Thanks to the legendary administrative acumen of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visionary leadership, at their best display during the current coronavirus pandemic crisis, India’s global stature has gone up.
The deadly coronavirus pandemic, which was first spotted in Wuhan city of China in November, has so far killed more than 183,000 people globally and infected another 2.6 million, has emerged as the deadliest public health challenge in more than a century.
In the past few months, economies of countries, which have the world’s best health care facilities, have per capita income much more than India are falling apart like a pack of cards. The number of people to have died due to coronavirus in these countries is shocking, to say the least, and not been seen since the Spanish flu of 1918-1920.
The United States which is the global leader in health care facilities, medical research and availability of resources, has emerged as the global hotspot of COVID-19. The number of Americans to have died because of coronavirus is fast approaching 50,000; an unbelievable figure for us till a few months ago. More than 8.5 lakh people have been tested positive with coronavirus.
And notably, New York, which is global financial capital and is the best in America’s health care facilities is its epicenter. More than 17,000 people have lost their lives and 2.5 lakhs have been tested positive. Let’s look at numbers of some of the other top five countries hit by coronavirus.
In Italy, more than 25,000 people have died and 187,000 infected; in Spain over 21,000 have died and more than two lakhs infected; and France over 21,000 have died and 119,000 have been infected. In United Kingdom, where its Prime Minister Borris Johnson had to be taken to ICU, more than 18,000 have died and 1.3 lakhs have been infected.
Well, it’s for these countries to ponder upon their fight against coronavirus, and review post-COVID 19 as to what went wrong and how this shocking loss of lives could have been prevented.
No doubt, we are in the middle of this pandemic and we still have a long way to go, before this could be brought under control, India by any standard, so far, has performed much better than others. A country of 130 billion people living in one of the highest densely populated areas of the world, with a poor basic health care infrastructure and facilities including a low number of per capita availability of beds and doctors, the thus far low infection rate (a little over 20,000 by April 23) and 652 deaths, is nothing but remarkable.
Sitting thousands of miles away in New York, under stay-at-home order for the past several weeks, I feel proud of my country and the leadership that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “Team India” has shown in this fight against invisible coronavirus. One of the key reasons for this, I believe is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team acted early and decisively.
Team India, under Prime Minister Modi has been acting at a lightning speed. It was on January 7 that China identified coronavirus as the causative agent. A day later on January 8, the Union Ministry of Health held its first joint monitoring mission meeting and within 10 days on January 17, India started screening of all passengers coming from China.
By the end of the month, the government had identified and activated to test for coronavirus and established quarantine centers. Remember, at this point the rest of the world was very unfamiliar with the dangers that COVID 19 poses to humanity. In the first week of February, India started evacuation of its citizens from other countries and on February 3, Prime Minister constituted and chaired a meeting of empowered group of Ministers on COVID-19, which issued the travel advisory against China. States were taken into confidence and a strong monitoring mechanism was established. The list goes on.
India’s relatively low figure is basically attributable to the very basic principle that the Prime Minister acted on: prevention is better than cure. Being part of New York, where I have been witness to deaths of more than 17,000 people, I wish the authorities here would have thought on those lines. I wish, both the State Government and the City Mayor would have enforced a strong locked-down, as India has enforced nationwide. If India a country of 130 million people can do it, why cannot New York. The difference here is leadership and preventive action.
In the crucial first few weeks in New York, the leaders here were busy in war of words because of their political differences.
In India, Prime Minister Modi brought the entire country together. For the first time probably in decades, or seen normally under war like situations, Chief Ministers from opposition parties joined his call of action. He successfully formed “Team India.” As the first phase of three-week nationwide lockdown was about to end, it was the opposition ruled State Government which started talking about its extension.
And at the regional and global level too, Prime Minister Modi took the initiative and leadership role in this fight against humanity. He convened a video conference of SAARC leaders and took the initiative of setting op a regional fund with an initial contribution of USD 10 million to help South Asian countries. He encouraged the same within the G-20 group. Soon Saudi Arabia, which holds the current presidency of the group, organized the video conferencing.
And as word spread that hydroxychloroquine is effective in treatment in early COVID-19 patients, India under Modi started flying plane loads of this malaria drug to countries across the world. So far more than 80 countries, including the United States have received this key India made drug. India is in the forefront of this wart against humanity.
Today, India is seen as a country, which not only takes cares of its citizens, its neighbors but also the rest of the humanity to the best of its ability. This is what “Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam” is all about, which is the guiding philosophy for Prime Minister’s foreign policy.
(Jagdish Sewhani is President of The American India Public Affairs Committee. He is a resident of New York for past several decades)