Is Corona Mai a benign Goddess!?
A few days ago, I had chanced upon a Puja at Prince Ghat, Kolkata by around 100 women and transgenders, mostly from Jharkhand. It was akin to Chhath Puja. I was told that Corona Ma is angry and she would go back after getting appeased. No one was wearing a mask and when I queried, I was told that Puja has to be offered with an open face and open heart. The Blessed need not fear the virus. The masks are for the sinners and renegades.
Hindu Pantheon has 33 million Gods and Goddesses. But throughout ages, nobody has made a registry of such Gods and Goddesses. Wikipedia has found out around a thousand. Corona Devi who was languishing in obscurity, suddenly came into prominence during Her world tour. With the Mandirs under lockdown, She is No. 1 in pecking order (in terms of devotees offering Puja) though the verdict is in tandem with rigged election in Kashmir in the past. She is No. 1 by default sans legitimacy or acceptability because mainstream Gods/Goddesses are sulking in lockdown Temples without their quota of devotees. benign
Corona Devi reminds me of another Mai – Maa Gojabayani. In late nineties, somebody in Bagadia village of Kendrapada district claimed divine power of Maa and suddenly Her pecking order in Odisha became No.1 outstripping Maa Tarini who had already ensconced herself in that position for long. However, she roared back with her Pan-Indian presence and Maa Gojabayani became one among lesser Goddesses.
During the last decade and half, Siridi Sai Baba has overtaken our time-tested Lord Jagannath. The charismatic medicant has outstripped our seemingly eternal God in terms of appeal. Odias are more visible in Shridi and for some time it looked like Bengalies taking over Puri. It was told in hushed tone that Cyclone Fani was the expression of fury by our Lord Jagannath for being taken for granted by the Odias. But the tone was almost deaf to the powerful and mighty who claimed to derive peace from Shridi Sai.
That is their way of insulating themselves from the hoi polloi and their loud-mouthed prayer at Lord Jagganath temple. The tussle is still on. And in these scary times, the articulate followers of Shridi Sai Baba has made Him a Online Mega-God while Lord Jagannath has to bear the ignominy of Rath Yatra being subjected to judicial scrutiny and the mortals condensing for a muted Yatra.
We have learnt from our mythology that the Gods/Goddesses are epitome of justice and kindness while Asuras are devils. Carona Devi can not be an exception. It is said when Sani goes away from the horoscope, he is bountiful. But the poor human being on the wrong side of stick for so long has lost his capacity to enjoy. Similarly, Devi has enjoyed creating fear without being ruthless. She has given us so many Blessings which ordinary minds are unable to comprehend,
A HEALTHY AND SAFE ENVIRONMENT
28000 crores were spent on National Mission for Clean Ganga during last 5 years without any significant improvement. But River Ganges healed itself during lockdown. Key environmental indices have improved after a long period.
New Delhi was ranked as the most polluted city by WHO in 2014. The deadliest particle in Delhi’s foul air is the tiny PM 2.5 which increases the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. They are generated from combustion – fires, automobiles and power plants. The levels of PM 2.5 in New Delhi plummeted to 20 micrograms per cubic meter from 80 before lockdown. There was also marked dip in PM 10 caused mainly from vehicular traffic.
The breathable air had a tremendous effect on respiratory diseases. The hospitals had a deserted look. AMRI hospital in Bhubaneswar was sold out to new promoters as the profit level sunk dramatically. Dolphins were spotted in Kolkata. The racing horses strode through the main thoroughfares as they were freed from the bondage. Rare Western Reef-Heron was spotted in Lake Chilika. The wildlife had a heyday as Homo Sapiens were confined to their Homo in dread.
Corona Ma taught us a lesson. Nature can not be misbehaved. The old fossil fuel based intensive industries must give way to green energy. There must be more electricity-driven vehicles, more public transport. Right to clean air must be a part of our fundamental right to live with dignity.
DEVI SHOWED MIRROR TO INDIAN RICH CLASS
Who brought Devi to India? It was the rich and Nouveau rich who arrived in India through flights. They were brazen and did not heed to the advice. Kanika Kapoor met the President of India. In Kolkata, son of a senior IAS officer straight went to Navanna and met CM. Both were tested positive. But they were never apologetic rather were aghast that they were quarantined. Kapil Wadwhan, DHFL promoter, accused of Banking Scam dodged CBI and moved to his farmhouse during lockdown.
A Tablighi Jamaat religious congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin Mosque in early March 2020 was visited by thousands from abroad and at least 4000 confirmed cases were found. But the organiser Muhammad Saad Kandhlawi refused to vacate the premises and Ajit Doval visited the leadership during the night to coax them to go out. Para-military forces could have flushed them out. Leaders who were demanding, ‘Sale ko goli mar do” in Saheen Bagh protest were strangely silent about the leaders of the congregation. They were not touched because they were rich and powerful. Rich is always a class apart and then their religion becomes irrelevant.
I am reminded of Gandhi. He was a capitalist to the core who believed in trusteeship of industrialists, it was an ideal utopia where the richest would take care of the poorest. When the lockdown began, around 70 lakhs migrants were marooned without food and transportation facility (I am quoting the most distressed among around eight crore migrant labourers in unorganized sector).
We have Mukesh Ambani who is now Asia’s richest man and among the top 10 billionaires of the world could have thrown open “Reliance Fresh” to these migrant workers making due scrutiny. It would have hardly cost 1000 crs. After all, he has made his mullahs from the Indians including those migrant workers. He did not have time to spare a thought nor those other employers who abandoned these workers without batting an eyelid. They could have afforded to pay 2 months wage.
We have a so-called scheme of CSR which has been incentivised through tax deduction. Once, a NGO went to Apollo Hospital, Bhubaneswar for conducting a medical check-up in a slum in unit-4, Bhubaneswar. They consented-but they had a caveat. The camp would be held for the slum but at the premised of an apartment nearby. His argument was simple – they would do health check-up of the residents of apartment and they would come to their hospital. 2/3 slum dwellers can be co-opted for the purpose. CSR, to their consultant, was another medium of marketing.
Some months ago, Naveenji had a photo-op with some functionaries of Apollo hospital – it was supposed to hail the Hospital for conducting some surgery for the first time in Bhubaneswar. Nothing was innovative about the surgery. If somebody has a Mediclaim, he would do the surgery at Bhubaneswar instead of Kolkata or Delhi. It was sad to see Naveenji, hailed as a saviour, falling prey to gimmicks. In any case, even a fraction of such CSRs could not be for those migrant workers because they would never have the purchasing power to be a customer of these Companies.
Modiji prides himself as a tea seller. But he had never claimed washing the tea cups left by the customers of his shop. There was definitely somebody who did this job – Modiji forgot him because these entities are scums of the society. When lockdown was imposed, it was supposed to be locked in home. But those riff-raffs did sleep in footpaths, railway platforms or bus-stand, they had nowhere to be locked themselves up. They were beaten, hounded but survived with the kripa of Carona Ma.
Prasant Bhusan once knocked at the door of Supreme Court in the dead of the night to save the life of a Kashmiri extremist. He made tweets for the migrants. There were fierce battles in social media about the plight of migrant workers. But that did not give succour to the millions of migrants who trudged along interminably long miles without food, water or chappals. The eminent lawyer could have led a procession of those migrant workers to the residence of Chief Justice of Supreme Court and awakened their conscience. The judges had hypotheised that the Govt had provided them rice and their quality of life was limited to a morsel of rice.
Indian rich and Indian middle class as a whole failed them in the biggest hour of crisis. We have failed Gandhiji and may be he has outlived his utility.
Modiji appeared to redeem himself – from guilty conscience – by announcing the New Deal for Aatmanirbhar Bharat – a resilient India – a package of 20 lakh crores – 3 times GDP of Nepal. It was said to focus on land, labour, liquidity and laws. However, the details were just elaborate trickery. New Deal was all about creating demand – demand of a gigantic scale that could overshadow the all-pervasive gloom.
Corona Ma has given us so many palliatives – a bumper crop and a huge reduction in oil import bill. But we only heard about reforms in aviation sector – which is simple nonsense in these days of gloom. He could have printed notes – nothing wrong in fiscal deficit going high. If there is lack of demand, Govt. will have no revenue and fiscal deficit would shoot up. It is better to pump-prime the economy and go in for a higher fiscal deficit.
There are glimpses, but that is neither here not there. Street vendors have been given Rs10,000/-, but why a loan? Bankers, as a class, loathe to giving loans. They have a career to make. By giving loans to street vendors, they would be subjected to several questions and get stagnated. Further, there is a transaction cost for the Bank. Modiji could have given straight to their Bank A/cs. What is the logic for getting parsimonious with this paltry amount while crores are alleged to be changing hands for Aya Rams and Gaya Rams!
National Portability Ration card is a good initiative. But do these migrants need to survive with rice/Chana? They have also taste buds and a little bit of oil/milk coup have been a comforting thought. There are a little bit allocation on bee-keeping, fishery, dairy, medicinal and herbal plantation and allied agriculture activity. But these activities can not operate in a vacuum. They can be dovetailed with MGNRGES which can help in creating infrastructure.
The cluster approach has been conceived. But the nitty-gritty must be left to locals which can be shaped through cooperatives. AMUL is a success story and that can be replicated through sheer will. MSMEs can be the sheet-anchor for agro-processing industries and environment-friendly solar panel industries. Banks must be asked to throw money not just lend. Ultimately, these can be wealth-creators. We need to build up Chintus and Pintus as crorepatis instead of the select club of Ambanis and Adanis.
Corona Ma has given an opportunity and it is time to re-prioritise. The smile in the face of migrant workers can be our penance for their deaths, agony and deprivation.
GO CHINA GO!!
Corona Ma landed in Wuhan. She wanted to give them a lesson for their hubris. But Asuras always devious and they cornered Corona Ma by making it a global pandemic. Their anger spread to India the cradle of ancient civilisation. They killed 20 jawans which is tantamount to gruesome murder.
But we have to be restrained and judicious, we cannot win a war against China in present context. But we can level scores by nibbling. Diplomacy is not about high-profile visits and high-sounding shibboleths; it is all about dour and drab groundwork. We must upgrade our diplomatic relation with Taiwan, raise human rights issue in Tibet and Hong Kong discreetly. We must cultivate ASEAN which is not comfortable regarding claims on South China Sea. Our intelligence agencies may provide logistics to Ulghurs and other dissenters. We must promote QUAD aggressively.
It is also not advisable to call for boycott of Chinese goods. We need breathers to prepare ourselves. We have a thriving pharmaceuticals industry which depends on raw materials from China. Further, we cannot suddenly throw away our mobiles/LCD TVs. But we have to strategize. We have to remind MNCs that China is the birthplace of viruses and it is time to shift their bases to a third country. We can roll out red carpets for the manufacturing hub. We can also establish such bases in JVs at Madhesi region of Nepal or Bangladesh. A crisis is an opportunity to deepen our bases and increase sphere of influence.
Carona Ma has given us a wake-up call, It is time to introspect, time to change our mindset and live happily thereafter.
(JRK is a Kolkata based Economic & Political Analyst. Views expressed are Personal)