The doublespeak on the pandemic
The Government using the lockdowns, curfews and sundry other curbs in the name of public health concerns is just a façade
One swallow doesn’t make a summer but one Ambani, Anmol, speaking out against the lockdown makes for an interesting situation. Recently, the son of Anil Ambani lashed out against the Government for imposing a new lockdown while the politicians were busy addressing poll rallies in Bengal and other States. This exposes their doublespeak and begs the question: Does COVID-19 spare the polling States where Narendra Modi and Amit Shah address massive rallies? Thousands of security and election personnel have been moving from district to district, potentially becoming super-spreaders themselves. Keep in mind that most of these rallies are attended by people who don’t follow any social distancing or wear masks.
Anmol is quite right when he questions the definition of “essential services”. A waiter/server or night shift cab/auto driver is also doing essential work for his family; why is their work not essential? They have already been hit hard due to the previous curfews and lockdowns. Why are there restrictions when the mortality rate for India is reportedly about 1.12 per cent? The chances of a family or a person dying from hunger and depression are much higher than the probability of dying from COVID. Besides, these figures don’t distinguish people with comorbidities. My own uncle passed away after battling cancer for over a year. His health was at its worst when he got infected with COVID-19 in the hospital. His case was not classified as a cancer death but as COVID-19 death. There are thousands of other cases too that have been reclassified, and the Government is not really being transparent on the real dangers of COVID, or maybe it plans to use the viral disease as a shield for announcing more sinister schemes.
Away from the Ambani High tower, Rakesh Tikait thinks similarly. He has openly stated that the Government will use lockdowns and curfew to remove the farmer encampments at Delhi’s borders. It was also no surprise that days before his rallies in Rajasthan and Gujarat, the States mandated the RT-PCR test as an essential requirement for entry and imposed curfews and lockdowns. The chronology further proves Anmol’s point, that lockdowns are being used for political advantage, for “control” and not for “safety” or “health”. Tikait has warned the Government that it should not mistake the farmers’ agitation for Shaheen Bagh protests. Anmol endorses Tikait’s views that “the farmer and his soil are being corporatised and colonised” (using COVID19).
Branching off a bit, why has Delhi imposed a night curfew? Arvind Kejriwal is one of the most respected Chief Ministers and also a technocrat. He ought to know that 10 pm-5 am is the time of least activity and may not have any impact on the COVID numbers, but it will definitely have a deep impact on the livelihoods of lakhs of Delhiites who work night shifts, and the food industry, apart from others. One hopes that Kejriwal sees sense and does not play into the BJP’s hands. The Delhi curfew needs to be lifted; it is directed towards the farmers’ revolution and a further “transfer of wealth” and not for the health of Delhiites.
Anmol “dares to be naive”, as his Twitter bio states, by speaking out against the great “transfer of wealth” done by looting ordinary people. Keep in mind that his own family is the beneficiary of this “loot”, and still he has the courage to speak out. Bravo! Both Adani and Reliance have grown to be economic behemoths during the lockdown and now control everything — from your cooking oil to the airports. Any more lockdowns will only kill small businesses and traders, along with farmers, and taking advantage of the economic meltdown will be the new emperors of India.
His most dire warning, especially coming from an Ambani, should jolt even the most conservative among us: “To control every aspect of your life — a technocracy exactly like China — a totalitarian bio-surveillance fascist State controlled from the outside.” But could this really happen? Think for a second about the Aroyga Setu app, which even Rahul Gandhi said was a “sophisticated surveillance tool “; now add thousands of CCTV cameras deployed all over our cities, with AI-based Aadhaar-equipped facial recognition systems and newer digital control tools like vaccine app, and so on. Today, India has moved way past China when it comes to citizen surveillance and domestic espionage.
As you read this, thousands of IB operatives are reporting on the farmers’ revolutions across the country, sending in live feeds for a cloud-based AI to compute and track citizens.
The Modi Government has already built a strong Big Brother State, which is watching you each time you take off your mask or speed past 50kmph. The digital dictatorship is already upon us; Anmol has done a courageous act by exposing it. This step may put his own life at risk, yet he has acted for us all. We must understand this new threat and prepare ourselves to battle COVID19 and the Government’s tyranny together.
(The author writes on agriculture and environment, and is a former Director — Policy & Outreach, National Seed Association of India. The views expressed are personal.)
Originally published at https://www.dailypioneer.com.