“Veritas Curat”, the phrase on our college emblem was never so meaningful to me. It means “truth only cures”, on top of a modern medical college it was a brave proclamation. Its pretty similar to our National Emblem which reads “Satyamev Jayate”, means ‘truth alone triumphs’. On a philosophical plane, they are identical.
Today, in the era of Covid19, I can imagine the idea of truth being the greatest medicine or weapon. The world looks petrified, globalization is not the magical word anymore, economies are getting decimated, families and social values are crumbling but amidst all these the “state” is becoming more powerful than ever.
Yes, fear is what it feeds on and there is fear all around. After all, it is an institution to overcome the fear of the nature where we are told that Human life short, nasty and brutish.
Over the last 3 months, we have been hearing the footsteps of Covid19 approaching nearer by the day, once a virus of China, gradually became the virus of the non residents or globe trotting rich people, and
then a news item.
The government said everything is in control and suddenly put us under the biggest posible lockdown of living memory. Media and television keep telling us about the newly discovered use of an old drug, or that vaccine which has crossed many stages and just awaiting approval for mass production.
In between, there were pictures of unclaimed bodies lying in hospitals or doctors denied burial. Now, we have reports from relatives in the metro cities, and gradually we see correction of death figures in Delhi and Chennai, still we do not know where we stand and on what we stand.
Last week, the Delhi deputy chief minister said that in a months time we may have up to half a million cases in Delhi. Mumbai need not admit that and Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh may never own up. But as the Prime Minister gradually withdraws from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) enabled war room the message is clear, the mighty state knows its limitations despite all posturing.
This is what I wish to argue, that all assumptions and made up realities are limited, and can be overwhelmed by a problem not created by their own apparatuses and then truth is all that can fight it. So when a govt realizes that it is already overwhelmed by a crisis what does it do? easiest way out is
manipulate information so that there is no collective of suffering and each man suffers alone, though simultaneously. But as societies grow more complex it is difficult after all information is the first thing that overwhelms a system, and therefore has its own mechanism of transmission.
So much so that the death figures had to corrected as the figures from crematoriums started speaking out. Next we saw when the people started not to believe in the leaders words, if people believed in the prime minister’s words that they wouldn’t have to pay rent for the lockdown period, we wouldn’t have seen those millions of migrant workers treading home on foot. Even going by the official statement of the railways that it has transported 6 million passengers, the government has said that there are 80 million of them.
So what do you do when you are overwhelmed? you stop pretending that you are in control and involve the people, first you respect the federal structure and involve the states, then you involve the opposition, and then the civil society and lastly the people themselves for it is, they who have that latent capacity to meet such overwhelming situations, be that healthcare, economy, social order or international affairs.
But this means a climbdown and for an insecure leadership of illusory strength this is risky.
Just imagine, if people are honestly told about the status of the disease load as well as the healthcare capacity, including the testing capacity and protocols, how changing the criteria for testing and protocols on pooling of tests. What if they are told that there are slim chances of a vaccine being
found or that providing adequate cover. Would it not then take matters unto its own hands and make community efforts of identifying and distancing the highly vulnerable,would not volunteers train themselves for case reporting and care giving. Afterall some oxygen support, using a nebuliser, some simple patting at back for chest physiotherapy, helping with making prop up beds through pillows,dispensing simple antipyretics and hydration, and tele-consultation is not that difficult to train oneself for.
Perhaps, we don’t have memories of such mass actions, to work upon. This would mean that upto 90% of all cases would not require a hospital bed and when people are educated on the science of the pandemic they will resist this malicious divisive campaign going on in the mainstream and social media. We saw what came out of the tableeghi incident, a fearful public with a social imagination of purity and pollution immediately bought it. Apologists of untouchability knew there time had arrived. We were told how scientific the practice of ‘namaste’ was, and the atavistic process was accelerated. Building on the faded memories of miasma we had people restricting entry of workers, domestic helps, vendors and even relatives in neighbourhood. Village and caste patriarchs and RWAs built their own tiny tyrannies. The entire discourse was revisionist that the vast majority of these workers are dalits cant be ignored as a factor.
Moreover, I feel the entire anti muslim agenda of the hindutva agencies is essentially aimed at creating a new ‘untouchables’ to supply cheap labour especially as dalits are increasingly getting politically organised. social distancing might mean something with etiquette and behavioural connotations but in India social is caste therefore social distancing is essentially caste distancing, some vain efforts to call it physical distancing was tried but the message had been conveyed. Such divided society can never mobilize itself to meet challenges of this magnitude.
Then there’s a question of democracy, actually it is the central question of truth, for a democracy assumes the rule of wholesome truth, every-bodies involvement means compilation of all truths, that is when the four blind men sit together and compile their truths and make up the complete elephant.
All governments have banned protests in the name of ensuring physical distancing no dissent is allowed and individual truths never become collective. The continued persecution of the anti CAA activists means that the govt wishes to keep the pot simmering, lest people forget their differences over this common crisis. truth wholesome truth would help us realize that we share a common fate, and from that would rise that mass action we need.
We have been hearing narrative of a destined glory, but we realized that we have destroyed both the pillars of our international standing, that of a fast growing economy and the only surviving model of multicultural democracy. Those visuals of migrant workers on their long march has permanently destroyed our claims of being an economically resurgent force and the govt actions have repudiated all claims of our moral authority based on our commitment to democracy, welfare, secularism and pluralism.
Don’t we find belligerent neighbors contemptuous of our claims and it has affected our international stature significantly. after all we are talking for a fundamental change in the perspective of how we look onto our citizens.
They are not imbecile infants incapable of comprehending the complexities of the truth of the state of affairs.the time for the paternalistic benevolent dictatorship of the strong leader is over. The state and polity needs to realize that when we talk of a nation it is made-up of adult thoughtful and
conscientious citizens and nationalism is to respect this.
“A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes–will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.”
― John Stuart Mill, On Liberty