The lockdown has completed a week and has two more weeks to go. By that time one hopes the lakshman rekha will be wiped off by Modi, who gloomily declared the lockdown and before on 19 March, ordered Indians to follow janata curfew and thali bajao campaign on March 22 to morally support the medical community involved in combating the coronavirus.

Communist Party of India supported the measures of the government to keep people safe from the corona pandemic, despite being apprehensive of more misery for workers, migrant or otherwise, poor farmers, and homeless and other downtrodden. Unfortunately, all our apprehensions came true.

Corona started as a viral epidemic and the world as well as WHO started noticing it by the end of December 2019. Even till February first week, no thermal testing was introduced at airports in most of the places in our country. No proper assessment was made about how many hospital beds, masks, diagnosis equipment, ventilators, trained medical personnel etc., are required in case corona reaches India through air travellers, knowing fully well that both domestic and international air travel has immensely increased during the last ten or twenty years. Modi and his home minister were busy happily, first with abrogation of Article 370, imposing heavy restrictions on Kashmiri people and leaders, then constitutional amendments to polarize people along communal lines, then creating a scare through NPR and NRC, and then the viciously communalized election campaign in Delhi.

So, when corona ultimately reached India as a pandemic, the government got desperate, with not enough public-funded hospitals and public-funded medical colleges (the Communist Party of India had opposed the act governing the medical education passed by Modi government that further privatized medical education). Added to all this, public distribution, public transport and everything public was ruthlessly killed by the Modi government.

Even while fighting the corona pandemic, the communal fascists are not keeping communalism out. Latest example is the communalization of the Nizamuddin incident. Around 2100 devotees congregated there, including hundreds of foreign devotees at a time when the government itself was saying that the corona crisis wasn’t a health emergency. Some of the Tablighi jamaat attendees are already infected, with ten people dying, while hundreds have taken ill due to the ill-timed gathering. While the enormous nature of problem is in front of us, by using dangerous words like “intelligence failure”, there’s concerted attempt by the communal media to give this unfortunate tragedy terribly misleading colours, even hurling accusations of deliberately neglecting instructions that were put in place right after the incident. Has our irresponsible government and its ideological media parrots forgotten that the coronavirus does not infect people looking at their community or caste? That said, all those who are suspected of being exposed to the Tablighi congregation should voluntarily offer themselves for testing.

There is a possibility of enhancement of infection cases in the coming days. Do we have enough medical manpower ready? All of us are aware of the highly unscientific atmosphere intentionally created by the communal fascists during the last six years, particularly led by Modi himself. We remember his unscientific statements made in front of gathering of scientists like those at the Indian Science Congress, and on other occasions. We know how cow urine was paraded as the remedy against corona even in first two weeks of March.

The Prime Minister doing video-conferencing with state Chief Ministers shows the lack of preparedness and prior consultations, as well as absent coordination between Centre and the States. Because the PM didn’t consult the CMs before announcing the lockdown, Centre should be held responsible for the appalling state of affairs. While the Kerala LDF government has taken several measures well in advance, the same cannot be said of many other states, especially the BJP-ruled ones.

All of humanity, in fact, is confronting a health disaster of gigantic proportions. The coronavirus pandemic has been infecting and affecting people from almost every continent, from Asia to America, Europe and Africa. The worst hit are the poor and working people in every country. This pandemic has exposed the inherent character and cruelty of the capitalist social order.

The capitalism at its neo-liberal stage now has led to an unprecedented inequality and injustice. Housing, health care, education and employment are not guaranteed as fundamental rights of the people. Neo- liberalism has been promoting consumerism and individualism ruthlessly. It has been destroying the social consciousness of human beings which is basic and inspires concern for the fellow human beings. Private property and profit, while serving the vested interests, would never uphold the ideal values of serving the society, which assimilates ‘us’ and the ‘ours’.

The corona pandemic has raised many fundamental long-term questions about the alternatives before humanity and immediate issues to tackle the current crisis. Socialization of health care, housing, education and means of production has become a fundamental question in the present context.

If some ideologues argue whether this is or isn’t “socialism”, then yes it is. The present situation has shown that capitalism is unjust and irrational. Not to quote Marx and Engels but one has to take note what Winston Churchill said way back in 1954: “The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries”.

It is becoming more and more evident that Socialism is the alternative. It is the future and hope.
The author is General Secretary, Communist Party of India (CPI).

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