Coronavirus

If India Burns (Part II): No longer a question now that Nadda has thrown down the gauntlet

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

(This is the second part of “If India Burns”, a grim picture of coming days, a forewarning for all of our stakeholders: Majority, minority, government, judiciary etc. No less us, the ordinary citizens. I am excluding media for apparently it couldn’t care less. The first part could be read here).

This glimmer of hope which I mentioned in the first piece has been offered by JP Nadda, Bharatiya Janata Party president, who has announced in Bengal that Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has only been given a pause due to Covid-19 and that it would be implemented once it’s over.

Let’s admit, for or against, we all were traumatized for months by anti-CAA protests. I doubt if any one of us, in any part of the country, wasn’t held up by protestors on streets at least once. Even Supreme Court came down to public relations. No solution seemed feasible. Until Coronavirus intervened.

Now Nadda has thrown a challenge: Government isn’t backing down. Maybe, the Centre feels it won’t be taken by surprise. Maybe it feels it now knows how to deal with trouble-makers. Or with their chorus party of European Union, US Congress and the UN. “Urban Naxals” are facing the heat in our Courts; Khalids and Zargars face years in jail; Yogi Adityanath has worked out how to name and shame etc, etc.

But does the Centre know enough of how the “trouble” would respond? Have they got, as they say in cricket or in war, all their bases covered? Have they kept a watch on how protests have shaped in Hong Kong and Bangkok, not to say in the United States during BlackLivesMatter anarchy?

In Hong Kong and Bangkok, these are leaderless protests. No forewarning like you got in JNU, Jamia or Shaheen Bagh. A flashmob gathers and before the anti-riot police could bring in their water cannons, they are holding fort somewhere else, a fluid crowd as it were. “Be Water-like” is the guiding principle. Authorities could never be on top of their game.

So these days, they communicate in close offline chat. If it’s WhatsApp in India, it’s Telegram in our South Asian neighbourhood. You get detailed messages on how to pack and where to assemble. There is now goggles, umbrella, masks, sun-creams, water bottles and of course helmet in your backpack. Youngsters in their “rebel” age are enthused to be part of a converging, swarming mob of youth. They get overcome with emotions. To hell with the cause. The hide-and-seek with the police has its own thrills and a sense of accomplishment. Your friends are going, what are you waiting for?

Leaderless yes but it’s not to say that this ProtestNext generation is devoid of symbols. A “Milk Tea Alliance” has sprung up in our neighbourhood of Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Its aim is to spark protest across Asia: Like they did with “Arab Springs” in MENA (Middle East North Africa). Topple governments, cause anarchy and bring the region to its knees as Middle East presently is.

Milk Tea Alliance is around Thailand’s orange-hued tea; the less sugary Hong Kong version of the drink and Taiwan’s boba tea. The plan is to garner youth, swamp societies, create mayhem.

They have created their own characters too: animated ones like Milk Tea Girls which are emblazoned on T-Shirts of various colours and sizes. Youths who are not part of this fluid mob nevertheless wear it to show solidarity. Suddenly 100s becomes 1000s and that into tens of thousands. It’s on top of everyone’s head.

Then there is this three-finger salute (see image above). This has been co-opted from Thailand’s Hunger Game movie series. This gesture is for people, by people, from people who are facing injustice that the “protestors are in sync” with them. That they are all speaking for each other.

The drawn face-off first time in India would be different this time. The showdown is inevitable, more so since Modi government wouldn’t backdown what the Parliament has authorized and the Constitution demands. India’s protestors, while they vouch for democracy, sanctity of Constitution and supremacy of judiciary, would junk it in every action they do. So would our discredited politicians and prepaid media. It could be CAA one-day, farm bills next day and a Hathras next.

It would take some effort from the Modi government to be on top of its game: Nigh impossible in states like Bengal, Kerala, Rajasthan and Punjab where law and order is in the hands of Opposition: Much like in the United States where largest violence and loot during the BlackLivesMatter protests happened in states controlled by Democrats. BJP won’t junk CAA, an assertion of its raj-dharma, but it would need to think on its feet: Its police, cyber cell, intelligence and enforcement agencies need be bigger in numbers, resources and resolve. That alone would douse the fire if India Burns which seems inevitable.

 

Trump’s words on Biden are a chilling reminder to India of dangers ahead

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Joe Biden didn’t speak about China in his address after accepting to be Democrat’s choice for presidential elections. President Donald Trump made sure nobody missed the import of his rival’s hedging.

“China was never mentioned in any way, shape, or form. China will own our country if he gets elected…You’ve seen the intelligence reports. China very much wants Joe Biden to win,” thundered Trump in his response in double-quick time.

The US media, which hates Trump, would lose little time in terming his reaction as another instance of “fake news.” Didn’t Biden call Xi Jinping a “thug” for keeping a million Uyghurs in reconstruction (concentration) camps? Hasn’t he vowed to prohibit US companies for supporting a “surveillance state”? Wasn’t he quick to congratulate Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen on her re-election in almost real time?

Those with long memory know better. Biden has long been a champion of the US engagement—and not confrontational–policy with China. He has always preferred an ambiguity on Taiwan. He has been a vice-president in the past and spent decades in Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A leopard doesn’t change its spots.

Only last May, when Trump was involved in a trade war with China, Biden had questioned if China was going to “eat our lunch”. He had asserted that China was no competition for the United States. Democrats support alliances, investments and multilateral approach. They prefer Chinese cooperation on climate change and non-proliferation deal. Biden hasn’t been any different. It’s only the approaching elections, and that latent anger against China on Coronavirus pandemic amongst voters, not to say China’s iron hand on Hong Kong, which has made Biden sing a different tune.

Let’s look at the Team Biden which would get rolling if he was to become the new US president. Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan worked closely with Biden as his national security staff while he was in the White House. They are his senior advisers now.  Then there are Samantha Power and Tom Donilon.

Like their boss, all of them are genetically Democrats. They prefer “One China” policy where no heat is blown on Taiwan lest it upsets Beijing.  These days Samantha Power claims she is “very worried” about China yet adds for good measure she remembers their exemplary handling of Ebola outbreak in Africa; Blinken is grave in stating that China poses a “series of new challenges” but wants to work in tandem with them on global issues; Donilon isn’t keen on raising tariffs against China.

The truth is globalization is the genetic makeup of Democrats. In the name of free trade and liberal values—the cloak which hides the dagger of Leftists too—all they aim is to empower the 1% against 99% of humanity.  Behind the flag of “free world” is a military-industrial complex where wars are waged and common man has no future. From academia to media, everyone does their bidding. Profit and power is all that matters to them. They prefer governments which are servile and not like one in India where a prime minister is seeking to empower masses. A nationalist government, that too in India with its numbers and growing economic and political clout, is a grave threat to them.

If Biden was to win, and carries Kamala Harris to the White House, be sure India would be dis-serviced. They would speak the language of Pakistan and China on Kashmir and CAA-NRC etc. George Soros and his henchmen in India would acquire new teeth. That’s why Trump is right in claiming that China wants Biden to win. And that’s why it won’t be such a good news for India.

 

Who are these blessed people in our Coronavirus world?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Thailand hasn’t reported a new Coronavirus case for seven weeks now. Nobody has died in the Indo-China countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to the pandemic which has tormented our world with millions of cases besides 600,000 dead and counting. Are we talking of two different planets here?

This only gets intriguing if you remember that Thailand was the first country outside China to report the first Coronavirus positive patient. That it’s one the most visited place for people from Wuhan, the villain of this tragic outbreak. That Bangkok for five years now is the most visited city of the world, with 22 million visitors last year. That Thailand was the worst-effected country with HIV/AIDS outside East and Southern Africa. In 2018 alone, 18,000 people died to AIDS-related illness. That around half of those infected are young people between 15-24 years.

Big cities and slums are said to be most susceptible to Coronavirus outbreaks. Experts cite New York, London, Mumbai and Delhi as proof, as they do the instance of slums of Brazil which would soon have 100,000 dead from the pandemic. Both Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh account for 20 million living lives. The cities of these countries also abound in slums. We aren’t even counting the visitors. Yet there are no community outbreaks.

Scientists would love to nail down the reason why Coronavirus stands defeated at the doors of these countries. Has it anything to do with the mighty Mekong River, 12th biggest in the world, which passes through all these four countries through its length of 4,350 kms? Another country which is home to Mekong River is Myanmar which too has only six deaths to show thus far. Yunnan, the southwestern Chinese province through which Mekong also flows through, has less than 190 cases. All have recovered.

Mekong River, there is little doubt, is the water-road in this part of the world. It’s a safety net during times of crisis. When lockdowns are enforced and economy begins to pinch, a whole lot of unprivileged people—informal workers, labourers, taxi drivers, little traders—go from their rural habitats to cities and back. In times of crisis, it’s nature’s supermarket: the forests, rivers and wetlands which provide food and sustenance to the teeming poor. Then there are fisheries which ensure nobody sleeps hungry.

All this is okay but it doesn’t explain why Coronavirus has stayed away? Should we offer the silly logic that there might be something in the features and physical make-up of these people who look similar and could pass off as locals? I mean if you spot a Vietnamese in Thailand what chances are that you would know he is a foreigner?

The AFP recently ran a story in which it threw wild darts in the darkness to guess the phenomenon. Could be the Thai habit of greeting others with a Wai, another name for Namaste really, which is social distancing by habit? Should one put it to Thailand’s robust health care system? The outdoor lifestyle of many Thais? Is there a genetic component one is missing here?

Thais have a mask-wearing culture. Heavy vehicular traffic and the resultant air pollution, not to forget the emissions from industries and farmers burning fields for plantations, has made masks a way of life over the years. A study informs that during the pandemic, 95 percent of Thais have been wearing masks in public.

Experts are also wondering if this has to do with the immune system. It’s the part of the world where malaria, dengue, cholera etc break out frequently. Has it imbued these people with some sort of immunity in their genetic make-up?

Is Thailand doing things differently than others? Let’s look at the timeline: China reported its outbreak on December 31, 2019. Three days later, Thai airports were screening the visitors. A day later, an emergency operation centre had been set up by the public health ministry. By January 8, the first suspected Coronavirus case had been identified. Within days, people arriving at airports were monitored and quarantined, if necessary. Eventually all visitors from abroad were quarantined.

There was a moment of disquiet for sure. Transmissions had begun to jump by March in Bangkok. A cluster of infected patients developed around nightclubs and a boxing stadium. On March 21, schools and non-essential businesses had been shut. On March 26, public gatherings were banned. International flights had stopped by April 4. Red-light districts were closed. Sex workers rushed back home. Tourists fled.

But at least 58 people have died in Thailand due to the pandemic. What explains the “miracle” of Indo-China? The incredulous immunity of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos?

Besides the routine measures—we all know, masks, social-distancing, sanitizing hands etc—Vietnam has adopted a stringent screening procedure. Thus, be it banks, restaurants, airports or even apartment complexes, all need to have themselves screened at virtually every point of interaction, so to say. In Cambodia, thanks to overwhelming medical aid from around the world, the corona-testing kits are cheap and readily available. No less is said to be the reason that most of Cambodia is rural, as is Laos, and the pandemic has been easy on the village folks so far.

It’s this success against the Corona, that all these countries are now open to foreign visitors. They are not back to normal, for they never went off the rails in the first instance. I know you would bring up economic fallout–there are plenty of whiners in India for me to know their type–but that, some other day, some other time.

 

 

India’s Coronavirus story and the million lies of New York Times

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The New York Times today archived India’s one-million Coronavirus-infected moment with a dishonest, unsubstantiated piece, full of malice in heart.

The newspaper was only accurate on 30,000-plus cases every day and third-worst Corona-hit nation but then duped its readers by hiding that India’s cases-per-million are better than 110 other nations. Yeah, no typo here. Better than 110 other nations.

It has described India’s 25,000 deaths with a lyrical description of “long lines of bodies snake out of cremation ground in some areas” but I invite readers to look hard in Google search image and find one for me which fits the mould. Yeah Delhi had a spike in deaths for a while but there is no evidence of “long lines of bodies.” Evidence, that eternal logic, is missing in the piece.

I mean in a nation of 1.3 billion, 25,000-plus lives are lost. The lazy bums who shared the byline hopped the glaring data on the floor which informs us that India suffers 418,000 accidental deaths every year. Leave aside road accidents (150,000) or Railway crossing/accidents (131,000), more than 15,000 die each year due to heat and sun-stroke.

The report frowns up India claiming only 25,000 deaths. It attributes it to “sparse testing.” It doesn’t put forward any data, any statistics, to back its claim. It doesn’t bother to find out or tell its readers that India is testing 3.2 lakhs every day. So, 18 deaths on a daily average in four months in a nation which houses 18 percent of world’s humanity is an unfolding disaster.

There is a certain glee in quoting the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who claim by the end of next year, India would be the worst-hit country in the world. When the smell of vaccine is beginning to hit our nostrils, from the puff of air across the world, these prophets of doom are informing us India would be buried six feet under.

There is a flourish in claiming that India has already lost 100 million jobs when 90 million are daily wage-earners and technically have no jobs. How do you lose a job which you don’t have in the first place?

It repeats the plight of migrants like a ritual of circumcision in Islam, holy chants on a dying Hindu or baptism of a new Christian. Migrants are a mandatory colouring on India’s corona canvas these days even though free ration and cash subsidy to them is a fact uncontested. To fit migrants into the mosaic of the story, the piece claims the spread of Coronavirus is because of them returning home in India’s interiors.

It quotes a Delhi professor of epidemiology, Dr Anand Krishnan, who makes the astounding claim that less Coronavirus deaths have occurred in India because citizens are young and don’t suffer from obesity and diabetes. I mean India is the diabetes capital of the world with confirmed 50 million cases. Which India is in discussion here? Who is this quack?

One could only visualize a preening Dr Anand Krishan claiming that lockdown was “premature and it did nothing.” And that really is the trajectory of the story: This is the right time to enforce “lockdown”, now that India is slipping down the rope.  Maybe, just maybe, India’s policymakers would panic and return to lockdown months and bury India’s story for good.

Journalist R. Jagannathan is a voice which deserves the ears of those in India’s power-corridors. “Jaggi” claims in a piece that (a) India’s jobs are in services sector which would be lost forever in another bout of lockdowns; (b) lockdowns could unleash desperate people as anarchist, violent forces on the street; (c) that a few lives lost is a choice every society makes when pushed to the wall.

Soldiers lose their lives protecting the nation at the border; policemen do likewise in the interior and doctors too succumb as the present pandemic has shown.  Larger good should always take precedence over lesser good. Livelihoods are more important than lives now. All we could do is to ask citizens not to drop their guards and keep beefing up the healthcare in the background.

And let arm-chair pen-pushers spin a yarn in their own junkyard.