By R. K. Sinha
I keep referring to challenge and opportunity in my articles and have always maintained that any challenge can be turned into an opportunity. Wherever there are challenges there are huge opportunities wherever you find them use them to your advantage. It will not take much time to turn the challenge into an opportunity. Similarly, wherever there is opportunity, there is a challenge. Take modern technology for example. It has offered a huge opportunity. However, cybercrimes have also increased because of it. So there is a challenge as well as an opportunity everywhere the challenge posed by Corona is new as it was not faced earlier.
In the last 100 years, the world had not faced such a big challenge. After the First World War, an epidemic named Spanish flu had definitely occurred in the early twentieth century. But, it was not as severe as Corona. It was not at all related to Spain. It was related to World War I in which Spain was not directly involved.The reality is that Spanish soldiers used to transport American and English troops to their countries.The affected soldiers used to go their villages after the job was over.Thus,the epidemic started spreading. It was named Spanish flu because it was first brought out by the Spanish media.There is a debate on whether the corona pandemic is natural or man-made. But, it is certain that this epidemic is very serious.It can only happen by moving closer to an infected person. There is no need even to touch. If you go close to a meter of the infected person and he sneezes or coughs then droplets which carry the virus can enter your body and you too can suffer from this disease.
The whole world is hit by this virus.It is small in size which you cannot even see without a telescope but has disturbed the whole world. The disease occurred first in Wuhan city of China and spread all over the world. After 100 days of suffering China declared with great fanfare that Corona has disappeared. A huge celebration was held. But, according to recent reports, the virus has spread again in Wuhan. Since people are traveling to other states of China from Wuhan, it is likely that the epidemic has spread to other states of China as well.
This epidemic is deadly but when Corona was wrecking havoc in China during the Chinese New Year in December 2019, our popular Prime Minister Narendra Bhai Modi was planning how to deal with it. Whenever I used to pass through the corridor in front of the Prime Minister’s room in Parliament during the session, I used to find the Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan with some files. We used to discuss the preparations to deal with Corona Preparations were made,but not in full because China did not tell the full truth. China had said that initial symptoms of the disease are cold, cough, fever and signs of respiratory diseases.It was not stated that the symptom can show up in an infected person even after two weeks. Due to this, some mistakes were made by India and other countries .Those who came from abroad those days were tested. Those who came with cough and fever were taken out and quarantined. But those who had no symptoms were allowed to go home. Nobody knew that these symptoms can appear even after 14 days.
Many Keralites work in Gulf countries.They live there with their families.Some of those who had no symptoms moved around . The infection spread rapidly in Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, Gujarat, Delhi and Punjab because, there are millions of people living abroad and they and their family members went to different places.One more thing happened .Tablighi Jamaat invited members from many parts. Over 12 thousand people were invited to Delhi itself. There were hundreds of people from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand etc. where the corona epidemic had already spread. Many infected persons from there had joined the congregation. Markaz was asked to take precaution but it did not care and even told people that if God desired that one of his man has to die of this disease then there is no better place than mosque for dying. Due to this advice many did not go to the doctors. As a result, there was a huge increase in corona infected patients. After Delhi, the Jamaat members carried the disease to other places.Wherever they went they infected others.It was spread. But, despite all these developments, Prime Minister Modi kept his cool and worked out a plan.He was aware India cannot match with countries like Italy, Spain and America, where medical facilities are very good .Then to prevent this pandemic he believed a complete lockdown was the only option. This pandemic has one positive.If you do not invite it, it will never come to you.
Opposition leaders were demanding testing of more and more people. It was okay.Were the people ready for it?Besides, where were testing kits. At that time we did not have a single Personal Protective Equipment or Personal Protective Armor or “PPE”, which doctors and medical staff wear during treatment of infectious diseases. PPE was not being made in the country. The N95 face mask, which is able to prevent 95 percent infection, was used only at some places like laboratories.Therefore, the Prime Minister chose lockdown. However, the lockout could not be completely successful. This was probably because it is a large country where there is such a large population, and the density rate is high and a large number of people are semi-literate or uneducated. Yet at least 90 to 95 percent of the lockout has been successful due to administrative and police efficiency. Despite having such a large population, India has emerged as the country where least damage has been done due to corona.
On Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister said very inspiring and interesting thing in his address to the nation. He said that this is a big challenge. It may last long and lockdown-4, ie the lockout after May 18, may be unavoidable.But that will be different. He meant to say that we will now return to work but with caution.Violation will not be tolerated. The Prime Minister said that “Self-reliant India Scheme” is being launched to turn this challenge into an opportunity. A huge financial package is being announced in connection with this scheme, which is worth 20 lakh crores. This means about Rs 15,384 for each citizen. Till date, no Prime Minister in the country could think of such a large package. What was the reason for this? The reason is very simple.Excepting two,no Prime Ministers had seen poverty and hunger and had struggled hard to rise and move forward. The first was Lal Bahadur Shastri and the second is Narendra Modi. The rest of the Prime Ministers were born in families which had never seen poverty and hunger. That is why the Prime Minister talked not only about farmers, laborers, small industries but also about street vendors, handlers, cattle rearers, vegetable growers and sanitary workers.
This Rs 20 lakh crore package will benefit all. The finance minister will give full details of the measures proposed in this regard. But, this is a very big package.It will open avenues for the country’s economic progress. The Prime Minister gave two-three examples to explain why he thought that we can turn this challenge into an opportunity.First , the Prime Minister said that if any work is done with determination success is ensured. He said that on the day the lockout was started in the country, not a single PPE was made in India and N95 face masks were also not made by many. That too in small quantity. Today the situation is that India has not only been able to make both these products, but is also ready to export. Today, 2 million PPE and 2 lakh N95 grade face masks are being made in the country every day.The Prime Minister gave another example of Bhuj in Gujarat. Bhuj was completely destroyed in 2002.There is no appropriate word to describe that kind of earthquake. Those days I was myself associated with many institutes which were involved in relief work. I used to go to Bhuj. The condition of Bhuj was terrible. There was nothing left there. Today you go to Jamnagar. If you go to any area of Bhuj which was affected by earthquake ,you will see a sea change.In no other place you will see village, town or city so developed in the country. Today Bhuj is making all round progress. The entire Kutch region is progressing. There the challenge has been turned into opportunity. Prime Minister gave these examples because of these reasons . The Prime Minister has said another good thing. He has said that it was the local supply chain, handled by small businessmen, which has protected our lives. They brought us food, fruits, vegetables, milk other things . That is why the Prime Minister said we will have to be vocal on the local.We will have to depend on local manufacturers,local suppliers instead of international brands.We will have to respect them.We will have to publicise them and tell every one that they are better than every one else.Even the international companies had made small beginnings.The people in those places popularised them and they became brands.We can do the same for our products.Unity is the need of the hour.We have to work together to make a better and self-reliant India.The future belongs to us.We can make India the country of the century if we rise to the occasion and push hard.
(The writer is a Senior Editor,columnist and former MP)