When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on the Coronavirus pandemic on 19th March, his hardcore supporters were awestruck with the speech as they generally are. They were quite ecstatic with the advices given by Modi to the people like Janata curfew and the banging of plates and clapping to express gratitude to the people dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic at the ground.
His supporters, who are blind in their faith in Modi, generally go gaga over his speeches. This time when he addressed the nation over Corona outbreak, even his critics, rivals and opposition refused to take critical notes of his speech saying that they stand by the nation at this critical time.
Some of the prominent opposition leaders were very quick in saying they will obey what Modi said in his speeches and did not make any critical comments on it. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who was jailed in a dramatic manner by the Modi government, pledged to follow what Modi said and did not criticize Modi’s speech in which no action plan was rolled out to deal with the situation.
“I am duty bound to support the PM. In effect, the PM has asked the people to wage the war against COVID with moral armaments. We shall do so on Sunday and in the following days,” This is how Chidambaram tweeted.
Similarly, Swaraj Abdhiyan chief Yogendra Yadav, who has been at the forefront on anti-CAA protest, was more blunt in his support to Modi’s speech and the government. “At this moment every Indian must support the government’s efforts,” he said in his tweet sharing the video speech of the PM Modi.
In another tweet, he said the people should not criticize the government’s efforts in dealing with the outbreak of Corona. There were other critics too such as Shashi Tharoor, Shabana Azmi and Shehla Rashid who also lauded the PM Modi’s speech on the Coronavirus without any critical comments.
When we critically look at Modi’s address to the nation on the Corona, it was just full of moral commandments in the name of people. As he was addressing the nation first time on the issue, being a Primes Minister he needed to tell the nation what the government has been doing to fight against the pandemic. What serious steps the government has been taking to deal with the situation. How will the government deal with the economic situations which will hit the poor more seriously due to the absence of economic activities? What will the government do to feed those daily wagers who lost their source of breadwinning due to the Corona outbreak?
He did not spell out any action plans and course of actions to fight the pandemic. He did not say what steps his government took to make the health sector prepared to fight the pandemic. He did not talk about much economic and health preparations which is vital to fight such crisis. His entire speech was focused on what the people should do not what the government should do. In a way, he washed off his hand from the responsibility and accountability which falls on the government. There was zero talk of government’s responsibilities, accountabilities and duties.
Unlike Modi, the heads of the state in other countries did tell their people what they are doing to fight the crisis. Even the chief ministers of the states in India like Kerala, Delhi, Maharashtra and others have been telling people what steps they are taking to deal with the situations. But, Prime Minister Narendra is not doing any such thing. He is not discharging the responsibilities and duties of being the Prime Minister. Instead, he is giving ethical sermons and telling people about the popular measures (social distancing and self-isolation) which everyone should do.
Despite Modi’s failure to discharge his responsibility and show of accountability at this critical time, the opposition and critics are not ready to make critical comments on the government’s role in dealing with the situation. The criticism of the government is meant to force it to discharge its responsibilities and duties in a fair manner. This is the reason the need of the opposition and the criticism are considered as integral of the healthy democracy. This is how democracy functions in a healthy manner and the government is forced to put in their best efforts to discharge their responsibilities. Otherwise, it takes the path of authoritarianism.
The fundament issue is here that the opposition and the criticism of the government is being seen as an obstacle to deal with the situation. This is not just undemocratic approach but a sign of fascism. One can understand the extreme need of open space to criticize and oppose the government through the example of Chinese doctor who was detained and silenced by the Chinese Police after he warned the country of the outbreak of the Coronavirus. When some doctors including Dr. Li Wenliang shared about the dangers of the Coronavirus first time, they were silenced by the local police because they were saying such thing which the Chinese authorities did not like to hear. The Chinese government came to terms with the reality when the disease spread far and wide. After the doctor died of the Coronavirus, the government apologized to his family.
In conclusion, criticism of the government at the critical times is much needed to deal with the crisis in fair and effective manner. An absence of criticism and opposition will only lead to exacerbate the crisis and cause the destruction of the society as a whole. As we are dealing with one of the most critical times of the world, we need to look and keep eyes on the government more critically and closely.