On 14th March 2020, Jack Ma of China,Co-Founder of Alibaba, decided to donate 5 lakh testing kits and a million protective face masks to America, which has a population of over 330 million. That this token gesture from Ma grabbed more headlines than Tim Cook's decision to shut all Apple stores outside Greater China till 27th March 2020 or, President Trump's decision to declare a national emergency in the US, to limit the human damage from the Coronavirus, should tell you something about how China's massive PR machinery is doing a fabulous job of controlling the global narrative.
Of course, it is another story altogether that, not many are buying China's sugar-coated pack of lies and deceit, this time. The mysterious disappearance of Chinese real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, the harshest critic of the Chinese premier, Xi Jinping's, miserable failure in handling the Coronavirus pandemic, is a telling reminder of how China still resides in the 18th century when it comes to handling matters more humane.
The recent fatal explosion of a hospital in China's Chongqing municipal province, which housed hundreds of patients afflicted with the contagious COVID19 virus, is again a grim reminder of everything that is wrong with the "Made in China" model. China’s wildlife trade worth more than $80 billion, with over a million people employed in this industry, has recklessly endangered large parts of the globe. Clearly, China could not care less, as hard numbers are all that it cares about.
Contrast the policy of obfuscation and apathy followed by China, with the probity and transparency shown by India during the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala in 2018. The Modi government immediately informed the WHO and the Nipah related toll was limited to 17, with the virus being localized to Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, only.
India's endearingly humane approach in ensuring help to those beyond its own borders is evident from the supply of 3 month stock of medicines to the Maldives and sending tonnes of masks, gloves, and medicines to China, too. India decided that it will export pharmaceuticals to Israel despite the ban on drug exports. The ban was lifted following a special request by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India is the world’s main supplier of generic drugs. The country has restricted the export of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients and the medicines made from them, including Paracetamol, a common pain reliever, also sold as acetaminophen, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world. India, also the world's largest manufacturer of N95 masks, has been helping countries beyond its borders on a war footing, clearly telling the world loud and clear, that under Modi's leadership, India has, what it takes, to take the pole position in dealing with the spiraling threat from the Wuhan virus. Undoubtedly, the flawed "Made in China" brand has taken a huge beating after the gross incompetence and misgovernance displayed by the Chinese regime is causing a global bedlam. China's late reflex action after huge damage had already been done, has disrupted supply chains and thrown world markets into the lap of a bear hug, with most markets down over 20%, from their recent highs. The Chinese regime's attempts to obfuscate the size and scale of the pandemic led to more than 153000 people getting affected in over 141 countries, with over 5700 dead by mid-March 2020. Those numbers are only growing.
Ask yourself, if the Coronavirus had originated in a poor North African country or some war-ravaged part of the Middle East, how would the world have reacted? What would global credit rating agencies have done? Would global press be half as kind, as it has been to Xi Jinping, who was missing in action and nowhere to be seen when doctors in Wuhan were dying due to lack of masks and gloves and the elderly were starving in their confined apartments, in Hubei province?
Contrast China's sordid lethargy, with the Modi government's unfettered and much-needed overdrive against the Wuhan virus. Reservation of 820 isolation beds across Uttar Pradesh (UP) for travellers returning from China, conducting sensitisation meetings at 1859 villages in UP's border districts, including seven UP districts adjacent to the 580-km Nepal border, namely, Maharajganj, Sidharthanagar, Balrampur, Shravasti, Bahraich, Lakhimpur, and Pilibhit,are a case in point. In Uttar Pradesh alone,more than 1.09 million people coming from China have been screened at UP's border check-posts and another 12000 screened at airports. And mind you, this is just one state in India. Similar efforts have been mounted by the Modi regime,on a national scale.
Rather than acknowledging the problem in its initial stages,when it could have been contained to prevent it from imploding into a full-blown contagion, all that the Chinese did, was to deny the existence of the virus. From Spanish Flu to SARS and Swine Flu, every major epidemic can be traced back to China and its love for eating anything that moves or crawls, from bats and rats to illegally trafficked pangolins.
Economists estimate,4 million jobs may have been lost already or could be lost, due to the Coronavirus outbreak. With much of China in lockdown, the virus could affect up to 42% of China's economy. Companies may struggle to make payments on loans leading to a rise in non-performing loans of $1.1 trillion, according to Standard and Poor. Chinese airlines have been forced to ground planes and are expected to lose $12.8bn in revenue. Globally, the airline industry is set to lose $29bn, according to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA).
In sharp contrast, Prime Minister Narendra Modi scores handsomely, as a leader who has risen to the challenges posed by the deadly Coronavirus, by taking stock of the situation deftly and thereby preventing it from blowing into a full-fledged contagion in India. From building over 110 million toilets in the last six years under the "Clean India" or "Swachh Bharat" mission, making India and its 5.5 lakh villages open defecation free (ODF), to the emphasis on banning single-use plastic, recycling waste and reducing India's carbon footprint---sustainable development has been the hallmark of Modinomics. Rahul Gandhi, the failed dynast, who has been taking digs at Modi, needs to be reminded that despite the Congress ruling India for over six decades, access to basic sanitation was barely 37% in 2013. That number stands at over 90% today, with over 77% of the rural households having access to toilets and basic sanitation.93.4%, use these toilets regularly.
The Wuhan virus is among other things, the result of China's unsustainable development model, that not only paid scant regard to cleanliness and the environment but, arrogantly dismissed the usefulness of building adequate social infrastructure. Modi's"Make in India" model, on the other hand, has paid equal weightage to both, financial and social capital, with India targetting 175 GW of renewable energy sources by 2022, of which at least 100 GW, will be solar energy.
Sourcing 40% of our energy needs from non-fossil fuels by 2030, a commitment India made at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21), reinforces the superiority of Modi's development model in contemporary times, when a global pandemic like the Coronavirus, wiped out over $7 trillion from global equity markets in a matter of days, bringing the world economy to a grinding lockdown.
The world has a lot to learn from India, which has showcased in no uncertain terms, that the "Namaste" as a form of greeting is far more hygienic than a handshake. A vegetarian diet, preferred by most Indians, in Hindu majority India, is a much safer bet, than being beef eaters, in testing times like these, in particular. So while the leftist media locally and internationally had a whale of a time making "Gaumutra" jokes for the past several years, post the Wuhan virus, the joke is certainly on those who regularly eat slaughtered animals, with remorseless impunity!
Coming back to China, it refused weeks of offers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) and World Health Organisation (WHO), to send experts to China, according to various reports in international media. Only on February 9th, 2020, did the WHO announce that a mission for China was finally departing — but it was not going to Wuhan yet. The Coronavirus or the Wuhan virus as it should be rightfully called is China's poorest legacy.
The 1st case of Coronavirus can be traced back to 10th Dec 2019 after a 57-year-old lady, Wei Guixian, a seafood merchant in Wuhan's Hua'nan seafood market, fell sick. Chinese government and state media, on 31st December 2019, reluctantly admitted to the presence of some "mysterious pneumonia". The 1st death from the deadly Wuhan virus happened on 9th January 2020, but China acknowledged the existence of the deadly Coronavirus and informed the public only on 18th January 2020. This, despite being aware of 11th January, of seven senior health workers, who had been affected. The worst part is, China quarantined Wuhan only on 22nd January 2020, after some 5 million people had already left Wuhan just a few days prior to the quarantine.
Amidst all this, 34-year-old doctor and whistleblower, Li Wenliang, who was forced to sign a letter on 3rd January 2020 under police and political pressure from China's ruling Communist party, that he had spread lies about this fatal virus, finally died on 7th February 2020, while treating patients. Li is a national hero today but sadly, he is no more, thanks to the Chinese government which wanted to keep the fatal nature of the virus under wraps. China has been more worried about its global image, even if it meant playing around with the lives of its citizens, children, doctors, and students. Li Wenliang's death is a tragic and gory reminder of how China may be a dominant economy but can be ruthlessly insensitive and hopelessly incompetent, during a healthcare crisis.
It is therefore utterly shameful of an irresponsible Jim O' Neill, who was unceremoniously sacked by Theresa May in 2016 as Britain's Treasury Minister, to start singing paeans of China and make an uncharitable statement, bordering on crass racism, saying "Thank god, the virus did not start in India".
If anything, the Narendra Modi government has been highly proactive and taken exemplary preventive measures to contain the Corona outbreak in our country, despite India being a vast country of 1.3 billion people, that shares a 3488-kilometer long border with China and is so widely spread out, geographically. As of 15th March 2020, there were 110 cases (including 17 foreign nationals)in India, with 2 deaths.
Jim O'Neill and ignorant Iranian hacks like Borzou Daragahi, a reporter with the UK based "Independent" magazine, whose colonized mindset wouldn't know any better, need to be reminded that with a population of barely 67 million, the UK has reported over 1140 confirmed COVID19 cases and over 21 deaths already, as on 14th March 2020. Iran, with over 611 deaths and over 12729 cases, is doing no better. The respective numbers for the USA, with a much larger population, were over 51 deaths and over 2500 affected people, as on 14th March, forcing President Donald Trump to invoke a rare federal power and declare a national emergency in the US.
India's response to COVID-19 under the outstanding leadership of "Global Goalkeeper", Modi, is a textbook case in how great leaders do not escape--rather, they take the bull by its horns, as it were. Modi took the lead in hosting a video conference on 15th March, of SAARC nations, where India pledged to share disease surveillance software, work towards a common research platform and provide all help required, including assistance from the Indian Council of Medical Research, to its SAARC partners. India has also taken the lead in setting up a COVID-19 emergency fund, with a voluntary contribution of $10 million.
On 14th March, the Home Affairs ministry led by the very dynamic and meticulous Amit Shah, declared Coronavirus a notified disaster, for the purpose of providing assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). India's decision to go into the self-quarantine mode,well-stocked hospitals, massive advertisement campaigns on the dos and don’ts of how to tackle the crisis, India's National Institute of Virology at Pune working round the clock and, Modi's office that has been monitoring the situation 24/7, to prevent the Corona outbreak from becoming a contagion, are initiatives that are truly commendable.
The Indian government activated four new laboratories — the Indian Council of Medical Research’s viral research and diagnostics lab network at Alleppey, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Mumbai, for testing samples.56 make-shift labs were set up in a matter of few weeks, with another five dozen labs likely to come up in the next 4 weeks. A 24x7 call center has been made operational to monitor the list of contacts furnished by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and provide details of district and state surveillance officers to those who seek them. Also, in case of any clinical query, it would direct the concerned person to the relevant integrated disease surveillance program officer.
Meanwhile, ports too, have stepped up vigil. Mumbai Port Trust was asked by the Modi government not to give shore permits to vessels coming from China. All vessels from Southeast Asia are being scanned and a health declaration has to be given by the captain of these vessels, detailing the nationality of the crew, health details of the members, including symptoms. Community-level monitoring is being intensively done in border areas like the Indo-Nepal border, all border entries from Bangladesh into West Bengal have been sealed barring the one in Nadia district and, the land border crossing with Pakistan will be closed infinitely from 16th March, till further notice.
India has temporarily suspended all travel, tourist and inbound visas till 15th April 2020, including those of 3 million OCI cardholders, barring a few exceptions. And Italian, Iranian, South Korean and Japanese nationals who have visas issued before March 3rd, 2020 but who have not yet entered India, remain suspended too. All passengers from Spain, Germany, Iran, China, Italy, France, and South Korea who entered the country after 15th February 2020, will be compulsorily quarantined. It needs to be mentioned here that the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force and Indian Army's Wellness Centre in Jaisalmer, have played a noteworthy role in this entire process.
Advisories on social distancing, self-imposed isolation, making free masks, gloves and test kits to those who cannot afford these, are being made available by the Indian government.It is pertinent to note here that the Central government has invoked Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, in its fight to control the spread of Coronavirus. Section 2 of the Act makes Health Ministry advisories enforceable.
In BJP ruled states like Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, Section 3 of the Epidemic Act has been invoked and anyone defying government orders which include temporary suspension of schools, colleges, malls, cinema halls, and public gatherings, hiding symptoms or refusing medical assistance, could face prosecution under Section 188 of the IPC, with up to 6 months of prison term.
In the final analysis, it can be said with no "ifs" and "buts" whatsoever, that the Indian response to the Coronavirus pandemic has been awe-inspiring at various levels. While the US and Europe are dealing with endless queues of people lining up at malls and stores that have run out of toilet paper and hand sanitizers, India's calibrated approach by the government, without causing panic, has had a salubrious impact. Also, don't forget, while India reported its first case only on 30th January 2020, it had started screening incoming passengers from affected countries, via infrared thermometers, from 7th January itself. Additionally, India evacuated 766 people including 323 students from China,124 from Japan,336 including 234 students from Iran and 218 people including 211 students from Italy.
Italy incidentally, has amongst the best healthcare systems in the world but still failed to restrict the damage from the Wuhan virus. Just in the Lombardy region of Italy alone, over 744 deaths have been reported, with over 8717 people affected by the virus, as on 12th March 2020. Overall, Italy has reported 1441 deaths, with 21157 confirmed cases. This again reinforces the fact that having good healthcare equipment and great medical infrastructure is futile unless backed with decisive leadership. Italian PM, Giuseppe Conte could certainly take a leaf out of Modi's book, in how to manage a crisis, effectively.
India's "Ayushman Bharat--Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana", which owes a large part of its success to the current national president of the BJP and, erstwhile health minister, the erudite J.P.Nadda, aims to provide an insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per annum to 500 million deprived Indians. Touted as the world's largest healthcare scheme, having treated over 7.5 million people, with more than 100 million e-cards issued and over 20000 hospitals under its aegis, this scheme has played a critical role in making India healthier and fitter, preparing it for contingencies like the Wuhan virus.
Needless to add, Modi's "Make in India" model runs high on both the growth and emotional quotients whereas Xi's "Make in China", lacks the emotional quotient that separates a robotic hard-nosed regime, from an aspirational India, helmed by a "karma yogi" like Modi, who leads by example, never playing on the backfoot and always keeping the nation first, above everything else.
The Coronavirus pandemic which has tested the might, money power and muscle power of the wealthiest nations, will go down in history as a health scare that demolished many carefully built reputations of many world leaders.COVID-19, which is still unfolding, will also be remembered for the global outreach by the Indian political diaspora, which has shown to the world, how a responsive and nimble-footed government can tackle any emergency, with the right mindset.
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is truly, that molder of global consensus.
Ms. Sanju Verma is an Economist, Chief Spokesperson for BJP Mumbai and Author of the Bestseller--"Truth & Dare-The Modi Dynamic