations path of righteousness believed economy is revived by living people, not coffins. However, social distancing is only a “brake” to slow the spread. The principle challenge remains – Can we flatten the curve? The ability of the government to envision future scenarios, forecast impact and have contingency plans to mitigate the impact by decisive actions will be the key to success. While the world left people at sea, India sent flights manned by daring pilots and crews to get back countrymen from the riskiest areas to relative safety. India has led a fight where winning is not the goal, minimizing losses is, and survival is the key.
While lights/ torches/diya’s and clapping may be symbolic, but they carry the larger message of self-belief, solidarity and people’s commitment as a nation to overcome this calamity with resilience and resolve. The battle against Corona and the war threatening humanity is being fought on a multidimensional, multi-front and multi-spectrum domain. It’s most commendable to see all agencies irrespective of their primary role realigning in this fight. The white coats, healthcare professionals and law and order machinery have led from the front with courage, fortitude and valour. Presently India has to focus now on addressing the current health crisis.
For now, the economy will have to be put in a deep freeze. The fight will have to be led by the government for the people, of the people and by the people of this great nation. Fixing shortages of testing equipment, ventilators and enhancing capacities and expanding healthcare infrastructure including telehealth solutions needs a top priority. Additional financial aid packages to small and medium-sized businesses and specific industries hit by the lockdown also merit consideration. But all this is just the beginning of the greatest unfolding challenges to humanity. Our resolve and resilience will be a test. Only time will tell if this was our finest hour, but for the present, it is well begun though only half done. Our Rig Veda has taught us “Where there is harmony between the mind, heart and resolution, then nothing is impossible”. Let’s come together to defeat Corona and make India victorious,”. HUM HONGE KAMYAB.
(The author is Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal.)