Multiple burning pyres of patients who died of the Covid-19 infections at a crematorium in New Delhi, April 19, 2021 (Getty Images)
The siren of ambulances rushing to hospitals has a plaintive sound that causes anguish. While on the treadmill this evening at home, which is situated not far from a cluster of super-speciality hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram, I heard many ambulances passing by, leaving behind an eerie feeling and an inchoate heartache. Things are looking very bad indeed.
This is a time when the nation looks up to its leadership to lead the way —when they feel deeply pained seeing the visuals of funeral pyres of Covid corpses on the sidewalks of roads in the outskirts of the national capital, when they run helter-skelter dazed in despair searching for a hospital bed for their loved ones, when they see their loved ones dying in the verandahs of hospitals, when they see their loved ones dying in the most horrific way imaginable out of asphyxiation for want of oxygen to breathe, when they cannot give a decent burial since the crematoriums are chock-a-block — and, of course, when they are turned away from vaccination centres because the central government failed to supply the local authorities with adequate stocks of vaccine…
That is why former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not deserve such a rude letter in reply to his communication addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I have read Manmohan Singh ji’s letter a few times. I do not see in it a single word out of place, a single thought that did not conform to facts, a single sentiment that lacked sincerity or carried a trace of malice. Above all, his great erudition and vast experience in statecraft was in full display.
PM Modi could at least have reciprocated by inviting Manmohan Singh ji out of courtesy to have a cup of tea and to talk things over. The Sangh Parivar people would surely have read the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata at some time in their childhood. The one moral that stands out in the epics is that hubris comes before a fall.
Worse still, scan the social media. No one believes Health Minister wrote that obnoxious reply to Manmohan Singh ji. Many who know Harsh Vardhan seem to be convinced that he doesn’t even have such a command over English language to convey insults.
Evidently, something has gone terribly wrong in the state of the Indian Union. The rulers seem nervous that the pandemic is spinning out of control. Quite possibly, the worst is yet to come. Surely, India’s image in the world community has been sullied beyond repair. People will mock at us if we again stake claim to be the ‘world’s pharmacy’. Read a report in the British daily Independent titled India coronavirus: Bodies piling up at Delhi crematoriums as human remains ‘burned next to pavement’.
That is all the more reason why nerves should hold and prevent the tension in the body from taking over the thought processes. When top people lose nerves, their minions get confused. Two days ago, a union minister from Kerala (who never has won an election in his life) hurled an abusive epithet — ‘Covidiot’ — at Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. When asked to explain, he claimed, intriguingly, that he was defending the reputation of Home Minister Amit Shah! What has come over our Union ministers?
However, there is always a silver lining somewhere. If the latest reports are any indication, the PM himself seems to have ordered the implementation of all the suggestions conveyed to him by Manmohan Singh ji. Better still, Congress Party is not showing any rancour at the government’s boorish behaviour toward the former PM. In fact, a top Congress leader tweeted:
“The nation is gratified to know that practically all the suggestions in Dr Manmohan Singh’s letter have been accepted by the government. Better late than never. Two suggestions remain: ONE, there is an immediate need to provide funds to the manufacturers of the two India-made vaccines to ramp up production. TWO, there is an urgent need to invoke the provision of compulsory licensing of the India-made vaccines. That is the only way to use the enormous vaccine manufacturing capacity in India.”
Indeed, the nation must close ranks. That was the spirit in which Manmohan Singh ji wrote that letter to PM.
I just got to know the sad news that Manmohan Singh ji has been admitted to hospital. I have had the great privilege of knowing him. I pray for his speedy recovery.