WHAT HAPPENED behind the scenes that culminated in India agreeing to send the consignment of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for which US President Trump had called prime minister Narendra Modi ? Was it actually a threat of retaliation or the chronology of events had jumbled up due to the different time zones that separate the two countries?
A close study of the chronology of the developments in the two time zones point to the latter but an impression has gone around the country that the government had bowed under pressure from the United States.
The government, on its part, has not bothered to clear the air. It has neither denied nor clarified the doubts being raised by people including by leading political parties. It gives an impression that it doesn’t care about the speculations and the questions raised by the opposition.
It is the latest instance of the obstinate attitude of the government. Prime Minister Modi appears to have taken a vow not to answer any question including from the media. He has refused to do so since he led the Bharatiya Janata Party led alliance to victory in 2014. In the process he has a dubious record of not holding a single press conference or taking any question from the media by any prime minister since the independence.
Contrast this with the US President holding a two-way press conference almost every day even though he not known to be too fond of the US media.
Prime Minister Modi, on the other hand, has found several platforms to vent out his views and have a one-sided dialogue. These include address to the nation, public meetings, statements in Parliament and even social media platforms where no one can put him any question.
The citizens have a right to ask questions and to seek rationale behind acts of the government. They would like to know what steps are being taken and how is the government placed in tackling the situation. The citizens would also like to know what arrangements are being made by the government to fight the virus.
The prime minister during his several addresses to the nation has not elaborated on the steps being taken or likely to be taken to assure the people of the country. People would like to be assured that there are enough facilities or how new ones are being created.
He has also provided no explanation for his recent appeals to the people - first to clap in unison for medical and other staff and then to light lamps for nine minutes as nine pm.
Clapping for doctors and others on the frontline for fighting coronavirus is understood well. It was meant to encourage them and display our gratitude for the work being done by them. Similar gestures were displayed in some other countries too like Italy and Spain and later in Britain.
A huge section of population participated in the exercise though some foolish people defeated the very purpose by taking out professions and "celebrating” the completion of the appeal.
It is the other "task” of lighting diyas or candles or even torch light through mobile phones that has not been explained or understood.
There are, no doubt, all kind of theories or interpretation of the step (in fact it would not be surprising if somebody later does his or her PhD on the subject). While the prime minister did not think it was important to give the logic for such an act and, as usual, he could not be questioned, there is a whole lot of army of BJP workers and supporters who have sought to explain the rationale for such a move.
Some say it is related to the nakshatras or astrology and that such a community action would help in defeating coronavirus, there are others who claim that it was a well thought out step to send out a cosmic message.
There were also speculations that the date and time was chosen to coincide with the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party and to make the entire country celebrate the occasion. The appeal also led to a flurry of jokes which went viral on social media. Besides it also caused worry over power grid failure by suddenly withdrawing load at a particular point of time.
The more rationale ‘intellectuals’ have speculated that it was meant to involve the entire community to lift their spirits. However those who don’t believe in any of such explanations think that it was a cleverly crafted idea to make people partners in the efforts to tackle coronavirus.
This would imply that the government alone was not responsible to check it but everyone who participated in the exercise was equally responsible. Therefore any success or failure would not be that of the government alone but those of all the people who took part in the "task”. They think it was a very clever ploy to make people a part of the exercise.
Almost everyone had one or the other explanation for the task given by the prime minister except the prime minister himself.
It would have been better if the prime minister had sought to explain the symbolism or the idea behind his call for lighting up.
In the absence of answers or explanations it is natural that speculations and rumours get afloat. It is not good for the society as a whole. Merely warning WhatsApp and other social platforms is not enough. Government must respond to genuine questions from the citizens.