India’s Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan told Parliament that the implementation of the lockdown had prevented 29 lakh people from being infected with COVID-19 and 78,000 deaths. The Health Minister did not reveal this in response to a question raised by any member. This was a voluntary statement in both houses of Parliament. The government had reduced the question and answer session of Parliament to half an hour due to fear of being questioned but isn’t shy of making tall claims.
The Minister did not specify how he arrived at the above figures. He reiterated in Parliament that India has the lowest proportion of deaths in the world compared to other countries. It has already been pointed out that this comparison is not logical enough as the number of tests in India is very small.
India has the second lowest test rate in the world among the 10 most infected countries. Observers point out that in the northern states, only 30 percent of ordinary deaths are registered. Therefore, it is natural to wonder how close to reality the COVID-19 death toll in India is.
It has become amply clear that the government on the defensive was scared of facing questions regarding the pandemic and the question and answer session in Parliament had to be avoided because of this.
When protests erupted against this move the question time was cut in half. The first day’s session made it clear that the government did not even have accurate figures when questions arose. Replying to a question, Union Minister Santosh Gangwar said that the death toll during the lockdown was not known.
Even though the government has the date on the number of migrant workers who have returned home, it does not have any data regarding accidents and fatalities sustained during the exodus or how those who returned home safely are faring now.
Social activists like Yogendra Yadav have already pointed out the death toll from the lockdown. But it is strange that the government does not have any figures on this. The government does not account for job losses due to COVID either. It is clear from this lack of answers why the government was compelled to skip the question and answer session. How can a government that does not have statistics on the social and economic repercussions of the lockdown be able to formulate guidelines for overcoming the crisis we are faced with?
It was expected that the Prime Minister would be speaking about success in the fight against COVID in Parliament. The Prime Minister’s heroism in his speech about six months ago was that we would win the war against the Corona virus in 21 days, just as the Pandavas had subdued the Kauravas in 18 days in the Mahabharata war.
The Prime Minister, who dared to compare the defence against an epidemic with the Mahabharata war, can be expected to speak sometime during the Parliament session on the continuation of that war, the end to which there is no certainty. Our Prime Minister is the one who has passionately declared that if things do not go well within 50 days of the implementation of the note ban, he may be punished by the people according to their fancy.
He later seems to have forgotten about the statement itself. Similarly, before the end of this parliament session one can expect someone to ask whether the 21 days mentioned six months ago have disappeared from memory and the Prime Minister would hopefully give a reply.