US President Donald Trump has promised to sign on a $2 trillion economic relief package for the US coronavirus hit. Americans are not very sure if the relief will reach intended beneficiaries, more likely fund-rich companies. Narendra Modi unveiled a Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief tranche for India’s poor; those with slippery jobs, meaning employment that is not counted as “jobs” by government edict. There’s little confidence whether the Rs 1.7 lakh crore will reach targeted individuals and families!

United States citizens with incomes up to $75,000 impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic would get up to $1200. This, and $500 per dependent under the age of 18. What their Indian counterparts will get is peanuts – Rs 2000 in their bank accounts, in Modi’s Jan Dhan Yojana accounts of the no-account poor, which, Modi’s supporters claim, contributed to securing for him a second term.

It wouldn’t be farfetched to say that Modi would be looking for a third-term with the relief package rolled out to the coronavirus-hit if India comes out in better shape than any of the other BRICS countries and the United States of America, which has – as of today – the highest number of COVID-19 positive cases worldwide, shifting the coronavirus-epicenter from Rome to New York.

Trump will find this very hard to explain to his constituency in an election year. Very soon there would be more Americans dead from COVID-19 than there were Chinese. Already, the world media is trumpeting “Xi’s charm offensive” vis-a-vis Trump’s bumbling ways. The Chinese, it appears, have outsmarted the Americans in the propaganda department. But then, when were the Americans good at selling themselves? They were too busy imposing themselves on all and sundry!

Not that Trump’s hugging pal Narendra Modi is on a smooth wicket. His “lockdown” has come up against a “walk down!” The very poor, who Modi hoped to win over with the Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package, are out to scupper his attempt to come out as “Mai-Baap No.1” to Indians. Migrant India has gathered at the “borders” to throw to the winds Modi’s call for “social distancing”, which is the only remedy to rid planet earth of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has seen to it that most jobs in the unorganized sector are lost. With that the chance at daily bread, too. The result is millions of the unemployed set out on a marathon trek to reach homes in villages across Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. But Modi’s nationwide lockdown has come in the way and lakhs of them got stranded at the borders of UP and Bihar, social distancing be damned!

To tell the truth, COVID-19 has divided India into two. There are those who say Modi has erred in calling for a lockdown without preparing for it, repeating his demonetization mistake. Modi, they say, is the classic example of “fools rushing in where angels fear to tread”.

With Demonetization as well as lockdown, Modi has rushed in without looking at the ramification, implications. These critics of Modi see everything going wrong with the lockdown. Modi’s supporters, on the other hand, are livid at the “corona villains”. Not surprisingly, media has picked up the term “corona villains” and have woven it into campaigns urging people to “stay home” and “keep social distancing”.

In the United States as well as in India, nobody was prepared for things to get this bad. The call for “unifying the world” at this time of crisis has not worked. The United States and Taiwan squarely blame China, which is celebrating the defeat of coronavirus in Wuhan and proclaiming itself “world saviour” to Italy, Spain and Germany, all European allies of USA.

But it’s South Korea which is boasting of having “mastered” COVID-19 and offering a “helping hand” to the world. South Korea is also at the same time rolling out COVID-19 testing kits by the millions for anybody to have – entrepreneurship at a time of corona! A huge “trace, test and treat” operation is what helped South Korea triumph over COVID-19.

India should learn from South Korea, even now, at this late stage. As North Korea has. Swallowing its pride, the Financial Times has reported, North Korea has sought international support and aid to begin “testing” North Koreans for COVID-19. Kim Jong-un has found his match in the novel coronavirus. Last heard, Delhi Transport Corporation buses were heard rumbling towards Delhi’s borders to pick stranded migrant Indians and take them home to villages in UP and Bihar. Now, who has found his match in whom?

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